Sounds like a dream job, right? But sometimes there are bumps and potholes on the way leading to the music paradise. In this article, you’ll find my TOP 5 strategies to defeat laziness and reluctance of the most challenging students to face musical difficulties. Let’s start with a little story…
A few years ago, I was trying to build my private music studio. Things were improving slowly, but they weren’t great. I was struggling to get my name out, and unfortunately my shy personality didn’t help in promoting flute lessons! The financial side kept pressing hard and I ended up accepting everyone who expressed the tiniest interest in playing the flute and everyone who I could persuade to try. My “not being choosy” strategy resulted in a group of very different students. Some of them were truly amazing – very committed and it was a real delight to work together. Some of them were usual students with their best and worst moments, sometimes enthusiastic and sometimes struggling to practice at home.
And then there were those who I call “Lazy Giovanni”s or “Tired Suzie”s. They were the kids that came to the lesson, and every time the first thing that came out of their mouth just right after ”Hello!” was ”Oh my goodness, I am sooooo tired!” or “I just want to go to sleep…”.
At the slightest difficulty, there was a moan: “nooo, it is too difficult” mixed with a good amount of repetitious “I can’t do it!”. I spent most of the lesson time convincing them to play at least something, not even mentioning practicing at home.
If you have never had this type of student, I congratulate you sincerely. Probably you have been luckier than me, or you might have had a choice or ease to let these students go. But for those who have to teach Lazy Giovannis and Tired Suzies, I know you feel my pain. These lessons are like dementors from the Harry Potter story. They suck all the energy and enthusiasm out of you and generates despair. It was dreadful for me to see the clock hands move closer to the lesson time and to notice how slow they became once the lesson had started. It was enough of having one “Tired Suzie” per day to feel drained and miserable!
I racked my brain for the right solution and finally came up with an idea.
I decided to make the lessons much more game–like to trick my difficult students into playing and eventually to help them in developing the habit of constant practicing. It’s widely known that game elements are very useful in teaching. They help to shift the attention from the difficulties of practicing to the fun without lowering the level of results achieved. My only task was to adapt these game elements to flute playing.
Here are my top 5 strategies. They are very easy and don’t require much preparation time.
1) Use the dice.May the soul of the person who invented dice be blessed! It is my favourite secret weapon to defeat “Nooo, I don’t want to do it again!”.
There are many ways to use the dice. You can roll it to see how many times to repeat one difficult passage. Or if you have many little exercises roll the dice to see which one you have to play.
I find dice especially useful when teaching first notes B, A, and G. It is very hard to make a beautiful piece of only three notes and most beginners can’t hear and understand the melody they are playing yet. The breathing, posture, fingers, music reading is involved, there is a lot of coordination work going on at this stage, and it is of crucial importance to obtain good skills to play these notes. For the little student, it might seem dull to repeat endlessly three notes, and the last thing the teacher wants at this point is to bore the young player.
I usually prepare six little exercises and add a number to each of them. The student has to roll the dice and play the number he/she gets. We continue the game until all the exercises have been played.