stay motivated piano lesson

This week I’d like to talk a little about self determination theory, after listening to this podcast. The interviewee, Karen Gerelus, discussed the three psychological needs of competence, relatedness, and autonomy and the relationship with music lessons. I structure repertoire and technical advances carefully to ensure that students are presented with an appropriate balance of challenge and achievability. These levels can change weekly for students in the first year or two, gradually slowing as more and more difficult concepts are mastered.

I try to present students with options so they know they are progressing, too, as sometimes it can be hard for students to realise they are moving forward when progress is slow. Exams can be a useful tool for students to measure progress, and external validation can be a rewarding process.

Another way to measure progress is to record (video or audio) a play through of a piece they have been playing for a short while. Get them to re-record it two or three weeks later, and they will be amazed at the progress they have made without realising it! One more option is to write down their goals for a specific time frame, then review these goals a couple of times until they are achieved.

This week I’ll be reviewing student’s goals that they set at the start of term 3 or 4. Some students have already achieved their goals, and others are very close to achieving them. It’s a great feeling to cross off a goal, and I am looking forward to sharing those moments with students over the coming weeks.

Relatedness and Music Lessons

Relatedness is a tricky concept with piano lessons, as so much of the time it is a solitary exercise. You can help by locating the piano close to where the family is, but away from major distractions like the TV. The Friday afternoon theory and ensemble group is one way I have tried to develop a sense of community. The teenagers in particular enjoy sitting around my kitchen table and helping each other with theory concepts, composition ideas, and cooperative and competitive music games. We will hopefully have a few duets and trios appearing in the Christmas concert, too.

Autonomy and Music Lessons

Autonomy is another concept that becomes more important as kids get older. Parents may question if they should force their child to practice. It is important that music learning is the students’ choice, but that they are supported through the tough times. It’s tricky as a parent to balance these factors. It might help to know that the ages of 12 to 15 years tend to be the times when kids typically explore their identities as musicians and may be unfocussed, unenthusiastic or feel pressured with the many competing demands of modern teenage life. This is where competence and relatedness can play a big role.

Students whose friendship groups admire their playing ability are more likely to identify as musicians and develop intrinsic motivation, as are those who believe they are good at playing their instrument. Students who choose for themselves to study an instrument are also more likely to continue playing their instrument into adulthood and higher levels of mastery. As a parent, you can encourage them to perform for appreciative audiences (grandparents, friends, etc), and if they aren’t already part of a music group at school or after school, see if there is one they can join.

Motivation Spectrum – Karen Gerelus – TopMusic

Here’s to more musical inspiration and enjoyment over the coming week!

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