My students don’t practice, what can I do? – PART 1

"My students just don't practice! - What can I do?" 🤘 3 tips for private music lessons.
"My students just don't practice! - What can I do?" 🤘 3 tips for private music lessons.

3 tips to motivate your students in private music lessons.

You might know Andi Rohde as a drummer from Hamburg who runs a very active YouTube channel with instructional videos. He came to our attention when he received the Youlius Award in the category “Tutorial & Knowledge” in 2021. The fact that he received this award for his particularly valuable tutorials on YouTube is no coincidence: he studied movement science and biology, percussion and music education. He has been giving private music lessons for over 15 years and teaches at various schools, holds workshops for teachers and students and has written three educational books.

Andi’s holistic approach to learning and teaching music fascinates us.
In countless SIRIUS sessions, we exchanged ideas with him. We talked about private music lessons per se and how to show students HOW to practice their instrument, in the first place.

Find out how Andi motivates and encourages his students to practice their instruments more in this article.
Enjoy 🤘

“What do I do when my students just don’t want to practice their instrument?”

An essay by Andi Rohde
(Percussionist, BA in Movement Science, Music Pedagogue)

I’ve heard this question so often now in workshops that it’s almost more annoying in itself than the problem. But the problem remains: We try our hardest to teach our students the material in private music lessons, to give them a start so that they only have to take the next step at home, or even just repeat it. But as if we had suspected it, the next week we have to hear – or rather laboriously squeeze out of them – that they have done very little (i.e.: nothing at all). At this moment (at the beginning of the lesson) I feel ashamed as a teacher, and my students want to sink into the ground.

Long forgotten our arrangement, back when we started that students practice their instrument 7 days a week: 1 day with me plus 6 days at home….

We want our protégés to open up the wonderful world of music, to get into the flow, to celebrate a sense of achievement and to become independent, proud musicians and learners. We want to teach them what we have worked hard for ourselves – what has paid off. Even if the road to this point via private music lessons was sometimes rocky.

But there is a humanistic, brain-friendly, and loving way.
And it starts with some hard questions to ask ourselves to figure out what it is about our behavior that makes students not want to practice their instrument.

1. What means practice your instrument? 🏁

How many of us have ever explained to students what “practicing an instrument” is and, more importantly, made them experience it? 

How often do we say things like “concentrate” or “more expression!” without even considering that to children this sounds like saying: “Tighten your iliopsoas muscle” without even telling you where it is.

We can (and should) design games, experiences, and exercises in a way that makes it possible to experience what practicing is in the first place. 

Practicing an instrument needs a clear goal that must be understood beforehand. Practicing needs intent and clear criteria so that students know when it is “better” in the first place.

2. What is your common goal? 🎯

The above will only bear fruit if progress is made in a direction that means something to our students. It is not the teacher’s job to set the goal. But we can inspire in the private music classroom. We can sketch a vision of the future, analyze role models and develop dreams and goals. 

We all know it from school: “Why should I learn this? I’ll never need it!” – well, and you probably haven’t internalized it either. I, for example, have had expertise in the timeline of all AC/DC albums including bootleg releases and the names of all band members and when they were in the band since I was 12, and why and why not then… Why? Because it interested me. And that’s why I practiced diligently later in life. Because I wanted to be on the big stage, because I wanted to pass the entrance exam, because I wanted to play such a great solo – because I had a GOAL, a dream, a clear idea of where I wanted to be one day. If someone had denied me this goal, I would certainly not have practiced so diligently.

Our students are mature people with their own goals. They want to learn an instrument in their free time. Why should we project our goals onto our students? 

They have their own goal: formulate it together and make it your goal in your music lessons.

3. Is the progress visible? ⭐️

An incredibly important factor for motivation is to feel the progress, to see it. If you practice your instrument, you get better, of course! But often you don’t notice it that way. Because we almost always get better in small steps. 

  1. Take the time to make audio or video recordings of your students.
  2. Encourage them to write a practice diary: note inspirations in it, too!
  3. Do as Liszt did: take on song projects, instead of etudes.
  4. Set monthly dates to recap together: you will be surprised and excited, and you will understand and know what to do, next!

It all sounds so nice and easy – I know it’s not. I would never claim that you can turn all students into motivated, happy learners. But there is one thing we do accomplish in private music lessons: 

We accompany people who later believe that the world of music is open, not elitist, not at all only for the “gifted” – but for themselves.

In this video you will learn how to get your students to practice their instrument more 👇👇👇

Literature list

Werner, Kenny – Effortless Mastery (Jamey Aebersold Jazz, 1996)

Coyle, Daniel – The Talent Code (Random House Books, 2009)

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly – „Flow“ (Harper & Row, 1990) 

Wooten, Victor – The Music Lesson (Berkley, 2008) 

Sinek, Simon – Start With Why (New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2009)

Dweck, Carol – Mindset (New York: Random House, 2006)

Coyle, Daniel – The Culture Code (Bantam, 2008)

Video-Summary of Daniel Coyle by Andi Rohde

Link list

Andi Rohde’s Youtube-Channel

Andi Rohde’s Website

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