Rights for piano students

Maybe you feel like playing is too difficult. What your teacher is asking you to do just doesn’t make sense. You might say “this is too hard!” or “I can’t get it” or “I’m just bad at this”. You may get angry with your teacher, and wonder “why are you making me do this!?”.

You can say something.

  1. You have the right to ask the teacher for an explanation of how working on this piece fits the goals that you have for yourself.

    Does it seem like your teacher is forcing you to play a piece you don’t like? Don’t just tolerate it. You have the right to talk to your teacher about your own goals.

    I am not saying that you should refuse to play what the teacher assigns. The teacher, as an expert, is supposed to give you assignments that are in your best interest. Maybe that means you won’t like some of those pieces, but the teacher should be able to explain why they are being assigned.

  2. If the teacher asks you to do something too hard, you have the right to ask: “How?”

    You don’t have to struggle by yourself. Your teacher should offer a solution to any problem you face. Sometimes that solution might be a way to eliminate the problem entirely, and sometimes it might be a way to help you accept that you can’t eliminate the problem. But, it is your teacher’s responsibility to ask you for things that are right for you. If it’s really too hard, this is not your problem.

  3. If you can’t get it, you have a right to wonder why.

    If you are trying really hard to master something, and it’s not working, there is a reason. It may be a simple reason, or it may be a complex reason, but there is a reason. Part of the excitement of music study comes from figuring out these reasons. So explore them!

  4. You have the right to ask the teacher why you aren’t getting the results you are expecting.

    You might be frustrated with your playing. You might be frustrated with your hands, which aren’t doing what you tell them to do. You might be frustrated with your brain, which can’t read notes fast enough. Or, you might be frustrated with the piano, which isn’t making the sound you want. You can complain about all of this.

  5. If it seems like you are just bad at this, you have a right to be given a path to improvement.

    And that path should not be just “practice harder.” Your teacher should be able to suggest concrete exercises which target the specific issues you have. The path may not be so obvious to you, and there’s no guarantee how long it will take to reach any specific point, but the teacher should be able to chart a course for you.

  6. You have the right to tell the teacher that you don’t feel at ease with the way you are sitting.

    Perhaps it hurts to sit at the piano. Maybe you are trying to sit up straight, but it’s just too tiring.

    Sitting should be reasonably comfortable. If it isn’t, it might be possible to change the way you are sitting. Don’t assume that you need to just deal with it.

  7. You have the right to let your mind wander to whatever you find most exciting in the moment.

    Maybe you are bored. You try focusing on what you are playing, but it’s just not happening. You don’t need to fight this. It’s how your mind works.

  8. If you aren’t practicing enough, but still want to improve, you have a right to be taken seriously.

    I assume you know that you can’t expect miraculous results without consistent practice. However, you should still expect some results even with minimal practice. If you practice for 5 minutes, you should get 5 minutes worth of results, which is still more than nothing!

    If you want to practice more, but can’t seem to motivate yourself to do so, your teacher should be able to help you to either find a way to incorporate more practice into your life, or help to accept whatever amount of practice you are doing.

    If you don’t want to practice more, and your teacher wants you to, you have the right to talk to your teacher about this, or look for a teacher whose goals for you are more in line with your own.

You can challenge yourself, too

This isn’t just your teacher’s problem.

If things hurt,
If they are no fun,
If you don’t understand,
If they aren’t working…

…don’t just deal with it!

You have more power than you realize to get what you want.


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