What happens when adult students are unprepared for lessons?

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Due to a very hectic schedule and various obligations, I've been woefully unprepared for my last two weekly lessons. Things aren't looking too good for next week's lesson either (that's why I'll keep this post brief).

I wanted to reschedule the lesson or take a longer lesson for the next couple of weeks until I've made up the time. This wouldn't have been a major inconvenience for the teacher because our schedules up to this point have been somewhat flexible and we've been able to accomodate eachother without too much difficulty.

My teacher said even though I didn't practice, we could work on a new section of the piece that I'm currently learning and iron out some trouble spots that I have. Even though we did that, it didn't feel right to me because it felt like I was doing my practicing during my lesson.

I've considered stopping my lessons for a few weeks until my schedule leaves me more time to practice. What do you teachers do when your adult students can't find the time to practice? Is there any point to having a lesson when the student hasn't prepared for it? Thanks for any advice you can give me.

-- Christos B. (Cbasile@worldnet.att.net), March 09, 2001


DON'T STOP!!!!!! :) Keep going to your lessons even if you haven't thought about piano all week. Once you miss a lesson, even one, it becomes easier and easier to skip again and again. There are lots of things to work on in a lesson such as practicing trouble spots, reviewing and perfecting old material, ear training, theory, etc... It sounds like you have a very understanding teacher. As adults, we are all very busy; don't let that keep you from doing something you really want to do. Hang in there; it may take a while, but you'll get there. Good luck, Deedra

-- Deedra (dlinder@musician.org), March 09, 2001.

Also, if you can go over each piece just once a day, it will help more than you realize. And I mean just one time through, no stopping, on each piece and that is all. It shouldn't really take all that long to do and it will keep your hand in so that the next lesson there really will be a bit of progress. Sometimes I just CANNOT see a way to practice even half an hour but I CAN run through 4 or 5 pieces (or part of them I suppose if they are reeallllyyy long). But do not skip the lesson. You will learn from the lesson and it will help even during this busy time. Don't whip yourself with the practicing at this time and try to use the piano time to relax and refresh your mind so that the music can help you through like nothing else can.

-- Mary Jo Lewis (mlewis@kc.rr.com), March 09, 2001.

Hi Christos,

I must also encourage you not to stop. I have several adult students and all of them have the same problem you do, lack of adequate time. I am much more flexible with them than I am with my younger students. I think, when it comes to practice, quality and consistency is more important that quantity. With this in mind, I would suggest that you schedule out practice time, even if it is only fifteen minutes to a half hour a day. The problem most of my adults have is that they don't schedule their practice time, so what happens is they have every intention to practice but the more important aspects of day to day living interupt those intentions. So, it becomes too easy to put it off untill the next day. And, then of course it keeps getting put off. Also, set some realistic goals for yourself for each week. Simple and managable goals that you can really work towards without sacrificing your other obligations. Even if it is just learning a few lines of your music very well, at least then you are making some progress.

-- Phil King (primomusic@hotmail.com), March 09, 2001.

When my students came unprepared (adult or not) I am, of course, disappointed. But then we just get down to work and it is always a productive lesson in that we review practice techniques, work on problem areas that I may not have been aware of, do some intensive work on one particular aspect, even review theory or written assignments in detail - in short, the lesson is equally valuable as any other. Don't stop going!

-- Lilla Carlisle (LillaCarlisle@aol.com), March 10, 2001.

I have an adult student who, although more often than not finds that life, job, family, and other committments, usurp her practice time. I've tried to be flexible, but for quite a while now it's been nothing but supervised practice. The problem is that with little outside practice, her pieces never reach the point where her playing is truly fluent or even close to tempo. She tires of having the same music week after week, yet nothing is really mastered and so we press on with the same assignment. I've explained that with such little practice time, progress slows considerably. I've suggested she work on easier things or even just sightread, but she really doesn't want to lower the playing standard. I must admit, I've become rather bored going through the same motions with her, and I find myself thinking of ways I could more productively use this time (I often have to adjust my schedule to accomodate her's when she has sick kids or unexpected meetings, etc.). I guess I'm at the point (and I hate to admit it) where quitting may just be the best answer. I mean why pay for something when you don't have the time to really benefit from it?

-- Gretchen T. (gtpiano@yahoo.com), March 10, 2001.

I signed up for conservatory lessons a year or so ago. For a little technical tune-up. The instructor made it be known that I would be expected to practice 2 hours per day. We talked quite a bit about whether or not I could do that. I said yes, but the truth is that I couldn't. I stopped the lessons, regretfully.

-- Lilla Carlisle (LillaCarlisle@aol.com), March 10, 2001.

Please go to your lessons, DON'T STOP! I have an adult student who started with me 2 years ago, her progress is very slow because she does not attend classes enough. Her life got crazy with family health issues and started coming every two weeks, now she may come once a month, hence the slow progress. I too am more flexible with my adult students and more patient with their progress. Attending lessons will do a world of good, you will cover so much and the little time you do have to practice you can apply what was covered. like someone before said run through your pieces or a couple of a lines even once a day.

if you start missing lessons you will probably one day stop completely. If you really enjoy playing, don't let that happen.

-- Cathy Morabito (cathym@videotron.ca), March 12, 2001.

Hi, I am an adult student. As much as I wanted to practice, there are times when it's just not possible.

It's very convenient to say I lack time but truth is there are pressing issues at home and work that at the end of the day, it's easier for me just to stare at the tv then to hear myself playing.

My teacher has been very understanding although I know she tries hard to hide her dissapointment. She'd make me practice few interesting bars for 15 minute or so until I get it right. When times are really bad its a big struggle for me to even do 2 bars. But it feel real good to be able to finally do it. When it come to my senses that I am wasting time practicing during lessons, I find renewed motivation to do homework again.

Why go through the agony some may ask ? Piano means more than music to me. It give me a great sense of accomplishment to finally manage to play the difficult parts correctly. A few bars is not alot for many, but its joy for me to conquer it.

I tell myself that as long as I can derive simple pleasures playing piano, I will continue lessons.

I am just glad my teacher didn't measure my (and her) success by the number of pieces I perfected a month. Having said that I also realise that some instructors expectations are different, and there is not necessary anything wrong with that. I would want my child to be fully commited and her full potential nurtured by these teachers if she decided to persue serious piano studies.

-- Winnie Lim (subarus@yahoo.com), March 12, 2001.

Your responses have been very helpful and I appreciate them.

I had my lesson yesterday and although I wasn't as prepared as I would've liked to be, I really tried to focus on the "present moment". I didn't let myself worry that I was paying good money to have someone supervise my practicing and I didn't worry that my teacher would think less of me because I haven't been able to prepare. I actually had a good lesson once I was able to cast aside these worries. Hopefully I will be better prepared for future lessons, but if I'm not, I will still view them as valuable learning experiences. It was very helpful to get other teachers' opinions on this topic. Thanks again.

-- Christos B. (Cbasile@worldnet.att.net), March 13, 2001.

I took piano lessons for a few years as a teenager, quitting when I became too busy with other activities. When my children were young I thought I would have a little time to practise so I started to take lessons again. I was almost to the point I'd been when I quit taking piano 20 years earlier (working on RTCM GR.9)when I began working full-time and had to quit again. Five years pass. About 4 years ago I started taking lessons again with my kids. They have lots of activities and have about as much time to practise as I do but the piano teacher is very patient. We pay him for an hour of lesson a week and he is never sure who will show up - fortunately he is able to go with the flow. None of us will be playing the concert halls of Europe but the important thing is that we are playing. Sometimes we are all fighting over the piano for the last hour before the lesson. Sometimes the only practising we do for the week is in our lesson. (what's wrong with practising during your lesson?) Sometimes I feel that 20 years from now I will still be working on that same Chopin nocturne, that I still won't be able to play that relatively easy Beethoven Sonata. So what is the point of going to the lessons?

Our old upright (lovingly refinished by my mother) is being played. If I didn't take lessons I know I would never practise, even though I love to play. By keeping my appointment with my lesson I am forced to practise at least a little so I don't totally embarrass myself. Well OK sometimes I do totally embarrass myself but at least I've developed a huge itinerary of jokes about why I haven't practised. Embarrassment one week usually prompts a little more practising the following week. One of my favourite little tricks to avoid playing is to ask my piano teacher if he could perhaps just play a couple of these jazz pieces I have been working on. There are worse ways to spend time and money than to have my own private concert.

Perhaps I will never be able to play those harder pieces but at least I can now play triple against duple time, I can play some of those Chopin runs without slowing down. And I can still imagine that with a little more practise I could really PLAY. So keep going to your lessons, enjoy playing while you're there and celebrate the small victories.

-- A. Coates (acoates@interchange.ubc.ca), March 15, 2001.

I run into the same problem from time to time. My teacher's attitude is "life happens -- and sometimes it gets in the way". If I haven't had much quality time to practice, I tell her so at the beginning of the lesson. Then we may choose to work on theory, or sight-reading, or other exercises instead. Sometimes, we'll go back to something I played a few weeks ago, and refresh it, which also helps to get me "back on track". In any case, it's always a very cool lesson, and quite honestly provides a bit of an "oasis" of sanity when the rest of my world is a bit much to take. Keep going!

-- Sandy Kirkpatrick (sandy_kirkpatrick@hp.com), April 09, 2001.

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