Teaching Piano to a Sensitive Student

Teaching Piano to a Sensitive Student ~ Piano with Joy

Every student comes to a piano lesson with their own unique personality.

They also come with their life story trailing behind them.

This can especially play a role when teaching a sensitive student.

You might not know what’s going on in their life. When they’re on the verge of tears for not passes a song–that they clearly weren’t ready to pass–they might be having a flashback to another time they’ve failed, and deep inside they might feel like they never measure up. They might feel insecure. Or, it might just have been a hard day for them.

We don’t know the whole story.

But we do know they’re sensitive, and thus they should be taught with a caring heart.

What has been the best help I’ve found in teaching a sensitive student?

I have much to learn, but the best help I can offer right now is one word:


Communication is always important, but especially with a sensitive student. Saying “You’re doing well, but you need more work on this song next week,” might be enough for tears to well up before you’ve even begun to instruct them on how to improve the song.

You’ve got to get to the root of the tears or why their face is so downcast.

  1. They might be comparing themselves to their older sibling who mastered the song in one week, and now they’re on their third, and feeling like less.
  2. It might be that they hate the song.
  3. It might be that they thought they had the song down pat, and feel like you’re being hard on them.

In each of these scenarios, some gentle conversing can ease the emotions welling up. Good communication can boost their spirits, help them to work through their insecurity, and show them how gifted they are.

Make sure to praise your student whenever you can; their sensitive, learning hearts need it.

“You’re doing amazing!”

“I loved the dynamics you showed forth in that song.”

“I can tell that you worked very hard on this song this week.”

“You’ve learned so much.”

“I love being your teacher.”

Don’t push forward too hard.

Gently teach alongside them, striving to communicate well and be aware of their sensitivities, and you might be amazed at how your student begins to feel more comfortable, more accepted, more accomplished.

Watch them begin to blossom.

I’d love to hear from you..What’s your advice on teaching a sensitive student?

Humor Can Help You Teach

Laughter lightens the air.

We don’t want our students tuning us out as we drone on about piano theory.

When one of my students was trying to remember which rest was a half rest or a whole rest, we came up with a silly visual trick to help her remember.

The Half Hat (aka Half Rest)


The Whole Beard (aka Whole Rest)


From that time of laughter, there was something to learn.

Doodle. Laugh. Don’t be all serious.

Humor can help you teach.

Pinterest: A Great Resource for Piano Teachers

Image result for pinterest logo

Pinterest can be a great place to save online piano teaching resources (articles, sheet music, quotes etc.) in one place.

If you aren’t familiar with Pinterest, don’t worry. It’s pretty easy. Simply sign up and then type in the search, key-words that interests you (i.e. “piano teaching”) and see what comes up.

Inspiration is out there! 🙂

My Piano Teaching Pinterest Board:

Have you found Pinterest to be helpful with piano teaching?

Discovering Your Student’s Learning Style


Everyone learns differently, and learning piano is no exception to this rule.

There are three basic learning styles widely recognized in education–visual, auditory, and kinaestetic.

In piano teaching, visual learners will likely respond well to reading music, while auditory students will learn better by hearing music, and kinaestetic learners will learn best by active application.

Recently, I’ve discovered that one of my students is an auditory learner. My typical “visual” approach to teaching hasn’t been as successful with her as with other students. This has led me on a quest to learn how to best teach an auditory student.

In my research I came across this wonderful article by Susanna Garcia on effectively recognizing and teaching to our student’s learning styles:

Learning Styles and Piano Teaching

If you don’t mind a “technical” read, then I would suggest the entire article. But if you simply want the “synopsis,” then skim along to the summary table later in the article, followed by some smart tips for teaching students with different learning styles.

Understanding our student’s learning style can eliminate the confusion when our teaching method isn’t working. And it can help us shape their musical education in a way that encourages them to excel.

I’d love to hear from you…What type of learning style do you typically teach? What has been your experience with teaching a students that learns differently than you?

Using Stickers to Help Students with Dynamics


All you need:

Stickers! 🙂

What to do:

Simply have  your student place stickers at the points in the song where the dynamics change. Not only can this help them get to know a new song better, but it can also bring some color contrast to the black and white page, and work as a helpful reminder as they play. This exercise might be especially good for a visual learner who is having a hard time connecting to the feel of the song.


What is one of your favorite ways to help students emphasize dynamics?

4 Simple Things that Can Make a Big Difference in a Piano Lesson


1) Pray a short prayer with your student before starting the lesson–If your student is a like-minded Believer, this is a wonderful way to welcome God’s presence to your time of learning together about the wonderful gift of music that He has given us. Thank Him for their talent, hard work, and for who they are. Thank Him for music. Ask Him to bless your teaching and their learning.

2) Encourage your student–Even if it’s something small, try to encourage them often that they’re improving. Pay attention to their hard work, and thank them for it.

3) Have a good attitude–Are you excited about teaching them? If you aren’t, they can probably tell. If they feel like your just “filling your 30 minute slot” with them, then they likely won’t pick up the excitement to learn with you. Make them feel appreciated and be positive.

4) Be humble–If you don’t have an answer to one of their questions, admit it, and then research it to share next time. Share stories from your past about certain songs/aspects of learning that you struggled with. Be down-to-earth, and connect on their level.

What are some teaching tips that you’ve discovered that have helped you?

Myths of Piano Teaching


Here is a wonderful article that can open your mind to see piano teaching in a new way:

Advice for Pianists: Piano Lesson Myths…by Howard Richman

Piano lesson myths are so ingrained into our culture and our consciousness that it almost seems silly to counter them. But on close examination, even the most “obvious” beliefs about piano study and piano practice are not only wrong, they are damaging to the individual who is bound by their chains. This material is an attempt to help pianists of all levels be liberated from such mental constraints, attitudes and assumptions regarding piano lessons, so that they might truly reach their goals.

Read More…

Setting Goals in Piano Teaching


Like most things in life, it’s important to know our goals.

Goals for Students

  • Draw out the talent God has given them
  • Learn how to read music
  • Learn how to compose music (if desired)
  • Discover their preferred musical style and encourage them in their desired goals
  • Give them a foundation that can be helpful in learning another instrument in the future

These are my goals for students, but I also ask them what their goals are.

Sometimes they don’t know what their goals are, but we can help them find them. Pay attention to the songs that they “click” with, and help direct them on their journey as a musician.

Sometimes they do have a vision. Perhaps it’s to lead others in worship, play songs by one of their favorite artists, compose their own music, or play the great classics.

What are your goals for students?

What are your students goals?

Let’s not forget our goals and theirs, so that we strive to be the best teachers we can be.