how to motivate students to practice

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    Hello. How do you motivate students to practice, especially busy

    teenagers? I do the following but still doesn’t work for some.

    1)organize students recitals two-three times a year.

    2)have them take ABRSM exam

    3)participate in school/local orchestra

    4)chamber music with other kids

    If the above do not work, do you think the students lack the

    dedication, discipline, and passion to play the harp, and that she

    should quit?


    If the student won’t practice even when they have to get a performance ready, then I would

    say they really do not want to be studying music at all. If they are really enjoying it, but

    haven’t got the discipline to put any work into it, and you have enough time to teach them,

    that’s fine. But if it’s really getting on your nerves that they are not investing any energy,

    then I would pull the plug. Maybe you could suggest to the parent that their child find

    some other field (i.e. sports, debating, dance) that does get them excited enough to work

    hard towards a goal.


    Sometimes you have to rule out the obvious hindrances to practice, e.g., lack of organization.

    Evangeline Williams

    Do you know if this particular student has problems with motivation in other areas?


    Teenagers unmotivated?


    **Opinion from a busy teenager**

    Your methods sound great, already. I agree that you should definitely take the student’s goals into consideration. Students come from all across the spectrum, and the same goals won’t work for each student. Here are just a couple of ideas for students with varying motivations: 1) playing free gigs at nursing homes or similar places, 2) “earning” songs of their choice by learning other music, 3) figuring out and arranging a popular song from the radio (which will help with the ear, fingering, chords, etc.), 4) a workshop where the older students help the younger ones, 5) performing at a coffee house or someplace where the students’ friends will be.

    I don’t think that students who lack dedication or discipline should necessarily quit. It depends on what the student is getting out of playing, and what he/she wants to get out of it. Remember that a younger teen who appears to lack passion could gain it back in full force at any time, without warning! I also agree with the importance of organization. If you write down or make clear the pieces, measures, et cetera that you expect him/her to practice, it is much more likely that s/he will. If some of the students are at the level that they can play gigs, that is a great motivator to practice. The last important thing to do is make sure that the student is playing at his/her level. Pieces that are too hard will frustrate the student too much to practice, and simple songs are too boring to play. Communication with the student about his/her goals and what s/he wants to play is vitally important, I think.


    I just bought a book called “The Practice Revolution” by Philip Johnston. It is available at It was suggested by Rosalind Beck in a different thread on this web

    site. It is EXCELLENT and will help students and teachers alike.

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