Have you ever asked yourself why you can’t get certain students to, say, learn vibrato? No amount of imploring, explanations or threats, seems to have any effect at all. They try then and there, but the next lesson comes around and nothing has really changed.
Well, I have asked myself why, and I have discovered a Very Important Universal Truth:
You can’t make students do or learn something they really don’t want to.
So forget the imploring, threats and explanations if you have tried them all and gotten no results. The trick is to make them want to do it. But before you can do that, there is something important you might want to address.
Remember the adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” The corollary is: “You cain’t fix something ya don’t know is broke.” Therefore, the first problem is that you, the teacher, know something is “broke,” – certain students really not wanting to do what you want them to – but those students don’t know this, and thus the impasse.
So to make them aware that they really don’t want to do whatever it is that you’re asking, you have to get it out into the open where they can see what the cause of the problem is and examine it. I give them several possibilities to consider:
- They don’t think they’re capable of it.
- They don’t like it (some kids don’t like vibrato, for example. Really).
- They don’t see the need for it. Some students like things just as they are – it can be hard to get them to move from making noise to making music or to making better music. Once one of my students, when asked why she wouldn’t vibrate, told an astonished me that she didn’t need to because it wasn’t necessary – she played well anyway. (I had forgotten who it was but then a painful suppressed memory bubbled up to the surface and I now remember that it was my older daughter. Yes, 35 years later, she is still breathing and has a beautiful vibrato. Anyway.)
- They’re just plain lazy and don’t want to make the effort.
- None of the above apply, but they just plumb don’t wanna do it.
Once you get them to pick one and say it out loud, you have some hope of remedying the situation. Why? Because acknowledging their lack of desire to you and to themselves is a big step toward “recovery.” Students can’t fix problems they don’t know or don’t want to know exist. Take vibrato again, for example: you can play a passage for a student with and then without vibrato. Which does he prefer? The vibrated one, of course. (If not, then you have a discussion about how the baroque period ended several hundred years ago and, if this fails, how vibrato can help cover a slight wobble in intonation, an argument most students find appealing.) “So,” you ask, “what are we going to do about this?” And you discuss solutions with your student. You may both come to the conclusion that vibrato just isn’t for him at that particular moment and you let it go for another time in the future when he will be more amenable to the idea. To everything there is a season…
Or you could try the sneakier approach Continue reading