Changing the game

Here we go again.  Another lesson starts with my 9 year old student Matt, who blurts out before I can say hello that he’s had an awful week of practicing because he’s been playing a lot of video games this week.

“Really?” I ask.

“Ya, so my wrist really hurts.”

‘Interesting’ I thought. Not even ten minutes this week to learn something creative, something he can point to in the “3D” world and say….. “LOOK! I did that” to me or his parents later on.  Matt chose to spend his time where he felt comfortable and safe.

Next came Gabby and her brother Nick.
“How was your week?” I asked.

Gabby went first. “I learned one song to pass off. ”

“Did you enjoy it?,” I asked.

“Kinda” she offered.

“Let’s hear it!” I challenged!

Gabby played well for me. We corrected any errors, I complemented her as I began to see a pattern here. She confessed she spent 10-15 minutes a day playing what she liked and knew. Gabby spent about 5 minutes a day working on the new assignment.

Then Nick had a turn. “Here is a note from my mom.”

I thought “Oh oh….. what’s up now!” We’ve all had THOSE notes before, right?

‘Dear Miss Suzanne…. I am really worried that Nick is not passing off enough songs at his lessons . He says he doesn’t understand practicing at home. Please help him fix this. Thanks. Mrs. _________’ Nick showed me his work. He had learned two of his four assignments, hands together.  He said he played these because we had part done at the lesson last week.

I’d be thrilled to fix this….. in 30 minutes without support at home. It might be tricky, but I’ll tell you my game plan…. and guess what!  It worked!

As I began my research for this week’s project and spoke with several other teachers as well; I viewed research on You Tube, Ted Talks, books on Child behavior (New kid by Friday…. a personal favorite!) and then thought a lot. I discovered that our adorable and lovable children and teens have four basic needs and some important brain chemicals at work here. If you don’t know what the game is then how will YOU PLAY TO WIN?

They must feel loved. They need to feel accepted, valuable, heard and successful. I repeat….. they need to feel accepted, valuable, heard and successful. These are powerful emotions generated by the internet and any video game in such a mass amount that the operating system of the brain is basically HI-jacked from the moment they pick up their phone and look at it until the t.v. goes off at night.


Times have changed . I started teaching in 1989. Yes, I’ve been working with several generations of students now. We as rewired teachers must change our strategy or deal with a communication disaster.

This generation of student’s brains are simply wired differently. I like to use the analogy of a crock-pot dinner vs. a microwave. These guys don’t understand the word “harvest” very well if you catch my drift. Not unless they had had the rich learning that comes from investing in some thing they started and waited for.

For the past two weeks, I have offered my students a different option. To actually come to “Piano School”.  Kinda corny sounding, isn’t it.

Come watch, listen, say, know and play. That’s it. Learn it here guys….. then go home and repeat. I dare you NOT to “Play” your piano.  See…. the word “Play ” actually has a very different connotation and vibration (if you will) than the word “practice”, don’t you think?  We learn and study here. We’re understanding and creating and learning together here.

So far, they are all taking the bait. In fact, they may need longer lessons soon because we need more Piano school time to learn it here so they can get it all in. It’s really fun too.  I help them on all different levels because they are literally all different ages. Some are teachers, some are 6 year olds.

The main point is this though:

  • I must teach them how to learn HERE.
  • I must teach them how to practice HERE.
  • I help them learn to love to learn HERE. This is my school.
  • When they come here, I don’t ask “What are you bringing me today?”, I think “What may I give you today?”.

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Play with me and I learn. ” Benjamin Franklin.


By the way…. it’s been a real GAME CHANGER at my studio.

If this information helps you and you want to start subscribing to this weekly BLOG then please do!

See you next week!


Recommended Reading: “Who Moved my Cheese” by Spencer Johnson

Published by pianomastermind

I have taught and shaped musicians for 30 years. I am a pianist with unique insights about people, communication and multi-tasking while practicing. I am a 6th generation student in the pedigree of Beethoven and am a passionate musical performer.

2 thoughts on “Changing the game

  1. I just read Game Changer and that is exactly what I needed to read today! I’ve been pondering this a lot lately. Too many ‘busy’ kids who don’t have time to do anything extra at home, whose parents aren’t supporting them in practicing, but yet they come faithfully every week, some of them for years, paying me but not working on anything on their own. It’s so frustrating.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m SO glad this helped you Jessica! The main thing I have focused on is changing my usual dialogue that I have started lessons with for the past few years !!! I am guilty of saying, “How was practicing this week” ? I’m changing directions by saying “What should we learn about today?”
      Let me know how it goes for you!


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