Students come and go from piano lessons all the time. Sometimes it’s just time for the student to move on because priorities have shifted, or because they feel like they have accomplished what they wanted from piano lessons. Unfortunately, there are many scenarios where a student leaves their piano study because they were disappointed or frustrated.
As a result, teachers and parents are often disappointed when students decide that they want to quit piano lessons. Parents have invested time and money to help their child experience the gift of music, and teachers have taken on a big responsibility to help the student succeed. Let’s look at some reasons why piano students tend to quit piano lessons, as well as some ways that parents and teachers can help them overcome these challenges.
1. They Weren’t Interested to Begin With
Some students resist piano lessons before they even begin. They have pre-conceived, negative notions of what it will be like or what’s involved. They might feel pressure from their parents that makes them want to rebel against the expectation of piano lessons.
If a student doesn’t approach piano lessons with an open mind and willingness to participate, it is going to be really hard to help the student stay with it for the long term.
Teachers: Approach piano lessons playfully. Help your student enjoy their time with you and show them that learning the piano is a multi-dimensional activity. Take things slowly and give your student a variety of piano experiences to help them find something that they like about piano.
Parents: Don’t push piano lessons too early. Starting piano lessons before a child is truly ready, or before they have the proper attention span and have reached the appropriate developmental milestones, can give kids a rough start to learning piano which will hurt them in the long run.
Compared to other activities, piano lessons can be perceived as a boring activity. Learning the piano does take a lot of focus on behalf of the student. If the student craves social interaction and more high-energy activities, sticking with the piano can feel like a drag.
Some kids might enjoy their time at their piano lesson but find the daily practice routine boring. It’s easy for piano practice to feel like a chore that pulls kids away from television, video games, toys, and friends.
Teachers: Shake things up and keep things interesting in piano lessons. Play games, play duets, listen to music, incorporate art by drawing pictures or using pictures to help tell the story of music, and allow students to move to the music they are learning. Make sure your students aren’t sitting in the same place at the piano for 30 minutes straight each week.
Parents: Take a strong interest in your child’s piano practice routine. Spend time at the piano with them either just listening or helping them to follow along in their music. Make piano practice a regular part of your daily routine so that there’s no question about whether or not to practice: it’s just expected.
The book 101 Piano Practice Tips is an excellent resource for parents who want to keep piano practice lively and engaging each week.
3. Lack of Motivation
Everyone has different things that motivate them or make them tick. Some people need external motivators to help them accomplish goals and tasks.
Learning the piano definitely involves a lot of delayed gratification and long-term investment. For students who need a lot of external push, it can be hard to stick with it. If a student isn’t getting the push they need from their teacher or parents, it can be really tempting to give up.
Teachers: Set up studio-wide practice challenges to motivate your students. Make sure you have regular performance opportunities for students who are very motivated by deadlines or the idea of performing in front of other people. Remember that all students are motivated by different things, so don’t expect that your entire studio will benefit equally from each thing that you plan.
Parents: Since you know your child so well, you can create motivational systems at home as well. Set up a challenge that will reward your child in a way that will be truly motivating to them. For example, if you know your child enjoys spending quality time with you, plan an outing together after 2 weeks of good practice or when your student achieves a goal. Some kids are very motivated by food, treats, stickers, or rewards.
If these simple rewards keep the practice peace in your household, use them to help your child reach their piano goals.
“Motivation Medicine” is an easy and effective technique that many students respond well to.
4. Not Seeing Progress
Because learning piano is a long-term endeavor, it can be hard to see progress day in and day out. Students can easily feel discouraged if they think they are not moving forward or learning new things fast enough.
Teachers: Give students a variety of music to work on. If a student seems stuck at a certain place either backtrack a little and supplement with more music, or change gears and find a new approach that will help your student start to see more progress. As students progress towards harder, more complex music, also incorporate simpler, more short-term music to balance things out.
Parents: Give your child plenty of compliments about their piano practice. Make sure to tell them when you have noticed improvement.
If you can tell that your child is working hard to learn something or achieve a goal, support them along the way and celebrate the milestones with them.
5. Low Priority Compared to Other Interests
Some students discover a different passion or hobby that pulls them away from the piano. This is understandable and some people just have shifts in priority or interest over time.
Teachers: We always hope that students will stick around for a long time, but it’s okay if students are ready to move on after a period of time. Knowing that you gave them the best possible piano education while they were learning with you is important. Make sure that you are teaching in a way that gives your students the tools they need to continue enjoying playing the piano, even after they stop lessons. Teach them the importance of sight reading, playing from chord charts, and playing the piano for fun so that they can find their way back to the piano at any time.
Parents: Everyone has different strengths, gifts, and talents. If the piano isn’t fitting into your child’s life, be open to supporting other interests. But, also remember that piano is something that students can participate in at varying degrees. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. If your child is interested in a different activity, see if you can compromise and find ways to fit some piano practice in, even if it’s not to the same extent as before. Many teachers enjoy teaching hobbyists and might be open to working with your child without the pressure of recitals, deadlines, or an academic approach to the piano. It’s worth chatting with your teacher if you think your child needs to change gears but also wants to maintain some level of piano study.
6. It’s Too Challenging
Learning the piano definitely comes with a set of challenges. Some students might feel easily frustrated by difficult material. Or, they might feel like the concepts are not broken down into manageable pieces. If a student gets home from a lesson and doesn’t know how to approach practicing or making progress on their music, it might seem like it’s just too hard or impossible.
Teachers: Break things down into small, bite-sized pieces. Set your students up for success. Don’t expect that every student can learn something new each week. Some students might need to focus on small sections of music or just one hand, instead of tackling a whole song.
Use some of your lesson time to teach your student how to practice at home.
Parents: If you notice your child feeling frustrated, reach out to the piano teacher to help troubleshoot the problems. Help your child practice if you are able.
If you don’t know much about piano but want to help your child, consider learning the piano yourself. This online course makes it easy for adults to learn from home on their own schedule so that you can learn along with your child.
7. No Connection With the Teacher
Many people are successful with piano once they have made a personal connection with a teacher that they can relate with. If a student feels a disconnect from their teacher, it’s hard to move forward and gain momentum. Maybe the teacher doesn’t speak in a tone that makes the student feel comfortable. Or, perhaps the teacher doesn’t know how to relate to the student. The student might not be getting the type of motivation or encouragement they need from their teacher. There are a number of factors that go into a student-teacher relationship and it can be very complex.
Teachers: Teach the student first, then the music. Personalize each lesson so that each student has a unique experience. Get to know your students, take an interest in their lives, and build a relationship. Also, know that you can’t be everything to everyone, so be willing to pass along students who aren’t a good match for you to other teachers.
Parents: Take time to find the right teacher for your child. Each teacher has different strengths and different backgrounds. Ask a lot of questions to ensure that your child’s teacher is a good fit. If you notice that your child has trouble connecting with their teacher, it’s okay to switch teachers.
8. Expectations Aren’t Met
Maybe a student was hoping to learn to play chord charts and pop music but the teacher focuses on the classics. Or, maybe the student thought they would have more say in what to learn but instead feels trapped following a specific course of study. A student could easily feel like the piano is not right for them if the teacher takes a different path than expected.
Teachers and Parents: Make sure you are on the same page from the beginning about your expectations and goals for piano lessons. Also, let the student give input about their own goals. Make a plan about what you hope for the student to accomplish within a time frame. Be specific about the style of music and the skills that you would like to help the student achieve.
9. It’s Intimidating
Piano lessons can feel intimidating to some students, especially if there is a lot of emphasis on performance in recitals, participating in competitions, or playing in front of other people often.
Performing in front of a crowd for even just 1 or 2 unfamiliar people can be terrifying for some students. If this aspect of learning piano is the focus of piano lessons, it can really turn some students off from being interested in playing the piano for fun or learning piano to acquire a new skill.
Teachers: Recognize that performance can instill a lot of fear in some students. Don’t force students to do things that will make them uncomfortable. Of course, we want to take kids outside of their comfort zone and help them achieve new things, but not at the cost of trauma or life-long disappointment in piano lessons.
Parents: If your child is particularly anxious about performance-based activities, make sure you communicate with your student’s teacher about expectations for performances.
Your teacher may have some good ideas about how to ease into performances that will make your student feel more comfortable.
Maybe your child would prefer to just watch a recital at first, or maybe a small family performance would be a better fit for your child. Recitals don’t always have to be big scary events with a huge audience, so think outside of the box if you need to.
10. They Think They Don’t Have Talent
Some people mistakenly believe that learning the piano requires a rare, innate talent. In reality, anyone can learn and enjoy playing the piano. But, if someone is convinced that they weren’t born with what is needed to be a successful piano student, it can prevent them from approaching the piano with an open mind and willingness to try.
Teachers: Treat each student as a unique individual and allow them to move at their own pace without comparison to other students. Tap into each student’s gifts and help them thrive using those gifts.
Parents: Don’t assume that your child has to be a natural-born musician in order to be successful at the piano.
Many students succeed at the piano purely from perseverance and dedication to practice.
Plus, learning the piano has many benefits that extend outside of music such as skills that will help your child succeed in school and other activities.
11. Not Willing to Put in the Time
Learning to play the piano is a long game that requires consistent practice. Some people think that they can learn to play the piano without regular practice, but then feel frustrated by the lack of progress.
Without putting in the time, it’s impossible to move forward, learn new skills and feel like a successful pianist.
Teachers: Set clear expectations about piano practice. Many families are accustomed to activities that don’t necessarily require daily, at-home commitment. Parents and students need to be educated on how and what to practice.
Parents: Help your child to develop great practice habits at home. Make piano practice a part of your daily routine, just like brushing your teeth and doing homework. Read more about making piano practice a regular part of your home life here.
Nurturing a piano student through their piano study is a big responsibility for both parents and teachers. It’s tough to know how hard to push students and how to support each individual student in the best ways. Open lines of communication and clear expectations between the teacher, parents, and student will always help students stay committed to piano lessons.
If you’re looking for some new and fresh sheet music to keep your child or student interested in piano, make sure to check out the massive catalog of piano sheet music at Musicnotes.com. With everything from Beethoven to Bruno Mars, browse beginner notes, easy piano, and piano solo versions of your child or student’s favorite songs.