When is it time to move on from a piece?

As a former piano student, I remember often contemplating when I can move on from a piece. In my mind, I was playing it perfect! Why was my teacher so adamant about having me repeat the same song week after week?

I struggle with this same concept as a piano teacher now. As teachers, we have to balance keeping students’ interest up, as well as correcting technical errors. What do I do when the student has lost interest in the piece, when the technical errors haven’t been fixed yet?

On the note of persistence, there has been many challenging pieces I wanted to give up on in my past. Those same pieces became my favourite pieces when I pushed through the difficult technical challenges. I emerged with stronger technique, and an understanding that I can achieve more than I believe I could.

However, in my case, I had a strong passion for music which helped carry me through the hard times. For a student who may just be discovering their musicality, forcing perfection in a piece may be detrimental. Here are some alternate suggestions

Isolate technical issues

  • Is it a rhythm issue? Is it a fingering issue? Solve and practice issues outside the context of the piece to seem less repetitive.

Make edits

  • Make appropriate changes so the student can enjoy the song again. If they enjoy the song and can hear it as a whole, they may be more interested in fixing the issue.

Play recordings during home practice

  • Many frustrating issues is because students do not hear it correctly in their head. Repeated input throughout the week will help with this.

Move on and come back later

  • These technical challenges will arise in a different song. Sometimes a “change of scenery” is all that it takes. Many students return to a song later and realize their own mistakes.