Summer Slide for Piano Students

Summer slide describes the tendency of students to lose learning gains during the summer break.  This generally refers to school students, and their reading abilities.  It is estimated that students in low-income families fall behind, on average, 2 months behind on their reading.

While 2 months of no reading may seem insignificant, research shows that the consequences are cumulative and  are long lasting. As a solution, experts suggest providing children with enjoyable reading material, and encouraging them to continue reading without teacher support.

This discussion is directly applicable to piano lessons. Because music is also a language, progress is dependent on continued reading. If a student does not continue reading music in the summer, it is very likely for the student to lose the gains in their musical journey. Since piano lessons are generally once a week, it is inherently already less ingrained in the child’s life throughout the school year.  By removing these piano lessons in the summer, the effects of the summer slide are even more evident in piano lessons. Imagine teaching your child to read only once a week, in addition to taking two months’ break every year.

Some Suggestions to Prevent Summer Slide in Piano

  1. Have the teacher and student prepare a book of songs at the appropriate level for the student to enjoy reading through in the summer.
    • Research shows that students gain more educational value from material that they enjoy.
  2. Attend live concerts to keep music in the student’s life.
    • Listening is the key to learning any language. First we listen, then we speak.
  3. Keep up with a practice routine.
    • Not only is this important in maintaing progress, it eliminates the hardship of establishing a new practice habit in September
  4. Continue taking piano lessons.
    • A piano teacher provides accountability, support, and creative guidance to the student’s needs.


Feedback in Lessons – A Personal Account

I believe there are 4 very important elements integral to piano lessons. The first is playing music together. The second is learning how to practice. The third is learning new concepts. The fourth is feedback.

Feedback- Good or Bad?

As a piano teacher, I often swing back and forth between feeling like I am too “easy” or too “tough” with my expectations. Because my students are at the age of 5-10, I do not expect perfection in execution.  However, I do often find myself correcting my students’ mistakes over and over again. After all, it is what my job is right?

The major issue with this is that students get frustrated that they can not perform the correction. In response, I find it instinctual to continue working on the problem, until we hear one solid good take. However, I remind myself this is not always possible!

It is true that progress in piano comes with repetitions. However, it is important to remember that endless repetition is not the answer. Not only does repetitive block practicing discourage students, it prevents students from understanding the piece as a whole song.

In addition, this kind of teaching limits the amount of music the student can learn in a year.  Instead, I aim to expose the students in reading as much music as possible, so they have a better understanding of how music works.

Furthermore, I find that since all students are amateurs working to improve, the lesson can appear to be a lot of criticism. Like all people, young students like to be encouraged and feel that they are making progress.

In 2017, I vow to encourage my students more and make an effort to praise their progress. Instead of shaming their mistakes, I will look to help them understand their weaknesses and provide options.


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Progress, Not Perfection

“Practice Makes Perfect!”

That is a phrase I heard many times in my past. That is a phrase I lived by when pursuing my A.R.C.T diploma for RCM. It’s a phrase I threw out at my students to encourage them to aim for higher and better.

Now, I have a different opinion on it.

While I still believe practice is integral to improving, I don’t believe “perfect” should be the goal of music lessons. When I was younger, this idea of perfectionism haunted me through performances, exams, and competitions. Nothing ever felt good enough.  As hours of practice piled on, I improved my technical skills drastically, but lost the reward of enjoying playing the piano.

Most people understand and believe that nothing is perfect, so aiming for perfection is futile. However, the problem is deeper than this. Most people who aim for “perfect” also understand this general concept. What they are really aiming for is being the best they can be at every moment.  While this type of intentional living can win awards and dazzle audiences, it can also leave an empty hole after each perfection. What comes after perfect? How can you ever be better than perfect? At what price does someone pay to internally compete with thousands in their own head? With music, the journey to perfection never ends.

Progress, Not Perfection

What those musicians, and myself, are really looking for, is progress. We want to continually grow and develop. We want to feel like our actions (practice) are translating into tangible results.  Instead of setting perfect as a goal , which can be exhausting to chase, we can set progress as a goal. Instead of seeking a standardized result, we can chase after we want for our own growth.

Take Lessons with Eric Here
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