We all have student ailments that drive us a little (or a lot) bonkers. No matter how many times we tell a student to lift their wrist, relax their hand, or drop their shoulders (a common one heard from my teacher when I was a teenager) … a few moments later the problem seems to pop up. It’s a frustrating situation for the student & for the teacher.

What to do?

The Piano Practice Physician’s Handbook

Nicola Cantan has written a fabulous resource book to help teachers banish these ailments for good!

While the book is arranged in a way to search for solutions as needed, I still recommend reading the whole book. At times I would read a section & think, “This describes [insert student name] to a tee!” Sometimes those realizations came in sections of the book I hadn’t necessarily thought applicable to my current students.

Nicola has included solutions for both in lesson & at home for topics such as:

  • Practice habits that hold students back
  • Tempo
  • Steady beat & rhythm
  • Symbols & musical markings
  • Not responding to their playing in a dynamic way
  • Technique & movement issues

Each of the problems & possible solutions are clearly explained with catchy names to get students interested.

A look beyond the obvious

As teachers, our job is to help our students find solutions to their music difficulties. And, often that means looking beyond the obvious.

For example, my parents recently had issues with their truck. They weren’t sure why it was losing power so they took it into the dealership to find out. When the truck was hooked up to the computer the error message said it was the injectors. But, the computer was unable to tell whether that was the problem or a symptom of the real problem. Thankfully, my parents took their truck to a mechanic they know rather than just accepting the computer code. Turns out it was the fuel pump that was causing the problems. The injectors were just a symptom & were running fine once the fuel pump was changed out. The fix was thousands of dollars less & the real problem was fixed right off the bat.

As teachers, we need to look beyond the ‘computer code’ & determine what the real difficulty is for our students so they have a successful week of practice AND build confidence in their musical skills.

Nicola includes related ‘diagnosis’ at the end of each section. I appreciated being able to check each ‘diagnosis’ to ensure I was picking the right solution for my students. No one wants a wasted week of practice only to come back & still have the same issue even more entrenched.

What do students think?

I’ve begun using some of the solutions with various students in my studio. They really like them! I think what makes them so popular is that students can see results very quickly & they get guidance through the whole process. It’s a win for all of us as students begin to make progress on songs that previously they were struggling with.

Where to get it

Head over to Colourful Keys to read more of Nicola’s great ideas that she uses in her studio. Once there, check out her store for “The Piano Practice Physician’s Handbook” & other great resources. You won’t be disappointed!

Let me know what you think of the book & how it has helped your students in the comments below.

Have a great weekend!

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