How To Motivate Your Students

Hi guys,

Yesterday I shared a handout ‘Target and Lesson Tracking’ on facebook, which I use to motivate my students and to give them a goal to focus on. Today I am going to discuss how to motivate your students.

Motivation is an essential aspect of teaching any subject. Whether the subject to be learned is astrophysics, algebra, history or a foreign language, the essential foundation of learning any such topic is having very beneficial reasons for studying, learning and practicing. If proper motivation is not acquired by any scholar they will struggle with “bothering” to work on their subject and will find that their tolerance for any difficulties or frustration will be so low that they will invariably desire to give up and pursue some other activity.

Albert Einstein once said that “Genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration.” It was essential for even the greatest minds of our civilisation and history from over the eons had to have the proper motivation to persevere at the difficult parts of their studies. If they truly were uninterested in their work at hand- indeed that they had no motivation- it is unlikely that they would ever have succeeded in their goals.

Many older people remember their early piano lessons (learning the piano invariably seems to be the most upsetting instrument in most people’s childhood memories!) as being tedious, joyless and extremely repetitive affairs where they had found no motivation to encourage themselves to practice or endeavour to work harder.

Here are a few strategies I have found worked well over the years to inspire motivation:

Encouragement is an essential means to help a student become motivated. Younger pupils are particularly receptive to encouragement and praise and by simply telling them helpful messages such as “that was very well played” “you obviously put a lot of practice into that piece.” And so on.

Another way to motivate music students is to allow them to play along with backing tracks. In my early days learning the trumpet, at home I had no other musicians to accompany me on the pieces I was learning. However, when I was given CDs, records and tapes of backing tracks such as the Music Minus One Series and the Jamey Aebersold jazz harmony backing track tapes I found immediately that I enjoyed practicing incredibly more and I became more and more motivated to practice more. This was a real turning point in my performing abilities.

Similar to the backing track approach is where I think the best fun, enjoyment and joy from music can be obtained: playing live with other (real) musicians in a band or orchestra is a very powerful motivator. The instrumental parts that you have to practice so you can play in your local orchestra or band will become far easier to revise and work at and indeed become far more exciting when you are looking forward to meeting your friends and joining in with them in rehearsal and performance. To motivate them further about playing with other musicians try to illustrate to them how knowing less interesting elements of music can help them improve their sight reading and their experience of the great joy of playing in groups.

Realistic motivation is of course incredibly important for students learning music. Students will become bored if you keep giving them uninteresting or dull pieces or music that they find too easy. On the other hand, pieces that are too difficult will discourage the student. I think the happy medium between giving pieces that are a bit challenging but not too difficult will motivate the pupil to work harder but not feel too pressurised.

I will conclude by saying that motivation starts the engine of your students’ musical endeavours and if you fuel their motivation for practice and study you will see a transformation in their enthusiasm and approach to learning music.

Please take a look at our Beginners Music Theory Books for your students.

If you need any help looking at booking a class or looking for a private tutor please get in touch,


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