Help Students Less to Help them More!

Weekly Teaching Tip – Jan. 8, 2018
by MaryAnnKehler

A few months ago, I managed to dislocate my right thumb — the moral of that story is “never practice Yoga while angry.”

For several weeks, my injured hand needed to play piano a lot less than usual, so I decided to try an experiment to give the hand a rest. For beginning students, I would play piano as usual. For intermediate and advanced singers, in the exercise part of each lesson, I decided to play just a single note at the beginning of each exercise. The results of that experiment were surprising — many singers who are typically confident and can perform any song, were suddenly timid about singing exercises. If they fumbled, I would play the scale once. We quickly came to understand that they had been leaning far too much on the piano and would benefit from spending some time without it. Many of those same students have come to prefer singing exercises and working song phrases a cappella. Their feeling is that they benefit from having “no place to hide.” It’s been interesting to see the increase in their vocal confidence and also the improvement in their sight-singing.

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