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Teaching technique for younger beginners: tolerance for criticism

April 20, 2017

A useful technique is to create ‘room’ within the student for accepting negative criticism, by the creation within the student of a second person, who views the first person from the outside (as someone in the second person singular).  This person can be called a colleague-teacher.  Someone the teacher can consult with about the way the student is playing.  This term puts the student into a position of authority with a sense of power and omniscience, thus steering around the potential for the student to feel as a victim of negative criticism.

Agree ahead of time on what the important things are that should happen during the next run-through of the piece.

a) the notes in the correct order.

b) rhythm

c) a steady even tempo*

plus anything else that seems relevant to help improve that particular student’s playing, such as fingering, dynamics, tempo, articulation, clarity, enthusiasm, etc..  But not too many things.  Perhaps a maximum of two or three to five.

After each run-through of a piece, consult with the ‘colleague-teacher’, and ask him to give his opinion on each of the categories, by assigning a separate grade, from one to ten, for each of the agreed upon categories.  It is easier, with this setup, for the student to give criticism to himself without the resistance and hurt feelings that would result from negative criticism by the adult teacher.   It creates the possibility of working on the aspects of his playing that he acknowledged as having lower scores.

* this may be the hardest for the young student to admit because, tacitly, she is acknowledging that certain sections of the piece are more difficult for her and therefore in need of more work than other sections.

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