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I can play songs I like? That never crossed my mind….

With all the great ‘tried and true’ music out there it is easy to forget that most people want to learn to play piano so they can play their favorite songs too.

Recently I gave a pair of students a book of songs from their favorite video game series. Although reluctant readers (they have phenomenal memories and both have complicated pieces under their belts that they learned by rote) this book may be the motivation they need to finally become better readers. Most, if not all, of the pieces are above their reading level.  However because these are pieces they really want to learn they are extremely motivated to read and master them.  Their excitement level is as high as I’ve ever seen it and they are constantly at the piano. I have placed no limits on what songs they can work on each week and it is a pleasure seeing them share their accomplishments and asking for help where they need it.  Not only are they becoming better readers, but they are developing the confidence in their own abilities to pick up a piece of music and figure out how to play it on their own.

At the other end of the spectrum, I saw another student this week who has also been playing for quite some time now. I asked him (though not for the first time)  if there were any songs he liked and wanted to learn. He couldn’t think of anything off the top of his head and and he went on to comment that it had never crossed his mind that he might be able to work on songs that he enjoyed and wanted to learn to play!  Wow, that was an eye opener for me!  I wonder if any of my other students feel that way.

While I have always tried to encourage my students to work on music they enjoy either outside of lessons or to let me know what they like so we can add it to their lessons these stories make it clear to me that I need to be doing a better job of this. Depending on temperament students can often work on pieces that stretch their abilities because the motivation to work on the piece and stick with it (even if difficult) is there.

I might have to schedule a field trip to the local music store for my students soon!

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