Adults are one of the fastest-growing demographics of music students. But adults aren’t just big children. They have their own learning needs and interests. Indeed, just as pedagogy describes the science of teaching children, there is a special word to describe the science of teaching adults – andragogy
If you teach piano to adults (or teach any instrument, for that matter) consider applying these four strategies for better engaging your students and helping them to learn faster.
#1 – Let Adults Learn the Music They Love
Why do adults take music lessons? While there are many reasons, the most important for most students is (not surprisingly) to play music. Even if you use a method with adults, consider how you can tailor your lessons to include unique tunes they love. You might do this by finding simple arrangements or even creating them. Being able to play a simple melody that they know and love is thrilling to most adult students.
#2 – Help Them Understand the Importance of Practicing
Adult students who have never studied an instrument may need special guidance in understanding the importance of regular practicing, and how to practice effectively. Unlike kids, who may not have a choice about studying music, if adults don’t make consistent progress, they will quit.
#3. Encourage Them to Listen
Even if a beginning adult student is dying to learn to read music (as many of mine are), don’t neglect the power of the ear for helping them to learn new pieces faster, avoid mistakes while practicing, and become better interpreters of the music they play. Encourage them to regularly listen to good performances of the pieces they are working on.
#4. Create Social Opportunities for Your Adult Students
Many adults feel isolated these days, which is one reason so many want to study music. You can help them reduce their isolation by:
- Hosting a cocktail party with the option of performing for each other
- Organizing a trip to a concert of a musician who plays the instrument you teach
- Connecting them with your other adult students or those who play a complementary instrument so they can discover the joy of playing with others
Doug Hanvey is an educator, composer, pianist, and author. His Piano Lab Blog offers innovative tips and advice for keyboard players and teachers.