Motivation and Progress in Music Lessons: Own Choice Practice Material

I would like to share a post from Noa Kageyama’s excellent blog with you.

It stresses the importance of (self-)motivation in the practice process; particularly what happens if a student chooses their own repertoire.

From the blog-post:

It looked like a pretty typical practice session up until Clarissa began working on her selected piece. And then things changed.

For one, she spent more time working on the piece she requested than any of the pieces her teacher assigned. About eleven times longer, in fact specifically, an average of 9.83 seconds per note vs. the .9 seconds per note she averaged on the assigned pieces.

But what’s far more interesting, is that there was a dramatic change in how she practiced this piece relative to the others.

When practicing the teacher-assigned pieces, Clarissa practiced like a novice, essentially just playing through everything like she did as a beginner.

But when she got to her chosen piece, she suddenly began utilizing more advanced practice and learning strategies. Strategies that are typically associated with higher-level players, (…)

via What Changes When a Student Selects Their Own Repertoire? A Case Study.

It is something I felt very strongly about for years, and one particular reason why I nearly always ask my students (no matter what age and level they are) if there is a particular piece/song they would like to work on. In my opinion, it does wonders for their motivation and focus.

It is also the reason why I hardly ever use singing tutor books, unless the student asks for them (e.g. because they want to take exams). I am fully aware that some students probably find this strange, especially if their past experience with teachers has been different and they are used to someone selecting their pieces for them.

Don’t get me wrong: This is not about mindlessly singing anything and everything, and very often, the selected pieces need a bit of tweaking to make them suitable for the student’s stage of vocal and musical development.

If you are a student: Do you feel more motivated when you pick your own songs? Do you practice more, or do you think you practice more efficiently?

If you are a teacher: How do you select repertoire for your students, and do you let them suggest material, even if they are complete beginners?

I’d be interested to hear about your experiences and opinions – feel free to leave them in the comments section…

© Petra Raspel 2014