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Effective Use of Incentives for Piano Students

Incentives can be exactly the type of motivation a piano student needs to encourage them to practice.


When used effectively, they can be powerful.


Types of incentives

Extrinsic Incentives

  • Rewards: stickers, small toys, certificates

  • Privileges: extra game time, choosing a certain piece

  • Performance opportunities


Intrinsic Incentives

  • Personal satisfaction: achieving personal goals, mastering a difficult piece

  • Enjoyment: playing favourite songs, exploring creative expression

  • Progress tracking: visual progress charts, self-assessment tools


benefits of using incentives


  • Motivation Boost Encourages regular practice and goal-setting Helps maintain interest and enthusiasm

  • Skill Development Promotes consistent practice leading to skill improvement Encourages tackling challenging pieces and techniques

  • Positive Reinforcement Builds confidence and a sense of achievement Reinforces good practice habits and discipline


effective strategies for using incentives


  • Set clear goals Make specific (but achievable) objectives E.g. practice 3 times this week, or learn a piece by a certain date

  • Personalize incentives Tailor rewards to the student's interests and preferences Balance between immediate rewards and long-term goals

  • Regular feedback and encouragement Provide positive feedback and acknowledge progress Use constructive criticism to guide improvement

  • Celebrate small wins Recognize small achievements to keep motivation high

  • Encourage self-motivation Gradually shift the focus from external rewards to internal satisfaction


example


I have a student, Jonny, who is tired after a long day at school.


He loves his piano lessons, but everything feels too much effort.


We're working through the first SuperSonics Piano book and we'll get halfway through the first line and he'll get distracted by...well, anything.


When I get his attention back, he'll say something like, "Oh yeah! The piece! I'm really enjoying this one, it's really fun to play!"


We'll get through a couple more bars, and something else will distract him.


Sigh.


A few months ago, I discovered he looooooves drawing.


So our lessons have become a compromise.


If he plays through a whole piece, we can play 5 minutes of Music Monsters.


  • Our lessons now follow this routine:

  • Quick catch-up from the week (he loves to tell me what his dog has been up to)

  • Play through the piece he's been practicing (because he quickly caught on that if he practices a piece, he can play it quickly at the start and get bonus monster time)

  • 5 minutes of Music Monsters

  • Work on a new piece (and he'll now focus long enough to get through an entire piece in one lesson!)

  • 5 minutes of Music Monsters


I call this is an absolute win!


problems and solutions


❌ Over-reliance on extrinsic rewards ✔ Gradually ease off them and introduce more intrinsic motivators


❌ Confusion over what the student has to do ✔ Set a clear and consistent system and stick to it (don't try to be complicated!)


❌ Lack of interest from the student ✔ Ensure rewards are meaningful to the student

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