Let Them Be Silly

As a piano teacher, I am very conscious of every minute that goes by in a lesson. There is always so much I want to teach and there’s rarely enough time to squeeze it all in. 30, 45 or even 60 minutes can go by really quickly and it’s tempting to cut short parts of the lesson that don’t seem like they’re “value adding”.

However, what I’ve come to appreciate more and more is that these seemingly “unfocused” parts of a lesson can be more valuable than they appear to be on the surface.

Take for example the first time I introduced a backing track to my student Sarah*. We had been playing ‘My Piano Song‘ for a couple of weeks and she was having a hard time keeping to a steady beat. Having a backing track to play along to sometimes helps students with keeping time so I wanted to see if this would help her.

I pressed play on my phone and out blared a synthetic sounding melody accompanied by a boppy drum beat. We listened to it together once through, and then it was Sarah’s turn to play along with the music.

When we listened to the nine second introduction again, Sarah went from:

  1. Sitting still waiting to play; to
  2. Casually bouncing her head to the beat; to
  3. Getting off the bench entirely and doing what I can only describe as a belly dance.

There was so much dancing (and giggling) going on that she of course missed where she was supposed to come in with her piano playing.

But that was okay! It was the first time she had heard the track and this was her unbridled response to the music. Kids are so uninhibited and respond to new things in completely different ways to how adults have been conditioned to. Sarah was clearly enjoying the track so I let her continue with the belly dancing a little while longer. Not only was she having fun with a song that had become tiresome for her to figure out rhythmically, she was now listening in an engaged way and embodying the beat through her dancing. Having a few minutes of fun and silliness helped her to relax and we were able to approach the piece anew after laughing it out.

Anyone walking in on our lesson during those five minutes might have questioned whether I was “teaching” or simply letting my student run amok. At times when I’m teaching at my students’ homes I do get a little self-conscious and worry that parents listening in might think I’m goofing off too much with their kids.

But there is always method to my madness.

Learning the piano can be frustrating sometimes when you feel like you’re stuck and unable to do what you’re trying so hard to do.

A little bit of silliness can be just the thing that’s needed to help a student shake off some tension, re-energise and tackle the challenge again.

The silliness ends up being a very valuable use of five minutes if it means my student is happy and relaxed for the remaining 30!

“Enough of the silliness”?

Not in my lessons. Let them be silly!



Are you a fan of the silliness? Let me know in the comments below!


*I always change the names of my students for my blog posts to protect their privacy.

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