The more I teach, the more I realise that my job is about more than just teaching piano.
I am not a psychologist, but I am realising more and more that music (and indeed life itself) is often governed by one’s mindset.
Why is it that for those who complain “These things always seem to happen to me” or “I’m such a clutz; I’m always injuring myself“, that these words do tend to come true?
Why is it that some people are more resilient? Some more about to cope with life’s little speed-bumps? Some get completely bogged down by the past?
I do not know the answers to these questions, but more and more I am realising that my thought life does have some bearing on my reality.
I am also realising that while I am not psychic, I can clearly see my student’s thoughts affecting their ability to play.
A student who sighs and decides before they start playing that they are no good at this piece, will probably not play well.
Increasingly as I listen to mistakes and then ask later what the student was thinking, the response is “That I was coming up to the hard bit that I can’t do“, or “That this was so much better before the lesson“.
Another part of learning to play music is learning to gain discipline over our thought life. I am terrible at this myself, and can find myself during my own recital, daydreaming about what I am having for dinner. Thus part of the discipline required is to stay on task, in the moment.
Another part of the required discipline is practising positivity.
I don’t allow the word “can’t” in my studio, because if you say you can’t, I believe that you are defeated before you begin.
It is important to reframe our thoughts, and I encourage students to say “This is a tricky bit, but I am going to give it my best effort“.
Today I asked my colleague (composer, musician, lecturer and teacher) Richard Percival what was his antidote to mental weakness, and as he pointed out, there is no substitute for preparation and sufficient practice. If the student has done good, quality, sustained practice, then there is no reason for any mental insecurities. (For more about Richard, see http://www.teacherontap.com/)