Teaching Phrase: “Pretend It’s Easy”

Lately, I’ve trying out this phrase with my students, in situations when a student is struggling with the technique of playing a particular passage:

“Pretend this is really easy for you to play.”

This phrase works best in a situation where the teacher observes that the student is holding far too much tension in his/her arms, wrists, and/or fingers to be able to properly execute a passage.  Rather then hearing a command to release some of the excess tension, however, sometimes hearing a phrase such as “Pretend it’s really easy for you,” has a better effect on the student.

What’s supposed to happen when you pretend it’s easy?

  1. A mental release occurs. Suddenly, the student gives him/her-self the permission to play the passage correctly. When we know (or think) it is a difficult passage, sometimes we don’t allow ourselves even the chance to play it correctly because we don’t think we can.
  2. A physical release occurs.  As the student imagines what it would feel like to play the daunting passage if it were easy for him/her, unnecessary tension in the student’s arms, wrists, and fingers melts away.  This release of tension often makes the passage suddenly much easier to play.

Try it, and let me know what you think!

Photo Credit: alexanderward12 | CC 2.0

Joy Morin is a piano teacher in northwest Ohio (United States) who enjoys keeping her teaching fresh with new ideas and resources. ColorInMyPiano.com serves as a journal of her adventures in piano teaching as well as a place to exchange ideas and resources.

Joy has blogged 1132 posts here.

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  1. Posted 12 October 2010 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    Hi Joy!
    We must think a lot alike! I love using this “easy phrase” with my students, too. :-) (http://musicmattersblog.com/2008/09/11/easy-phrases-for-students/). It always reminds me of a statement by Bach to the effect of, “There’s nothing to it; you only have to hit the right key at the right time and the instrument plays itself.” Obviously a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it can sure make a difference in the way you move around on the keys!

    • Posted 12 October 2010 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

      @Natalie: I think you are right — we must think alike! I was delighted to read the post you linked to. Isn’t it funny how that such a phrase as “pretend it’s easy” really seems to help? It’s all a mental game. Sometimes our brains just seem to get in the way. Thanks for your comment!

  2. Posted 13 October 2010 at 2:35 am | Permalink

    Love this positive approach – kids aim to please and are devastated to disappoint you by making a mistake (even when we make it clear that it’s okay!). For them to relax this kind of atmosphere is so important.

  3. Victoria
    Posted 13 April 2012 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    What a great idea! Can’t wait to try this on my students. A few of them come instantly to mind.

  4. Marcia
    Posted 31 July 2014 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    I use a similar idea. I ask the students to pretend that a difficult part is their “favorite part”. This idea is can make a frustrated student actually laugh and relax which improves the part instantly.

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