Forum Q&A | Perfectionist Piano Students

Last week, our Forum Q&A discussion was about saying goodbye to piano students before moving away.  Today, I’d love to hear your thoughts about students who are perfectionists.  We’ve all had them!  Sometimes they are so hard on themselves when it comes to making mistakes that they stop having fun.  They may even stop making progress in their piano study as a result of their intense fear of making mistakes.

On the other hand, as a professor at my alma mater once said, music is one of the few professions where perfection is not only expected, but it is considered the norm.  We have to admit, our goal is perfection in a way.

And so, I think a balance is necessary.

What are your thoughts?  What can we do about students who become too hard on themselves?  How do you help the perfectionist student become “okay” with making mistakes?  How do we help students achieve a balance when it comes to reaching perfection?  

Joy Morin is a piano teacher in northwest Ohio (United States) who enjoys keeping her teaching fresh with new ideas and resources. 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. Susannah B.
    Posted 24 January 2012 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    I absolutely have/had students who are extreme perfectionists. I try to keep my tone light and positive when this happens and encourage them to keep playing instead of starting over from the beginning every time they make a mistake.

  2. Kylie G
    Posted 27 January 2012 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    I’d like to know people’s thoughts on perfectionist teachers! My main teaching resolution for 2012 is to stop teaching with the goal of making every song perfect and start teaching for more enjoyment and creativity in the students. I’m afraid I’ve ended up with a bunch of students who play beautifully but are not as happy as they could be because their lessons/practice are about constantly picking up a new piece of music and trying to make it perfect they way ‘Kylie’ wants it.

    I think my new strategy will really help perfectionist students as well – to consider some pieces as needing to be brought to performance standard before moving on, but to consider others as GOAL pieces – where you have to reach the goals before moving on, but not necessarily play the piece perfectly. Of course we’re still aiming for a great rendition, but the kids will learn to move on despite not being up to performance standard. This new strategy is for my level 3 kids, not lower.

    My student’s mum likes this new idea – she said it’s a good life skill to learn. That some things have to be done over and over to get them perfect, but some things – like washing up – you can’t be perfectionist about them for sanity’s sake. :-)

  3. Sara
    Posted 2 May 2013 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    If there is a song that the student is struggling to master, but has mastered the specific technique that song was meant to teach, we will talk about that and move on. But it can be hard to recognize that situation early.

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