Encouraging a student who lacks confidence 

By lmt-editorApril 12, 2023
Est. Reading: 4 minutes

Confidence is required to play a musical instrument, and it has a significant impact on the quality of one's performance. It will aid in developing a brilliant sound production and a remarkable technique. It is nearly impossible to perform the most complex pieces without it, and lacking confidence may cause your playing to sound weak. 

I gained a lot of confidence in my early twenties, but I had a lack of confidence as a child. 

It had a negative impact on my piano playing, resulting in weak and insecure performances. 

I could play reasonably well at home, but my efforts were futile when I went to piano lessons. 

I was so afraid of not being able to play well or of being told that I wasn't good enough that I couldn't even press the keys. I would make an extremely superficial sound and muddle through all of the technical passages. The more concerned I was, the less interesting my performances would be, the more confidence I would lose, and the more I would be criticised. 

Quest for perfection

This lack of confidence, I believe, stems from a quest for absolute perfection, which resulted in not being perfect at all! 

Because I specialise in teaching adults, I frequently encounter people who said to themselves before touching the keyboard, "It's going to be disastrous" or "It's all going to go wrong." They would do it before each and every performance at every lesson. Their performance would have been very acceptable to me, but they kept saying, "they might be the worst student I have ever met." 

I recall a specific person. She was a successful and talented woman. She was also very attractive and appeared to lead an exciting lifestyle. She appeared to be quite sure of herself in everyday life, but as soon as she sat down at the piano, she lost all confidence. She always wanted to go slowly through each piece or technical exercise to ensure that everything was in order. She was constantly doubting herself and struggled to play a piece from start to finish without making a mistake. It appeared that her lack of confidence kept her from performing as beautifully as she could have, which was a real shame. We talked about it and she revealed that her aim of perfection was actually preventing her to express herself fully. 

Trying to make everything perfect

I had another student who had a very successful career as well. She was a total perfectionist who demanded that everything be "perfect." As a result, she played so softly that I couldn't hear the sound that was supposed to come from the grand piano. 

These examples demonstrate to me that a lack of confidence is caused by a fear of failure, and it can severely limit people's abilities. 

Adults who are new to music playing frequently doubt themselves, so I believe it is critical to put them at ease by emphasizing that mistakes do not matter. 

I completely understand why adults are shy. Most of my students are highly successful professionals who are suddenly confronted with the harsh reality of being "OK" at something new. 

I purposefully put some quote/unquote signs around the word OK because their perception of being average at music playing is not accurate. They believe they are not very good at it because it is new to them and they have not excelled as much as they expected. They have most likely not been in that situation since their studies and are, therefore, unprepared to be the novices that they are. 

I believe they lose confidence as a result of this, preventing them from achieving much better results. 

Focus on the positive aspects!

I always encourage my students and always begin my report after a performance by discussing the positive aspects of their performance. After they've identified what they've done well, I look for areas where they can improve without ever criticising them negatively. I always tell them that what they have to do is difficult and that if we have to work on a specific passage, it is completely normal. 

Because confidence is so important in music, saying anything that might cause your students to lose theirs could be extremely damaging. 

Children aren't very good at hiding their shyness, but adults can often pull it off. 

As a result, you should approach each of your adult students as if they lacked confidence. 

You should always compliment them on their accomplishments and provide them with practice material appropriate for their current ability level. Playing too difficult technical exercises or pieces may be detrimental and result in your student losing confidence. 

Two-piece approach

I always enjoy working on two pieces at the same time: one that is well-known but still has room for improvement, and the other that is brand-new. As a result, students are not constantly confronted with new challenges, which can give them the impression that they are back at the bottom of the ladder. 

I also advise my students not to put away a piece that they have mastered, but rather to play it from time to time in their spare time. Hearing yourself play something well while working on new material, I believe, boosts confidence. 

I congratulate my students

I never hesitate to congratulate my students on their incredible progress and to share my impressions with them. Music students are often so engrossed in their studies that they do not realize how far they have come. That is why it is critical to provide them with feedback on a regular basis and to remind them that they are doing an excellent job! 

I hope you found this article helpful and that you now better understand why some adults may lack confidence. I hope you now better understand how to deal with and resolve this issue if it arises in the future! 

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