Have you ever something totally perfect fly out of your mouth during a lesson and wondered how? It’s fun to be in the teaching zone. It’s a win for the student too because in order to be in the zone, you both have to be totally focused and engaged. Also, these little gems have a way of diffusing frustration and tension. Here are a few phrases that have worked their way into my lessons recently. I’ll bet you have some of your own. If so, please share!

Those are not yous

This is from a real estate commercial where the not yous lose out because you found the house before they could. One of my students was frustrated because he couldn’t make his Nocturne sound the same as a favorite pianist’s rendition. But he’s a not you, I said. His eyebrows went up but he went on. Well, so and so did this here and I really like it but when I do it the passage that way it’s spoiled. But he’s a not you too, I said. The eyebrows lifted a bit higher this time. What do you mean, he asked? I mean you have to be you and when you try to play like somebody else—like the not yous—however wonderful they are, it never works. You have to be true to who you are.

You put it in your mouth. You eat it. You like it.

A kid’s cooking show contestant said this was one of her Grandma’s favorite sayings. I found myself paraphrasing it one afternoon when a young student was playing her piece complete with a play by play of everything she didn’t like or could never do and how she didn’t like jazzy pieces anyhow. She always does this with anything new even if we have prepped thoroughly and even if it’s not jazzy. Then, after the piece is learned, it is her favorite thing in the entire world. I said, You put your hands on the piano. You play it. You like it.  She stopped and looked at me, gulped, and proceeded to play it sans narration.

Just cook it, I’m begging you!

A mentor on a celebrity cooking show said this in desperation to a very disorganized contestant. I too became desperate when an adult student began the lesson with a litany of everything that was going on in her life and in the piece. I gently redirected her several times and she would put her hands on the piano and then think of one more thing she had to tell me. After the 5th redirection, I finally said, Just play it, I’m begging you! She stopped and laughed ruefully then played her piece quite well.

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