Fueling Musical Passion: A Guide to Motivating Your Students for Success


By Felix Cruz

child playing guitar

As music educators, we understand the importance of consistent practice for musical development. However, with our students only attending brief weekly sessions, the potential for steady progress relies heavily on their practice habits between lessons. The tips provided in this document aim to provide you with simple and effective strategies to inspire your students to practice at home, and achieve their full musical potential.

What Motivates Us?

Motivation is a very individual experience, and may be influenced by a variety of different reasons. While individual motivations from student to student may differ, here are some factors commonly associated with motivation.

  1. Intrinsic Motivation: Having genuine interest and passion for the task or goal can be
    an extremely powerful internal motivator.
  2. Self Efficacy: Feeling capable and confident in one’s abilities boosts motivation. Believing in one’s ability to succeed increases the likelihood of persisting in an activity.
  3. Clear Goals: Having specific, achievable goals provides direction and clarity. It helps the student understand what they working towards and gives them clear signs of their improvement.
  4. Autonomy: Having a sense of control over your actions builds intrinsic motivation. When students feel empowered to make choices and decisions related to their goals, the more likely they are to feel motivated to pursue them.
  5. Feedback and Recognition: Positive feedback and recognition for efforts and achievements serve as powerful motivators. Acknowledging progress reinforces good habits and encourages continued effort.
  6. Social Support: Social connection and support from peers, friends, family, and teachers can boost motivation. The encouragement, collaboration, and accountability they get from other students help them stay motivated and committed to their goals.

Overall, a combination of these factors, tailored to the individual preferences and circumstances of each student, can contribute to sustained motivation. Think of ways you can incorporate strategies into your lessons to utilize these motivating factors. Later we will discuss some practical ways to include these ideas into every lesson.

The AH-HA Moment

Revelatory moments are the sparks of inspiration that ignite our musical journey. For our music students, these moments of revelation hold the power to transform their relationship with music, fueling their passion and igniting their creative fire. Imagine the exhilaration of discovering a piece of music that resonates so deeply, it feels like it was written just for you. Or the triumph of overcoming a challenging passage, realizing your potential in the process.

Picture the joy of connecting with an audience through your music, feeling their energy and realizing your impact on them. These revelatory moments remind us of the possibilities that await us in our musical journey, inspiring us to practice with dedication and determination. With each moment of revelation, our students draw closer to realizing their full potential as musicians.

Fostering Revelation in Our Students

Here are some tips that can help your students experience a revelatory moment.

  1. Discover Their Musical Passion: Our students may experience a revelatory moment when they discover a new genre, artist, or instrument that resonates deeply with them.
  2. Overcome a Performance Challenge: They may experience a revelatory moment when they successfully overcome a challenging performance situation, such as playing in front of an audience for the first time or mastering a difficult piece.
  3. Connecting Emotionally With Music: They may experience a revelatory moment when they experience a deep emotional connection to a piece of music.
  4. Receiving Positive Feedback: They may experience a similar moment when they receive
    praise or recognition for their musical abilities. This validation from teachers, peers, or
    audience boosts their confidence and self-esteem, reinforcing their beliefs and potential
    as a musician.
  5. Realizing the Impact of Music: Lastly, they may experience a revelatory moment when they recognize the impact their music has on others. Whether it’s seeing someone moved to tears by the performance or witnessing the joy and excitement of their family at one of our concerts, this moment of realization can inspire and fuel their continued passion for music.

Incorporating These Techniques Into Our Lessons

  1. Foster Revelatory Moments: When you notice your student experiencing a spark of inspiration, lean into whatever it is that is causing it. Inspiration can come in many shapes and sizes, so be aware when you notice your student feeling inspired!
  2. Give Them Autonomy: Empower your students to make choices and decisions related to their musical goals. Allow them to play the music that they enjoy playing.
  3. Set Clear Goals: Work with your students to establish personalized goals and align with their skill level and aspirations. Whether it’s mastering a challenging piece, improving a technical skill, or preparing for performance, setting specific goals will help students stay focused and motivated during practice.
  4. Provide Guidance and Structure: Teach them how to practice. Breakdown very simply and clearly how each step of their practice sessions should go. Provide students with practice techniques and exercises tailored to their individual needs. Ensuring your students know how to practice increases their self efficacy, makes practicing more enjoyable, decreases the likelihood of aimless practice, and increases the likelihood of steady progress.
  5. Rewarding Progress: Implement things like practice streaks to reward your students for consistent daily practice. Consider introducing awards for reaching milestones or achieving specific goals, such as mastering difficulties or participating in a concert/recital. Recognizing students’ progress will reinforce their motivation and encourage them to continue striving for excellence.
  6. Utilize Technology: Incorporate technology to enhance the practice experience of your students. Teach them how to use the metronome and make a game out of it. Teach them how to record themselves and listen back. Lastly teach them to use practice apps that can help them set reminders or timers for their practice.
  7. Providing Feedback and Positive Reinforcement: Offer constructive feedback to help students identify areas for improvement and track their progress overtime. Recognize and celebrate Stephen‘s accomplishments, no matter how small, to boost their confidence and self-esteem. By acknowledging their hard work and dedication, you inspire students to continue pushing themselves to reach new heights on their musical journey.

Motivating your students to practice requires a combination of realizing what inspires them, setting clear goals,providing guidance, positive reinforcement, and a genuine love and curiosity for music. By implementing the strategies in this guide, you can empower your students to take ownership of their musical development and realize their full potential as musicians. For further reading and inspiration, I’ve compiled a list of resources to support you in motivating your students:

Books on General Motivation

  1. “Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones”
    by James Clear
  2. “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” by Charles
    Duhigg
  3. “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” by Daniel H. Pink
  4. “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol S. Dweck
  5. “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” by Angela Duckworth
  6. “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change”
    by Stephen R. Covey
  7. “You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an
    Awesome Life” by Jen Sincero
  8. “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live,
    Love, Parent, and Lead” by Brené Brown
  9. “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a
    Good Life” by Mark Manson
    10.”Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the
    World” by Admiral William H. McRaven

Books on Motivation for Musicians

  1. “Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician Within” by Kenny Werner
  2. “The Music Lesson: A Spiritual Search for Growth Through Music” by Victor L.
    Wooten
  3. “The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles”
    by Steven Pressfield
  4. “The Inner Game of Music” by Barry Green and W. Timothy Gallwey
  5. “Music Practice: The Musician’s Guide to Practicing and Mastering Your
    Instrument Like a Professional” by David Dumais
  6. “Practice Like This: 35 Effective Ways to Get Better Faster” by Jonathan Harnum
  7. “Zen Guitar” by Philip Toshio Sudo
  8. “Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art” by Stephen Nachmanovitch
  9. “The Practice of Practice: How to Boost Your Music Skills” by Jonathan Harnum
    10. “How Music Works” by David Byrne

These books cover a range of topics from building good habits and finding motivation to specific techniques for musicians to improve their skills and creativity.



Fueling Musical Passion: A Guide to Motivating Your Students for Success

Singing…It’s for Instrumentalists Too.

Download the 2024 Spring Calendar