Music Teacher's Helper Blog

“Circuit Training” Music Lessons

"Circuit Training" Music LessonsThey’re not all the same but every now and again you meet a teenager determined to fit the stereotype. With so much hair over their face you’re not actually sure what they look like, their shoulders are dropped so low their hands are practically touching the floor and all questions are met with an obligatory “dunno” response (if you’re lucky)!

Were we ever like that? I’m sure many of today’s finest musicians had their moments as teenagers and I would like to just say that many of the teenagers I’ve taught have been highly “switched on” and motivated. But how can we inspire even the most apathetic student?

Enter something I’ve been trying out I call “Music Lesson Circuit Training!”

Now I need at this point to warn you that I have no experience of actual circuit training as my body has a long history of aversion to physical activity. Whilst in school, I always somehow managed to stay permanently at the back of the queue in gym. Cross-country running became an interesting exercise of finding short-cuts or better still, hiding in the trees till the last lap!

So, somewhat ironically, now as a teacher I see the benefits of circuit training with my music students! Don’t worry though, I don’t get them running around the outside of my house, like one student related that his old teacher had made him do from time to time! Nor do I dress up in embarrassing running kits that should have been thrown away in the 1980’s!

“Circuit Training” Music Lessons!
Put simply, with some of my students who struggle to concentrate, I’ve been getting them to do all their lesson activities in very short “bite-sized” chunks so that they rapidly move around the room. Maybe we start with a scale and then move onto a focused area of the song they are learning. Perhaps followed by some rhythm exercises and then a “pop-quiz” on their key knowledge. Once we’ve done this, we revisit the same activities again and again, quickly eliminating anything that has now been perfected so that the energy is focused on weaker areas. The emphasis is on keeping the atmosphere fast, fun and furious! They don’t get time to “zone-out” and they seem to be responding very positively to my little campaign. Even though they might have previously complained about doing “boring” theory or scales, now it all happens so fast, I don’t think they even notice that they’ve done it! Lesson productivity is at an all-time high because we just get through so much. We’ve even tried moving physically to different areas of the room to do different activities just to help increase energy levels.

This little idea has certainly kept me on my toes in the lesson too! No chance of “falling asleep with my feet on the radiator” as one old music teacher of mine admitted to me many years later. Perhaps I was one of those teenagers!!!!

What kind of student were you? How do you motivate your teenage students? Comments below please!


See other posts by Reuben Vincent


About the Author

Reuben Vincent
Reuben Vincent is a freelance musician working as a composer, producer and private music teacher, based from his purpose built recording studio in Bagillt, Flintshire, North Wales, UK. His main instrument is the piano although he is also known for a "mean" solo on the Kazoo!!!


  1. Sharon Ellam

    Sounds fun Reuben! I’ve got a little red basket & have been doing a ‘Practice Lottery’ with some of my little ones. They are so excited that the lesson is frequently very funny! 😀

  2. Reuben Vincent

    Wow! That’s a good idea Sharon. I shall have to try that. I guess it makes them feel a little more in control too!

  3. Libby

    Interesting idea. In a way I’ve been doing something similar with a little 5 yr old on violin – she gets to pick a card and each one is some sort of “game”. We can get through 5 or 6 of these in a 20 minute lesson and actually manage to do the things I need to sometimes 🙂

    Any thoughts on motivating an 11 yr old who really needs more piano to support her other music (violin, serious choir, recorder); getting stuck at about grade 3 and fed up (only 2 years of lessons though).

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