Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Does that make sense to you??

Especially as singers, we HAVE to think, as that’s the only way to affect our instrument. Questions I ask are: “What was the difference between that time and the time before?” “What are you going to do to try to change XX; How successful was what you tried and why?” “What did you think about that sound?” “What did you do differently?”

Overall, I have banned the words “good” and “bad” because neither tell you what to continue working with and what to try to fix. I also try to always use only positive directives. We’ll identify both what behavior we want to replace and then what we want to happen instead. Focus is then on what we WANT to happen, rather than what we don’t want.

These are questions I have routinely asked my students, but thanks to a conversation I had on Google+ with Wendy Stevens,composer/pianist/teacher, in response to her blog post, “Never Ask This,” I’ve changed my approach even more.  My husband had once asked me why I asked “Does that make sense?” so often, but it didn’t hit me how easily students cop out of answering that question until Wendy wrote her post.

Since Wendy’s post, I’ve been MUCH more aware of how I phrase things and how I ask students to respond.  Much of the time I try to say, “When I say XX, what does that mean to you?”  I also ask students how they would like me to write down something in the lesson notes; I take notes on my computer during lessons to copy & paste into lesson reconciliation on MTH at the end of each lesson.  Each student also has their own file, so I can easily call up what we’ve done since their first lesson.

What kinds of questions do YOU ask your students to try to make them think and personalize your teaching?


About the Author

Rachel Velarde
I began my music career in Bloomington, Indiana. After receiving my B.A. in Music from Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, I earned two Master of Music degrees at Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona. Luminaries I have worked with include Vernon Hartman, James Caraher, Lorenzo Malfatti, Shirlee Emmons, Mary Sue Hyatt, John Sikora, David Jones, David Britton, and Carol Smith.

I offer ... [Read more]


  1. Cynthia Vaughn

    ‘Another great blog, Rachel. I love your focus on using positive language, engaging the student, and focusing on what you/the student wants. Yes, we want students who think. However, at a certain point I want to see a student trust her technique, be in the moment, get out of her critical analytical head, and just SING! 🙂
    Happy New Year,

  2. Rachel Velarde

    Thanks Cynthia!
    Yes, you’re absolutely correct that at a certain point they have to get out of their heads, as well. Trusting the practice and the study and just making music. Happy New Year to you, too!!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.