Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Listening Assignments for Teaching Passion

The title is a little silly. You can’t really teach passion, but I do think you can learn it. And as teachers, we should encourage our students to feel their music. One thing I notice about myself is that I get a little caught up with the technical side of things. But recently, a friend mentioned to me that he wishes his kids would focus on the feeling more. I agreed. I notice that at recitals, often kids just play a song as if it is a formula, but music is so much more than that.

Recently, I started giving listening assignments. One song that I think is helpful for students to listen to is Gymnopedie, by Satie.

I tell my students that this is such a simple song. What makes it great is the feeling behind the music. The feeling is the responsibility of the piano player, not the composer. I am trying to encourage the kids to imagine something that reminds them of the feeling of the song, and to completely focus on the feeling and the notes.

Another listening assignment I like to give is Beethoven’s 5th. I always tell them that Beethoven was a pretty unhappy guy and very unlucky in love. I tell them to listen to the song through headphones 3 times and tell me what kind of emotion they hear in the music. I always ask them to email me their responses.

To me, it’s important that they know that I won’t tell them they are wrong. I want them to begin feeling music for themselves. That might mean that they hear something different than I do. I don’t want to “correct” them in their interpretation, because I want them to feel confident when they sit at the piano. I want them to begin feeling the emotion of the music when they play.

Many of my students have been with me since Kindergarten, and they are approaching their adolescent years. I see that they are very sensitive, and I want to give them an outlet in their music. I think the best place to start is in listening to other passionate players. How do you teach passion and feeling in music? Help me and other teachers guide the musicians of tomorrow.

About the Author

Bella Payne
While working on a degree in Sociology with plans to become a Social Worker, I fell into teaching piano lessons as a way to pay my bills. I had no idea I was stumbling into a totally fulfilling, creative and exciting career! Every day, I teach several students in their homes, in my home, and online how to play piano from scratch. Over the last 10 years, I have seen kids and adults go from timid b... [Read more]

1 Comment

  1. Innesa

    Nice article. Some good points. I noticed that with every kid the ability to express emotion while they play a song depends on the maturity of the child and their state of mind. I always encourage them to sing or hum a melody of the song they are learning. Looks like it helps them to get in to the song.

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.