5 ways to Help a Student Get Past Overwhelmed

By Robin Steinweg


"It's too hard!"

“It’s too hard!”


“I can’t do it!” “I won’t do it!” “It’s too hard!”





Have you ever heard this from a student? One minute you have a sunny, happy child sitting at their instrument. The next, storm clouds and even threat of waterworks. And all you did was to place a new piece of music in front of them. Or remind them of a technique on which they’ve been working.

You want me to do WHAT?  You want me to do WHAT?

If distraction doesn’t work , and neither do our words of reassurance or encouragement, how can we help them get past the tunnel vision that comes with feeling overwhelmed? How can we empower them to see solutions instead of the pessimism of believing they are bound to fail? (try this iPad tool for a distraction technique: Piano Maestro)

Dane shows how he'd look if he felt overwhelmed

Dane shows how he’d look if he felt overwhelmed







Here are 5 ways to help a student get past “It’s too hard!”

1. Pull out a piece you know the student will love. Maybe it’s a little beyond her level, but she has a passion for this piece.

2. Wait—don’t show the new song to her yet. Copy the piece. Cut apart the treble and bass lines. Start with either one. Place Post-its over every measure but one. Reveal only one measure at a time. If necessary, re-cover the ones she’s already done.






3. Stay low-key. Be blasé. Act as if it doesn’t really matter to you—she can play it or not, it’s up to her. The reward is the look on her face when she recognizes the song.

4. If the problem is the stress students feel when they hear themselves flubbing up, have them try out a measure on their lap. Then they’ll have gotten through it pain-free before trying it on their instrument.

5. Use humor. Example: a piano student got stressed about lightening up a heavy hand. I’d tried images of a bird lighting, a feather floating down on the keys… those only caused frustration. But when I said to imagine a hippo plummeting to the keys, he found it hilarious, and the problem was solved! Now all I have to do is sketch a hippo head on the page (or use hippo stickers) and his hands are balanced and light.

Malea Niesen


Next time you hear “It’s too hard!” give one (or all) of these a try.



Read More


I first heard of the AirTurn almost 4 years ago, and finally bought one to use with my iPad in October. I LOVE IT!

What is it: The AirTurn is a wireless, hands-free page turner that sits flat on the floor. You use it with your favorite music reading App (I use forScore) on your iPad. The idea is that you can read your music on your iPad, play with your hands, and turn pages with your foot. I bought the one that comes with a handheld control unit that can be detached from the pedal board.

How much: $129.95. If you do not need the handheld unit, there is a cheaper version. Yes, it is a bit costly, which was the main reason I did not purchase it sooner. I just could not see myself using it enough. I am so glad I finally have one now!

Set up: Another reason I did not get it sooner was that I wondered if it was going to be difficult to set up, and if it was going to become one of those gadgets that sit on the shelf because I do not have time to read the instruction manual. Good news is that it was VERY EASY to set up! Just go to Settings on your iPad, turn Bluetooth ON, and the iPad finds it automatically, like magic! So far I have only encountered one instance where the iPad did not recognize it for some unknown reason, so I read the trouble-shooting section in the manual and the problem was quickly solved. Other than that time, I have not had to touch the manual again!

AE8A5787 asf lightened

performing with iPad and AirTurn. Piccoloist – Kate Prestia-Schaub

My experiences:

  • If you have never turned pages with your foot, it does take some getting used to. I used to swipe the pages on my iPad with my finger, so when I first started using the AirTurn, sometimes my left hand still turns the page out of habit, then a split second afterwards, my foot presses on the AirTurn as well, and I end up turning two pages instead of one. This is happening less and less as I use the AirTurn more.


Read More

On November 15, 2009–four years and 13 days ago–I posted my first blog here at MusicTeachersHelper.com. I was thrilled to be selected by Ronnie Currey and Brandon Pearce to blog monthly for the site. Since then, my appetite for writing has grown exponentially which translated into my own blog 88pianokeys.me and now a book. As I’ve done my share of reviews for others, I hope you don’t mind if I now share an explanation–not a review as yes, it would be quite biased–about an accomplishment that also began in November–November of 2012.

Sitting next to "Bella," my piano and inspiration.

Sitting next to “Bella,” my piano and inspiration.


After perusing my blog site, Philip Johnston–an author whose edgy approach has inspired me for years–encouraged me to write a book about using the iPad and apps. It turns out it didn’t take much nudging and over a number of months a book was conceived. Penning the content was the easy part, but finding the means to publish a book with a time-sensitive subject was the hard part.

Finally, in March of 2013, I met Tom Folenta. The easy part was talking him into publishing the book for/with me. The hard part: taking 12 chapters and building a book with a pleasing cover, some eye-catching graphics and that all important ISBN number.

Fast forward to the present. The easy part is expressing how ecstatic I am with my first, freshly pressed publication. The hard part is figuring out where to begin when explaining the cutting-edge features of this WebGINES Publishing Digital Series book.  Let me explain in more detail…

Your purchase of the The iPad Piano Studio: Keys to Unlocking the Power of Apps includes these features:

#1: Physical Paper Back Book: $21.99 (+ shipping)  PLUS a free copy of SimpleTEC Magazine AND all the additional features listed below.

Between the covers you will find information, ideas, insight and inspiration on integrating the iPad within every aspect of studio teaching. Yes, it’s called the iPad PIANO Studio, but teachers of other instruments will find the book beneficial as well. From those who are still contemplating the purchase of an iPad to those considered “veteran” iPad owners, there’s something for everyone. The chapters are concise with striking graphics and a fresh format so that information can be gathered quickly. You’ll follow my journey as I explored this slick device and along the way you’ll enjoy playing “I Spy” as there is plenty of name dropping (those who have inspired me) throughout the pages.

#2: Digital Edition: $17.99 (no shipping)


Read More