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#91 My Secrets to Getting and Keeping Adults playing Music - part 2 of 3

Updated: Jul 3, 2023



By Christy | the Practicing Pro


Are you ready to…learn the last 6 of my 16 secrets to teaching adults so that they keep playing and keep taking lessons with you? Adult retention is a skill that teachers need to learn and practice just like any other skill.


This is part two of a three-part series.

Check out blog #90 for part one that hits the first 10 secrets HERE, and let's look at the last five today.



11. Playing with others

This is huge. Adults who play with other adults will keep taking lessons and keep playing music. Dc Suzuki teaches that children learn from other children and, well, adults are exactly the same!

To help them be successful, have a regular time to meet - Like point two on the checklist, resist willy-nilly - this doesn't help an adult - every other week can work as an option if they cant come for weekly lessons, but if something comes up, have a plan in place, like it automatically moves to the Friday evening when Wednesday cant work, then its missed for that week but they still pay for the lesson, for example, Adopt the mantra “Never cancel always move to another date at the time the cancellation is made and limit the times it can be moved if you decide on that, to once or twice.

Start small with duets with the teacher and then move to duets or a trio in a small group.

Encourage them to go out afterwards for a coffee together or for lunch with others in the group. Help them to become friends. Include adult duets and ensembles in concerts regularly. If you don't have regular concerts, then make videos for them to share as gifts with family and friends at Christmas or to say happy spring. Adults love sending “Wishes” to people, and this is a unique way. Teach them to play happy birthday in parts that they can have on hand to send to a friend or grandchild. This is another favourite thing, and with friends, it's even better since that’s easier for them to share.



12. Let them know they are missed right away

Adults can be very self-conscious as well as hard on themselves. Think teens, but they can make the decision to quit or stop coming on their own and on a whim where, where a teen needs to have parental approval. So communication is important right away if an adult misses a group class or session, then I immediately follow up the day of saying, “We missed you; hope all is ok and can't wait to see you next week.” It's a simple thing to send a one-sentence email or message but will go a long way.


13. Be Fun

Don't assume they don't want to do the fun things you do with the children - ask them if they want to do a 100-day challenge to pick a prize at the end from your treasure chest or to do an ice cream listening chart or the practicing frogs (one of my very favourites). You will be surprised, and if you think it's cool, they will too because deep inside, they just want to have fun. When teaching, I say this all the time, and they love it - ‘For my children, I say it's like a “...” When using children's teaching techniques with adults, I find that they are never insulted and then they remember. Because it was cute or silly, the fun things you do with kids help them to learn, and the same things with adults help them to have fun, feel youthful and remember.


14. Festival and event communities

You can find many friends through music on the Internet these days.

Playing music in groups - vacations or workshops - mix with travel meeting others

My girlfriend and I went last year to an event called “Fiddle Hell” in Massachusetts (which I highly recommend). It was our second time attending, and love it so much, as well as having a road trip together! Next year we are going on a Kevin Burke TOUR in Ireland! What???!!! It is surreal to me that it's even happening, but IT IS!!! These types of adventures can come from playing music WITH others and making friends through music. Once an adult student discovers monthly or yearly events they like or joins a community like an orchestra, a theatre company or a fiddle group etc., then they will be hooked for life!


15. Do many concerts - both small and big that they are over-prepared for

Have a small concert or make a video. A goal and something they can easily achieve and be proud of. Like teens, be very careful to always put them in concerts and performances that they can be 100 percent successful at and make sure it's “easy” for them. If they grew up with hard music and big goals to “motivate them to practice” and then they have anxiety and stress building up to the concert but “they learn a lot and push themselves” just like for children, this is inappropriate and should not be done with adults. You might get the result, but they will surely not continue or associate music with stress and low self-esteem, and this is NOT the goal with children or adults. With children, they will often just keep doing this motivational pattern but then quit as soon as parents allow them to or develop a lifelong fear or be anxious every time they perform and miss loving music. With adults, they will usually just quit or say they tried and they are not good at it. Both are not what you want. Adults do better with multiple concerts lower key than doing one BIG end-year concert, for example. Remember to keep them smaller and shorter with fewer people and more often. That's the secret!


Have the “three months' performance ready” rule for all Adults. When teaching them in lessons, once a song sounds performance ready, work into your regular teaching language “Wow, this sounds great! Like you could play it in a concert! Play their piece just like in a concert for 100 days (or three months), and then it's performance-ready!!!”

Practice with them in lessons every week, once for warm-up or to end the class, “their performance ready song” once they have one, again to teach them how long a piece is learned before you perform it. You again can model that in your language. “What is your current performance piece that you have been playing performance ready for over 3 months now? Let's end our class with that song”

If you have to miss a week and owe them an extra lesson. Save t for the week before their concert for extra performance runs of it over and over with you.


If a concert doesn't go as planned - afterwards, re-evaluate how you can do things differently next time. This is a huge secret, do the same piece again, a little later, but experience the difference between JUST being ready and having stress about it and being OVER ready and really loving it the second time. When they can see and feel the difference by redoing it again in a few months, they will understand and see that this is how performances should be. An unstressful situation that feels easy, and they can focus on sharing their music with others to make them happy.


16. Choose the correct difficulty/levels of music

Adults need to play music that is at their level. They MUST perform music that seems easy to them. This is a BIG error that many teachers make is letting adults choose their own music; that’s too hard, so they never get to feel the satisfaction of doing something well, and they start losing confidence. If they come to you and say this is the piece I want to play, and it's for example, a level 4 piece, but they are a level 2, here is what you can do.


Make a list of pieces they might like based on their goal piece that covers step by step each of the skills they will eventually need to play their final goal piece. This is, after all, a goal that they want to achieve someday, but it doesn't need to be tomorrow, Adults need to know the exact steps they will take to “get there,” and then they will be more patient and trust you.


Free Checklist:


Conclusion & Invitation

There you have it - part TWO - with some of my main secrets to working with adults to get them started and stay playing. Then to keep them playing for a long time.


By following these suggestions, you can keep your adults taking music lessons longer and with more confidence in your studio.


This is the second blog of a three part series. Check out blog #90 for part one that hits the first 10 secrets HERE. The third one #92 is for Adults. Suggestions on how to put music in their lives and ideas to have it stay. Click COMING SOON to go directly to part 3.


Speaking of suggestions, check out my Free PDF download Checklist for a Successful Music Practice for teachers and practicing parents.

Your easy checklist for successful home music practices from Christy, the practicing pro. Whether you are a new or seasoned practice parent/teacher, this checklist will help you organize before, during, and after practices for effective and fun practices.




Check out my Free PDF download Checklist for a Successful Music Practice for teachers and practicing parents.


Your easy checklist for successful home music practices from Christy, the practicing pro. Whether you are a new or seasoned practice parent or music teacher, this checklist will help you organize before, during, and after practices for effective and fun practices.



INVITATION from Christy Hodder:


Speaking of amazing practices, let me tell you all about the digital course, the Practicing Pro Academy. This is for the serious practicing parents and music teachers and is an at-your-own-pace, step-by-step, online course to bring you more effective, positive, and fun home music practices. Registrants receive a special package in the mail from me, and I am with you in person with Q&As to answer all your questions.


Learn more about PPA and join the waitlist HERE for the next Practicing Pro Academy course. It's only offered once a year so you don't want to miss it. The registration will only open for a few weeks and I'll let everyone on the waitlist know immediately so that you can grab one of the spots.


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