Do You Teach Students Who Have No Idea What They Want to Learn? Here’s How Spotify Can Help.

Very occasionally, I come across a student who has a really clear idea what it is they want to learn. They have lots of ideas for pieces they’d like to learn and often come armed to their lessons with lists or books of these.

These students are few and far between, and in reality, many students have no idea what it is they’d like to learn.

This can often present the teacher with a challenge. The art of teachers recommending pieces for their students to learn is important, and it’s part of the teaching and learning process. But, what happens if students are learning only pieces chosen by the teacher? I don’t know about you, but I feel uneasy about that. I want the learning experience to be one of sharing and collaboration, not one of the teacher imparting their chosen repertoire to their students.

That said, it’s not easy, but over the past year, I’ve developed an innovative way to help students take some ownership of their repertoire choices. If you have students who are equally undecided about what they’d like to learn, Spotify* could be your answer.

Let’s be clear that I’m suggesting this as part of a wider process, part of which is for the teacher to guide the student towards suitable repertoire pieces. But, Spotify can offer a collaborative means to widen this process where some of the decision-making is shared with the student.

It’s actually pretty simple to set up, and so far, has been quite effective.

All you need to do is to set up a Spotify playlist for the student. Even if you only have the free version of Spotify, this is still possible. Once you have created a playlist, you can then add to it pieces which that student has already learnt.

Here is the playlist for one of my singing students. She’s passed ABRSM Grade 5 and has been working towards her Grade 5 Theory. During that time, we have been expanding her repertoire to cover more music theatre:

Scroll down below the playlist, and you will find that Spotify starts to recommended additional songs based on that playlist:

It’s possible to make the playlist collaborative so students can explore the recommendations in their own time and add any songs they like the sound of to the playlist. The recommendations refresh as the playlist is updated, and it can also be manually refreshed by clicking on the button at the top-right.

As I say, this is not a replacement for the teacher, and you will need to manage this sensitively for each student. Some students might be happy to go away and explore the recommendations themselves, whilst others may feel more confident exploring them with the teacher in the lesson.

Whilst the example above is for singing, I have also used this successfully for some of the pianists and flautists whom I teach. It is an innovative way to get students involved in their repertoire choices, and it’s simple to get set up. It also gives students a list of the pieces they’ve learnt and a reference recording should they wish to use it.

So, if you’ve got students, like me, who have no or little idea what they want to learn, try this. You, and they may be surprised at its effectiveness.


*I use Spotify for this, but I’m aware there are other similar options available. This is not an advert for Spotify.

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Do you teach students who have no idea what they want to learn? Here's how Spotify can help.

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