How to Teach Your Students to Slow Down

Even the most insignificant thing can become a big deal in a lesson.

For instance, as Rob pointed out: teachers have to choose their words carefully. Sometimes a word carries with it implications as to how a give technique or musical idea should be accomplished.

The result of the “wrong” word can be frustration from the student or some unexpected results from a week home a lone practicing.

Lessons are the Student’s Time

In lessons, it seems fairly obvious that the teacher wants the student to do most of the playing. Why else would a person take lessons? This mindset has unexpected consequences.

How many times have you (if you teach guitar) played a passage at tempo or fast just to get the student an idea of what it should sound like?

It’s probably happened a few times. Just like words can have hidden implications, so does how you play things for students.

Students Go Faster Than They Should

It’s a common problem. Students play something fast, when the should be slowing down or using a practice technique to really nail a passage.

I suspect a lot of this is due to teachers leading by example. We play stuff fast in lessons just to get through it so the student can have more time trying things out. But we’re also saying something about how a piece should be played: fast(er).

How to Teach Your Students to Slow Down

Simple. Slow yourself down. Play at the tempo you’d like your student to use.

Posted on in Guitar Teaching


  • Alfredo L.
    Alfredo L.

    A metronome is a perfect tool for slowing down.
    Sometimes one does not even notice that one is rushing.
    A metronome will expose this and other problems, such as uneven distortions is rhythm.
    Plus it can expose the opposite of rushing as well: sometimes we don’t even notice when we slow down in difficult parts. The metronome then tells us that we need to practice those parts (slowly at first… with a metronome). We can then notch up the metronome and – very important – GRADUALLY increase the tempo.

    • Christopher Davis

      I think the gradually stepping up method can work. But it’s not the only way.

      I’d much rather see a student (or myself) alternate slow and fast variations — “slow” and “fast” being relative terms, of course.

  • Brian

    Chris, have you found that a student’s handedness (left- or right-handed) predisposes them to particular strengths or weaknesses?

    • Christopher Davis

      When things feel easy, that’s when you speed up. That’s a bit abstract, but if you ever have felt like you absolutely know a piece and can nail it 90% of the time, that’s what “easy” feels like.

  • Carlos

    Most of the time I’m actually the student, not the teacher, but now I know why they sometimes play so fast, and that I’m the one who needs to take it easy. Thanks 🙂

  • Donald Broerman

    Agreed! The teacher must demonstrate exactly want they want the student to practice. The teachers example says everything; from tempo, deliberate finger movement and shape to the articulation and phrasing, it is never to early to focus on the musical things as well.