Piano Power logo
March 7, 2024

How Teens Can Use Music Lessons to Navigate Stress

This is a story about our former student Carlo, an ambitious kid who loved piano.

Even when he was a tot, Carlo loved experimenting on the keys. He felt free to play around and improvise, unlocking a creative world he looked forward to visiting. The Suzuki method he tried never suited him, but as he grew, he pursued his study and passion for piano.

Once Carlo started high school, though, everything changed. Schoolwork, sports, and extracurriculars began to consume his life. The pressure to succeed got real.

Sound familiar? Maybe Carlo’s situation reminds you of your own kid’s.

Teens are dealing with pressures that we, at their age, had never even heard of: social media, climate change, increasing pressure to get into a good college. It’s stressful just typing those out!

But as you may also know, music training offers many antidotes to stress, like:

  • creative expression
  • social bonding
  • emotional regulation
  • time to focus

Not to mention countless brain benefits, including:

  • enhanced verbal memory
  • improved reading ability
  • higher-level executive functioning.

In other words, music training is a mental-health superstar. And yet…Carlo’s lessons were stressing him out.

He loved to play, and he loved that his teacher Doug assigned challenging pieces. But a lack of time to practice frustrated Carlo. Consequently, lessons became just another weight on his slumped shoulders.

So… time to quit, right?

Not so fast.

Because someone swooped in to save the day. Guess who?

Mom, of course! (Because moms are awesome.)

Carlo’s mom Paola remembered his natural love for playing. She wholeheartedly believed he could reconnect with that little kid feeling he once had about music.

So along with Doug, she devised a plan to keep Carlo in piano lessons while eliminating the stress.

They focused on fun & relaxation

The new approach ditched the method books and curriculum, focusing instead on Carlo’s original ideas, melodies, and chord progressions. In short– all the stuff about piano Carlo loved.

This looser, more fluid weekly process removed the pressure, not only making lessons more enjoyable but more productive.

“Now there’s no guilt when Doug arrives,” Paola said. “He no longer feels like he’s putting Doug down by not practicing the classical pieces he assigned. Instead, lessons mean Carlo takes a break from his homework. The two of them have so much fun, you hear them laughing. It teaches him that music is not a duty.”

It teaches him that music is not a duty.

Could this approach work for your student?

If the goal of lessons is to chill out, love music, and enjoy the relaxing therapeutic effects of music-making– then yes, absolutely.

This approach especially complements teenagers who are old enough to begin making mature decisions about what they want–or don’t want–from lessons.

Paola appreciated Doug’s unique role in Carlo’s life, offering mentorship and inspiration in music.

“It takes a village to raise a kid, and a piano teacher inspires them, and gives them direction and quality time with someone who has a passion for music,” Paola said.

And Doug, learning from Carlo, understood the importance of adaptability and connecting with students’ motivations.

It goes to show that sometimes a flexible, student-led approach is key to keeping the stress low and the love for music high.


Read six benefits of music lessons on teen mental health.


You might also like:

Adult Student Profile: Ben Kohl

Adult Student Profile: Ben Kohl

"Piano was always my favorite form of meditation."   Self-proclaimed "music junkie" Ben Kohl has been taking lessons since age six. Though he's been playing for most of his life, he's still surprised by what regular piano lessons allow him to accomplish. Read on...

How to Create the Space for Amazing Music Practice

How to Create the Space for Amazing Music Practice

  Whether you're new to lessons or a veteran, the quality of your music practice space matters.   Even if your options are limited— the piano is in the cold, dark basement and that's that!— these suggestions will help you create a productive environment. 1....

Worried About In-Home Music Lessons?

Worried About In-Home Music Lessons?

Sometimes, clients are a little "iffy" about home lessons.   For many, the convenience of in-home lessons is a huge selling point. But others need a little well-deserved convincing. Are you worried your home is too chaotic, noisy, or somehow less than perfect for...