Expression Omission Disorder

If your student’s playing is falling flat, they may have expression omission disorder. These students are technically accurate, even perfect, but there is no emotion behind their playing.

Expression Omission: Pick a Painting

Visual representations are a wonderful way to bring the arts together, and help your student to connect to the emotion and story behind her music.


  • Have a discussion about the story or feelings in your student’s piece.
  • Help her to pick out a painting, photo or other image that best represents this story. It doesn’t matter whether the image is something you would have chosen, only that it makes sense to her.
  • Print that picture, and two other random images.
  • Place the three images on the stand or in another prominent place and ask your student to play her piece in a way that would tell the listener which image she chose.
  • Paperclip the image to her music and tell her that next week you want it to be even clearer which image she is describing when you repeat the exercise.

Expression Omission Disorder: Gesture Gist

Opening up new ways of moving at the piano can bring so much more expression into your student’s playing. Mimicking is often the best way to start finding her own style.


  • Pick out three or four performances of a piece on YouTube, in completely different styles. You can use a piece your student is learning but you don’t need to.
  • Play the videos and ask your student to imitate the general movements and gestures the pianist is using. She shouldn’t actually play anything, just “ghost” or play “air-piano”.
  • Assign your student practice of one of her pieces in these three or four distinct styles. She should come to the next lesson prepared to show you completely different performances to represent each pianist she used as inspiration.

As an example, this is a Gesture Gist playlist using Gershwin’s Prelude no. 3.