Student: I really just want to improve my sound.
Beautiful tone is a nice goal, but it’s subjective, and it’s inextricable from less-sexy pursuits like consistent tone, solid intonation, and reliable response. Let’s expand your focus to your overall tone production and make sure you do lots of listening to the great players. Then you’ll be equipped to play beautiful ideas, not just beautiful notes.
Student: I need to play this faster.
Speed without control is unimpressive. Let’s work on moving your fingers and tongue in an efficient, even, and relaxed way, and take the time to learn the notes slowly and well. The speed will come, and it will turn out to be less important than you think.
Student: The most important thing right now is this audition/competition/recital piece.
Auditions, competitions, and recitals come and go. They are stepping stones to greater opportunities—what will you do if you get there and your only skill is playing this one concerto or étude or excerpt? Treat every lesson, practice session, and performance experience as a chance to become a better musician, not a better trained monkey.