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Violin Teacher - Too Easy?


youngviolinist
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I've been playing the violin in my school orchestra casually for a few years now. A few months ago, I realized how passionately I loved the violin, and I finally decided to get serious about playing violin. I chose a private violin teacher, and I just had my first lesson, but I see a little problem. My violin teacher seems too easy if that's a possibility. She seems to be very nervous about making critical remarks or assigning a lot of work. I guess a lot of kids that are my age might see that as a bonus, but I feel like I'm wasting time. Should I say something to her or hope that she picks up on the 'brain signals' I'm trying to send?

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Yes. I am all about open and honest communication with private teacher. I mean, you are paying them to do a job for you and they need to hear your opinion as a customer.

Now for the other side... It might just be that your reality about how you play is a little bit skewed. My private master guitar teachers very often will set me back in my studies to an area that I think is too simple. When I learn why I am being sent back I am always surprised to find that I wasn't playing like I thought I was playing. So I go back to the drawing board (so to speak) until I get that area of my playing up to par. It is actually very eye opening to sit in front of a new teacher as they will see things that you just cannot. Things you might have been getting away with in the orchestra. It is also a bit humbling so be prepared for that and make sure you try hard to see what she is seeing even if it hurts your feelings a little.

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If you have never had aprivate lesson and you have been casually playing in the school orchestra for a couple years. I wish you luck in your studies, and your most likley going to need it.

I started in my school orchestra a phew years back and I have very mixed feeling about my decision to do so. In one aspect it is good that I started in my school orchestra becuase thats what really got me hooked. But in another aspect it is very bad because I devloped so many bad habits and I got used to not even hearing myself play that it just set me up for a very very hard time if I wished to persue this on a higher level. And it did. I was so used to not hearing myself play, and I was so used to doing everything wrong that I had to unlearn everything and basically start from scratch.

And thats where a provate teacher came in. VERY luckliy for me, I have one of the best private teachers one could dream of. He made me go all the way back to book one, and he made me correct all the things that was wrong with me. Because of that I felt like he was too easy, and that he was not pushing me at all. Fortunately now all is well and I am playing Concertmaster and doing solo's ect, but were nto here to talk about me.

I have a very strong feeling that your teacher is doing the same with you, becuase you are in the same shoes I was. My advice to you would be to get to know your teacher and ask her what you are doing wrong (dont be mad if she says everything) and be very commited to fixing everything, also get very confident around your teacher. It is goignt to take a lot of work and dedication, but if you love it like you do, everything will be fine.

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Youngviolinist,

Let me share my story, in hopes that it will give you some perspective.

Like you, I started in the school ensemble environment. I was the only violist in a class of 7 violinists (that was the first year for our school orchestra program). I had a fantastic teacher. She really noticed my natural ability and brought it out, recognizing the "unique-ness" of my being the only viola, and capitalizing on that. I am greatful to ehr for giving me my start in music. She was very strict on technique, too, because there were only the 8 of us.

After two years in that group, I changed schools, and so moved on. My new school didn't have an orchestra, but I did audition for and get into a community-sponsored string orchestra for "gifted" middle school musicians. I spent two years in that group, and one in its companion symphony orchestra.

Then all of a sudden I decided that music really was my thing and I wanted to be the best that I absolutely could at it. So I *begged* my parents for private lessons. Finally they gave in and I signed on with a respected musician from our local symphony orchestra. (I live in a mid-size city with a fairly reknowned orchestra.)

This teacher had to correct a lot of bad habits I had developed during my stint in the larger string and symphony orchestras, where I didn't have anyone watching my technique. I had a thumb-under-the-frog bow hold and an extremely stiff left shoulder and hand (which I still fight to this day.) THat's just to mention a couple things.

At my first lesson my teacher looked at the the music I was playing in orchestra--I can't think of the piece right now, but it was fairly difficult and unabridged--, and put me in Suzuki book 4.

Looking back, I wish she would have put me in book 2. I had just enough time to prepare the Seitz nr 5 concerto for her spring recital. However, I had never used vibrato before--five years without vibrato--and she insisted I develop it for that piece, or I couldn't play in the recital. So we worked on it a bit and I came out with a quirky, frenetic wiggling that I used for the next two years, until I began studying violin with a different teacher who heard me and gasped. "Ohmygawd, stop that nasty noise this instant!" It took me *3* months to relearn my vibrato.

So, after that long winded account, my advice to you. Give it some time, a few weeks maybe, until you two get to know each other. If she's putting you in easy material, maybe it's because she wants to make sure you have your foundations firm before she brings you on to more challenging stuff. If after a few weeks you still feel like she's not working you hard enough--e.g. no criticism, no absolute "do this or die" mandates, perhaps talk to her. Tell her how you really want to excel, and you really want her to be harder on you. She probably won't be offended. I sure wouldn't if my students said that!

Chin up, enjoy the violin, and by all means, let me know how this develops!

Regards,

Saggio

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I think I have resolved to do exactly what you guys are telling me. =D Well, there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with my posture or vibrato(according to my teacher), but my theory is that she's sending me back to book one so I can develop my technique. I think I'm finally beginning to understand why it isn't a waste of time to go back and re-learn everything. I REALLY do LOVE violin, and I'm ready to give everything I have for it. I was concertmaster in my earlier school orchestras, but hopefully after taking lessons, I'll be able to re-learn and truly deserve first chair. Thanks for your responses!

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Playing the violin is virtually "impossible" SO to make it possible an intelligent teacher will set the steps for learning to what is possible for each student. At least, that is what I try to do. Some weeks the step I set is too small, some weeks it is too large - so I (as a teacher) also learn how to go about it for each student.

I have found some of the hardest students to teach are those who have been playing practically "free lance" in shcool orchestra settings, where their violins are hardly ever in tune, they are never monitored for technique, and they usually cannot hear themselves play - so they have a poor sense of finger placement required for correct intonation.

Everything they must be taught initially in a private lesson involves breaking a bad habit. If I were to attack every flaw at the same time, the student would likely become totally demotivated and quit; we can't have that.

Good Luck!

Andy

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I agree with the responses given. I just want to add that it's important to express your thoughts to the teacher. My guess is your teacher either will tell you why she chose to go easy on you, or get tougher on you and push you and give you proper criticism and tips to get better. Or she may turn out to be the perfect teacher in the subsequent lessons. She could have been trying not to scare you away or make you uneasy or nervous with criticism in the first lesson. Either way, you need to discuss this with her if she remains too easy in the next lesson.

But there are rare, I hope, cases where you may simply not be a good match and would like to try other teachers and see which one fits best. But writing a teacher off after the first lesson and without communicating with her your concerns and giving her another try is probably not fair. But I do understand your concern about wasting your time - and money, of course - even if it's just a couple of lessons, but you need to first be sure if the problem is not you communicating with your teacher your goals for the lessons and thoughts about how to steer the progress in the right direction.

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In personally attending every instruction that my daughter has been to I have to say that her teacher gives her challenges and allows her to advance once the teacher feels that the proper amount of time has been spent on the techniques that have been taught to her. My daughter may feel comfortable with a technique but the teacher may not. She may not have a lot of homework, but what she does have she spends hours and hours practicing in order to perfect it.

As far as saying something to the teacher, I would definitely recommend it. I often ask her teacher what she thinks of specific aspects of my daughters playing and she will tell me. Most of the time the questions are ones that my daughter has asked me while practicing.

When my daughter gets bored with her assigned work and has spent hours practicing it but still doesn’t want to put her violin away, she will often pick out a song to work on separate from her lesson. Her teacher will not allow her to try anything that is above her abilities or includes anything that she has not already learned but will often include my daughter’s choice in her future lesson plans. By doing this she has added 50 songs to her “memorized” repertoire in the past year alone, plus it makes the entire experience more enjoyable for her.

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It's great that your daughter has a violin teacher who challenges her. =) Well, I spend about 4-6 hours a day practicing the violin, and I would prefer for the majority of that time to be spent making progress (i.e. working on an assignment that is challenging and new to me), but in the past few days, I've realized that even when I 'think' I've perfected a piece, there is always some room for improvement. In other words, I think I've found solace in the fact that although my teacher's assignments may be easy, I can always find some aspect to improve on which she didn't mention, whether it's intonation, rhythm, sound production, etc. My theory is that she's just worried that she'll overload me if she points out all of these mistakes.

It's just frustrating that after practicing for 30 minutes, I seem to have sufficiently mastered the techniques which my teacher instructed me to master. At that point, I usually beginning practicing a song I know well simply because I hate putting down the violin. I want to keep getting better, and I just wish I could have more to work on.

Like I said before, I guess I'll just have to put more thought into my practice technique and find faults which my teacher failed to mention. =)

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Quote:

I can always find some aspect to improve on which she didn't mention, whether it's intonation, rhythm, sound production, etc. My theory is that she's just worried that she'll overload me if she points out all of these mistakes.

Like I said before, I guess I'll just have to put more thought into my practice technique and find faults which my teacher failed to mention. =)


If you do have questions about your techniques I hope that you feel comfortable enough with your teacher to ask him/her about the things that you question. Let the teacher know how much you practice and that you want the challenges when the teacher feels that you are ready for them.

The first year that my daughter took violin lessons it was in a classroom environment and her lesson plan was based on the abilities of the student that was the least accomplished. My daughter actually became more of the teachers assistant than a student at most times, helping the other girls in the class, older and younger, with the different techniques. It was very common to hear her teacher say, “Come up here and show the girls how to do this” or “Will you go help Erika with that”. Ever since she started private lessons 8 months ago with the same teacher she has since "blossomed" and has advanced two books past the class that she was enrolled in. The class is still on book 1 of "All For Strings" and my daughter is on book 3 of the same series. The accelerated advancement in her study, I believe, is due to my daughter asking her teacher questions about technique when she has them and the fact that her teacher has no doubt to the amount of time that my daughter practices individual techniques in order to perfect them. My daughter also finds songs, a lot of them, that she gets pre-approved to work on outside of her lesson plans to break up the monotony, however, the mainstay of her practicing goes to the lessons that her teacher has assigned.

By not saying anything to the teacher you may be insuring that you will not be challenged, and if you don't feel comfortable enough with the teacher to say something perhaps you should find a different teacher. Of course it was only your first lesson and you should give the teacher a little bit of time to know you first.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Your problem is exactly the opposite of mine! I've had private lessons for less than three years and in the beginning I zoomed ahead at incredible speed. I had a horrible instrument that defied proper technique, as and adult learner who had never had formal music lessons before I didn't know what to pay attention to, and at some point nothing worked anymore. I had the feeling that I'd missed something and started experimenting on my own looking at different violin technique books, and that really messed things up - suddenly even those things that had felt normal (were they ever really right) felt awkward. I persuaded my teacher to go back to the beginning but there wasn't much methodology to that "review" which only I wanted.

Eventually I recovered. I'd stopped after about 2 months of studying RCM gr. 4, and in January we simply launched into RCM gr. 5. I'm actually mostly in agreement with this (at this point!) because I had obsessed so long about basics that I began overfocussing on details and something like a G+ scale seemed to bring on a Pavlovian response of bad playing. But at the same time that I am studying whatever I've been assigned, I'm constantly looking at what is behind difficulties, and invariably it is a simple thing like a bow hold (looks perfect - functions terribly), silent string crossings, what the left hand does to go from the G string to the E string and vice versa. If I spend most of my time on the scales and studies of "my grade" the results are much less impressive than if I work on a basic problem area. I'll spend the first hour of my practice working on something simple in bowing or the left hand that I know is giving me trouble. A few weeks ago double stops in 3rds were introduced. My bowing felt very clumsy and I was doing something strange in trying to lift the bow angle to include two strings. So I went back to relearning "silent string crossings" and other related things -- two weeks later the double stops went swimmingly at least as far as the bowing was concerned. So I can easily see a teacher going back to the very beginning even with an experience student and patching up "holes". In the long run I suspect the results would be very rewarding.

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Suggestion...take a technique or difficult passage that needs your teacher's help; she/he will appreciate the challenge and you'll be better for it. Also, keep a dated journal of your lessons; it's great to refer back to and it will show you progress made. I write my lessons down as soon as I'm finished and refer back to them often. Dr. R.

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Quote:

Suggestion...take a technique or difficult passage that needs your teacher's help; she/he will appreciate the challenge and you'll be better for it. Also, keep a dated journal of your lessons; it's great to refer back to and it will show you progress made. I write my lessons down as soon as I'm finished and refer back to them often. Dr. R.


Do you not find that if the teacher is unable to help the student resolve the problem, that the teacher doesn't as much appreciate it as feel frustrated? I'm asking that in all honesty. I do have a notebook in which to jot down ideas, impressions, things that seem important during practice -- and often seem very silly in retrospect. Sometimes something I didn't understand during a lesson suddenly makes a whole lot of sense months later when I look back so yes, good idea. Thanks.

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You may be beyond your teachers expertise....I happen to be blessed with an intellect, especially teaching not only the violin but several other instruments and he has stated that I present a challenge in my efforts to improve my technique on the violin....I've had several piano lessons with him also, eg.,1st movement of the Pathetique ( I've finished the 2nd and he did critique it for me). I have several brillant people in my dental practice, eg., a man in cardiovascular research, two physicains who care for post-op donor patients, a geophysicist, not only experts in their particular fields, but knowledgeable in other areas too. And my teacher is right there with them, a humble and brilliant person. What's my point? There are some very smart people out there that will welcome your efforts to advance your technique and thus play well. You may have such a person now and it simply hasn't come out.....if not...hummmm....you can take it from there. I admire your wanting the best and I wish you good luck in your effort..Dr. R.

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I've had several paino lessons with him also, eg.,1st movement of the Pathetique ( I've finished the 2nd and he did critique it for me).

-------------------------------------------------------

Pathetique. Oh, so beautiful. It's music that makes my heart burst.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Quote:

You may be beyond your teachers expertiseThere are some very smart people out there that will welcome your efforts to advance your technique and thus play well. You may have such a person now and it simply hasn't come out.....if not...hummmm....you can take it from there. I admire your wanting the best and I wish you good luck in your effort..Dr. R.


Thanks for your encouragement. Sorry about not responding before: I lost my password for a while. Some teachers are brilliant in one area and not so brilliant in others, and when the needs are within the wrong half of those two areas ... well, then there's a problem. Let's say that the disentangling process is going with lurches and jumps but generally in a forward direction. I think I hear what you are saying and I'm still feeling my way through to what I should be doing about it. At least some of it has to be up to the student: after all, a lesson is not learned until the lesson is grasped. But I often feel that I'm missing things from lower grades, and that feels very uncomfortable. Or is it, with the violin as such a delicate instrument to master, that some of the basic things aren't really truly done properly until a much higher grade? After all, I read a description of a master class in which the advanced student was brought back to bowing on open strings.

As far as being admirable for wanting the best: What I want right now is much more selfish - to feel relatively comfortable again on the instrument. If I can begin to feel at home with a reasonably solid foundation, then handling what is thrown at me will be so much easier than this half year floundering that I'm starting to get out of. Floundering is painful. Floundering is frustrating. Floundering doesn't go anywhere but in circles. The only things that should flounder are flounders!

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