When to stop taking violin lessons?

September 17, 2008 at 04:51 AM · I was wondering at what point is it no longer necessary to take violin lessons? I would think that once you reach a certain level, it no longer makes sense to take lessons. For example, do Joshua Bell and Hillary Hahn still have private teachers? I would think not. How about Itzaak Perlman? What could he possibly learn from a private teacher? How about most professional musicians; do they still take lessons? What about the violin teachers out there; who teaches them?

The reason I ask is, I am wondering if I should continue taking lessons. I am a far cry from any of the musicians mentioned above, not even a professional, but I am fairly proficient and I believe my basic technique is good. If I am diligent about practicing, and divide my time effectively between scales, etudes, and performance pieces, I wonder if I would gain all that much from private lessons vs plowing my way through Kreutzer 42 Etudes or Leopold Auer Books 7 and 8 on my own. I don't know that I would see a vast difference if I did it on my own versus with a private teacher. Someone please set me straight.

Replies (10)

September 17, 2008 at 05:06 AM · Greetings,

sicne you mention Perlman, he went back to Ms Delay after touring to check on bad habits that creep in on his kind of demanding schedule . . top players do go and consult with other players but it can hardly be called a lesson. For the lesser of us it is advisable to take lesosns at least on an irregular basis simply because there is no finite technique on the instrument so another player can often demonstarte things that ne ha snot seen before. One never stops learning. I take four or five lessns a yera from the best Japanes esoloists around at the time but my I also attend many masterclasses and my paino trio pays to be coached once a month. If I am doing a recital I pay to have a top player listen and advise. What you want at a given time may be varied and one simply takes advice on who the person is one goes to and then makes sure they undertsand why you are asking them for their time. For instance, I don`t wnat a lot of techncial advice if I am giving a recital. veyr often it is enough simply to play through a program to a greta musician. Their presenc ealonme can insprie one to enormous improvements.



September 17, 2008 at 05:34 AM · I want to throw this out for some thought - in other industries, professionals often attend seminars, courses, and other avenues to keep their skills sharp and up to date. Violin would be no different. My teacher also give "professional tune-ups" - meaning to help even professionals keep their "shape" so to speak.

If you feel that you are in a plateau, have a talk with your teacher. S/he should be able to adapt to where you are at now. Or you may be ready to move to a teacher that can work with you at a higher level, or there may be other options.

Without that frank discussion, you may make a decision that could hinder your goals.

September 17, 2008 at 08:59 AM · My view is pretty simple on this: there is always going to be something new to learn about playing the violin and making music with it, just as there are always violinists/teachers who are able to pass on wisdom, ideas, corrections etc. I don't want to ever stop learning!

September 17, 2008 at 01:47 PM · interesting question. i would think it depends mostly on your goals...

often, with a good teacher, one does not only learn techniques but perspectives. not just how but why.

these days, there are so many resources to learn tech, but hardly any reliable, consistent sources to learn to appreciate perspectives. it is hard to grab a piece here and borrow another there. actually, it is easy to grab a piece here and borrow another there, but you may not know what you get, or know how to put it all together. or you may think you know but don't...

a good teacher, someone qualified, that you totally trust, can and should provide guidance in that regard. simply plowing through finger and bowing exercises may be directionless in comparison. you are going at a good speed independently, but may be going in circles, instead of shortening the distance between where you are and your goals. yet, if you are not prof bound, and are content with your current level and environment, then it may become a personal choice whether to give 110% to violin; most people can't for good and understandable reasons...families, careers, kids, computer games:):):).

tiger woods is known for his golfing skills. his current teacher says that he never tells tiger what is right or wrong anymore. he tells him what he sees, and provides that reflection to tiger who processes, evaluates and makes up his own mind how to proceed. to me, that is the most powerful learning process.

for violinists of higher level, if possible, i think it is a great idea for someone qualified and inspiring to tell them what he sees and hears, etc. violinists need help with reflections as well...

i don't think perlman and those others mentioned are really good role models in that regards. they are not earthlings:)

September 17, 2008 at 01:06 PM · A intelligent violinist,or any musician, for that matter, should always be aware that no matter how much they know, they can always learn more. This philosophy can pertain to both the classical artist, as well as the traditional fiddler. My experiences, particularly in the traditional fiddle music arena, has brought me into contact with many whom I have learned from. Correct stylistic intrepretation of a particular piece cannot always be learned from the printed music or listening to a particular artist. This comes from constant research and asking questions. Not all teachers may know the answers, but a good one will work with you in finding them and usually have the knowledge as to where to find reliable answers. Beware of teachers that use your time (and hard earned money) to turn your lesson into a talk therapy session. I see this far too much, and it hurts the student far more than one can imagine. I've had students who actually thought that what our lessons were, and in today's society, teachers who practice such familiarity with the students place themselves at risk for slander and can, in some cases, become canidates for unfounded accusations, which in turn will ultimately result in incarceration. I think your question is a good one, but I would suggest that you look into the reputation of the instructor and insist on a background check. A person who has nothing to hide will accept this not as an insult, but as a safeguard.

September 17, 2008 at 02:47 PM · I think that often you stop and then you start again, especially if you're not a professional playing every day.

The field moves on, too: while you might choose to spend your entire musical life playing familiar compositions from the past, you also might find that there's more out there now than you knew about when you were growing up or were last a student. That has been my experience, anyway. For example, when I was last taking lessons, I'd never heard of Mark O'Connor or Rachel Barton Pine or Yuri Bashmet. Now they are some of my favorite players to listen to.

My teacher hasn't been my sole source of inspiration and new things to try , but she and her ideas have certainly been part of the mix. She didn't originally suggest that I arrange a piece written for viol in the 1500's for the modern viola and then perform it, but she thought it was neat that I did, and supported the project.

September 17, 2008 at 04:03 PM · I still take regular lessons. It has been enormously helpful on many levels, and I have been fortunate enough to have really wonderful teachers willing to work with me. A really fine teacher not only helps my own violin playing and musicianship, but also inspires me to be better at my job. It is motivating to have a goal to work for. It is also very humbling to put myself "on the spot", and be open and vulnerable to suggestion, criticism, and challenges.

September 17, 2008 at 04:30 PM · As an advanced player/musician, one already has fairly strong views on many things. I agree that it is often important to hear a different perspective in order to shake things up a bit and keep the 'evolution' going.

For me, playing for other teachers, colleagues, as well as students helps by giving me new things to think about. Often, very worthwhile comments can come from non players as well.

September 17, 2008 at 06:29 PM · Hilary Hahn gets a checkup every once in a while from Jaime Laredo. If it makes sense at her level, it certainly makes sense for us amateurs. I continue to take lessons, in part to improve technique and avoid developing bad habits but also to give my study of the instrument some structure.

September 17, 2008 at 09:35 PM · The decision to leave a teacher is a personal one - it may just be time to change teachers. Also, if you have reached a good standard I have always found it useful to take on a student - it really forces you to show good technique for the student - and by doing so, you keep yourself in check. And I agree with the other respondents here that there is always more to learn with the violin, and it is good to have at least irregular 'tune-up' sessions with a good teacher to ensure you don't reinforce bad habits.

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