When the teacher makes a mistake...

October 9, 2016 at 12:30 AM · I'm not new to teaching in general, only teaching the violin. When I'm working with my student I sometimes get distracted trying to hear what the student is doing and I, miss a beat, play the wrong note, et cetera.

I do what my teacher did: apologize and say that the only mistake that isn't acceptable is not to try. I've also taken up a statement (wish I could remember the source) "You cannot master music, only be prepared for the next lesson it will teach you."

Since there are some professional violin teachers here, what do you do when you make a mistake during a lesson?

Replies (16)

October 9, 2016 at 02:31 AM · Teachers make mistakes all the time. Laugh and move on. Trying to explain it away will just make you seem more insecure.

October 9, 2016 at 03:35 AM · I tell my student they should have noticed and called me on it.

October 9, 2016 at 05:01 AM · I agree with Paul. Moreover, you'll see pros make mistakes in performance, especially when they're not constantly concertizing.

October 9, 2016 at 09:17 AM · I just laugh. I might say something like "See, we all do it. The important thing is to notice the mistake and put it right."

Note, I don't teach violin, but I think the question applies across the board.

October 9, 2016 at 12:27 PM · When my teacher makes a mistake, I tell her to play it again and if she doesn't get it right, I'm switching teachers. Some teachers tell me I'm too demanding -- I don't understand why.

October 9, 2016 at 01:16 PM · There's them that teaches, and there's them that learn, and then there are conductors ...

October 9, 2016 at 02:47 PM · At a high level, during my hours of teaching multiple repertoires, the other students should be practicing theit own assignments. So they should make fewer mistakes than me.

October 9, 2016 at 04:15 PM · I apologise straightaway and carry on.

Just think about, if one attends a masterclass by Vengerov or Perlman etc, would one expect absolutely no mistake from their playing/coaching? Yes, they are top tiers, but still they are human, we all are.

As a teacher, I believe we are here to teach our students how to understand different pieces of music, how to play them well and help them to bring their own music out, and not to be judged by them on the other hand on how many wrong notes we demonstrate.

October 9, 2016 at 08:12 PM · Speaking of Vengerov, I caught a YouTube of him coaching someone - don't remember the piece. V. demonstrated and missed a little something in a passage. He simply said "I missed it. Sorry."

October 11, 2016 at 01:41 AM · "Do as I say, not as I do."

BTW, Galamian and DeLay didn't seem to get dumped despite not demonstrating to students.

October 11, 2016 at 11:40 AM · According to some sources Galalmian did demonstrate and did so amazingly well, considering that he couldn't have had time to practice even if he wanted to, with all of his teaching 7 days a week. But according to others he rarely did, except for the basics. Similarly with Delay.

One of my teachers who studied with both of them said that Galamian would sometimes demonstrate vibrato:

"Eeez sree kinds vibrato:

finger vibrato [and he would make a wobbly sound}

wrist vibrato [and he would make the same wobbly sound]

and arm vibrato [and again he would make the same wobbly sound]

Once Carl Flesch demonstrated a passage to a student and it wasn't very good. "Well" said Flesch "you have a better teacher than I did."

Once one of my teachers demonstrated a passage to me and said to me "you played it better than I did"

"No", I demurred.

"Look, you've been practicing it", he said.

October 12, 2016 at 02:08 AM · I like to demonstrate a lot, and occasionally miss. So, as I like to say I am wrong once a week, when I miss I apologize, play correctly, and then ruefully note that it is only Monday, or perhaps Tuesday, and now I have to be perfect for the rest of the week.

If I miss again in the same lesson, then I once more ruefully note that not only is the week's mistake used up, but next week's mistake is also gone too.

October 12, 2016 at 03:39 AM · Most of the time, the student probably isn't even going to notice your mistake. They're too caught up in their own playing.

There are performer-teachers who would demonstrate and flub a few notes. If it was really obvious, they'd say, "Well, it's been a while since I played this, and you should know the notes better than I, but do you see what I'm trying to show you?" Especially at advanced levels, it's tough to expect someone to have everything under their fingers at any given moment with no warmup. I think this is also pretty common with piano, where the repertoire is vast and not easy to sightread.

October 12, 2016 at 05:05 PM · One reason this may happen more, even to a top-notch performer/teacher in this context than in a formal performance, besides the fact that we are all human, is that it is a kind of hybrid situation: The teacher may have been sitting there for a while, w.o. playing a note and the engines start to cool while the teacher is carefully listening. Then when the teacher stops the student to point out this or that and to explain something and then to quickly demonstrate, the teacher is part talking, part playing etc. It's not the best recipe for a flawless performance.

We can witness the 'engine cooling' aspect even with Jascha Heifetz! In the filmed master class with the Tchaikovsky concerto, near the end, after demonstrating compellingly earlier during the class, somehow when he demonstrated octave passages in a Kreutzer etude that he wanted the student to review, his left hand must have lost its stretch or something - but every octave Heiftez played was out of tune!

October 12, 2016 at 05:17 PM · When I make mistakes and my students don't notice (the smaller ones) I tend to tell them, that I did them, just to make them know I make mistakes as well. When I have students that play more difficult repertoire and I mess something up when showing them fingerings or something I tell them I would have to practice that as well. So they know everything comes with practice.

I had teachers, who played beautifully for me in lessons, especially when i was young. Then later I worked with teachers who never really played a note in the lesson, but were pretty much able to play anything I played a vista. But if the repertoire gets trickier, a teacher isn't supposed to play perfect in a lesson, the student is! :D

But when you play a concert for your students and their parents, thats when you show, what you are able to do.

Sometimes I have a free hour I practice scales in between students and therefore I am better in playing things for demonstration afterwards. But that doesn't make the difference between a good and a bad lesson. It's just for my ego then! ;)

October 12, 2016 at 05:37 PM · I often say "Play it like that, or better!" and then point out that I shall not be able to practice that piece this week, so it's quite likely.

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