I can’t remember what the teacher teaches me??

May 8, 2018, 6:41 PM · My teacher likes to give me loads of information each time I have a violin lesson with her. However, she expects me to remember everything she has said right then and there. Of course, with my terrible memory, the lesson usually ends with a very fusturated teacher. Sometimes, I would only remember what the teacher just taught me right after I play it wrong again, or I would be focusing on one thing she said, and forget the rest while playing through the piece. For example, my lesson would go something like this:

Teacher: “For the first line, make sure you are letting the bow bounce at the end of the phrase, then use short bow for the next three double stops, near lower half of the bow, the note should be lively and not flat, then use full bow for the next chord, but not fast bow so you don’t lose control, make sure to vibrate, the last chords don’t go to the frog, play lower half, and last sound make it sound ringing and use wide vibrato. Make sure to bring out the new phrase after doing a crescendo through the first bar, then a sudden piano, build it up and finish that phrase. Got it?”
Me: “...”
Teacher: “Let’s hear it.”
Me: *remembers to do the teacher’s first sentence then blanks out at rest of her words because there is so much*
Teacher: *getting fusturated, repeats her novel*
Me: *gets scared since the teacher’s angry and blanks out more*
Teacher: “I literally just repeated it how many times do I have to tell you the same thing over and over again?”
Me: *completely freaks out and stops focusing altogether*
Teacher: *blows*

You get the gist.

Ok, maybe I exaggerated a little, but you’d be surprised. The point is, I have trouble remembering things on the spot. I am able to repeat what the teacher shows me at that moment pretty fast, but when it comes to putting things together, I practically forget half the things I just learned.

Any tips on how to remember a lot of information on the spot?

Replies (24)

Edited: May 8, 2018, 9:43 PM · It doesn't sound like you're with the right teacher.

I would never, in a million years, get frustrated with a student for not immediately processing every little thing I say. One of the greatest pleasures I get teaching students is that expression of understanding they get when something finally sinks in. I don't care if it takes 5 minutes or a month.

May 8, 2018, 7:19 PM · I agree with Ryan.
May 8, 2018, 7:27 PM · Do you have Adult ADHD? That can be really frustrating for a teacher who's not used to working with students that have it.

Anyways, if you do have attention/memory problems, you need to come up with some clever ways around it. These involve: taking notes, video recording the entire lesson, asking the teacher to repeat themselves when you don't EXACTLY understand what they're trying to tell you, ANDDDDDD get a different teacher that works better with your specific weaknesses.

Some teachers are excellent with certain students, but have awful patience which makes them a really bad pick for someone with ADHD.

Also, maybe the teacher is introducing you to complex concepts too soon? Either way, new teacher is the key.

May 8, 2018, 7:37 PM · That doesn't sound like good-quality teaching. You shouldn't be given more information than you can absorb.

Also, you should be receiving information at a pace where you can write notes on your music (or on a notebook) if necessary. And not asked to correct so many things at once that it overloads your brain.

If your teacher needs to convey more information than you can process, but they're afraid that they'll forget if they don't say it all at once, the sensible thing to do is for them to have a copy of the violin part that they can write in, or failing that, the piano score.

This really does not sound like ADHD on your part. I suspect your teacher just doesn't have a great pedagogical style even if they have a lot of useful things to say.

May 8, 2018, 7:51 PM · Thanks guys! And no I don’t have ADHD haha. My teacher doesn’t want me writing in my music for some reason, but she really is a great violin player and teacher, her style probably just doesn’t suit me...
May 8, 2018, 7:53 PM · Do you guys have any other methods for remembering things in class?
May 8, 2018, 8:11 PM · ???? *Everyone* writes things in the music to remember by. That's why we bring pencils to rehearsal.

This does not sound like effective teaching. Is your teacher very young?

Edited: May 8, 2018, 8:17 PM · No, shes middle aged, she’s just a genius who remembers everything herself, so I guess she expects me to do the same.
But yea, I do find it very annoying to not write in my music so I do it anyway :)
May 8, 2018, 8:18 PM · I agree with Mary Ellen's "????", especially if the question marks are preceded by "What the..."

You should ABSOLUTELY write things you need to remember in your music. (Years later, when you come back to the work, those markings will turn out to be vastly more helpful than you might have expected, too.)

Now, there's a reasonable argument to be made that for your performance copy of the music, you want fewer annotations, so that you're not distracted by them during the performance. If you really have extensive notes to yourself, you might want to buy two copies of the music, or xerox a copy and use that. But you should be writing things down during your lesson (and writing reminders to yourself when you discover things in practice, too). Longer notes may belong in a notebook rather than on the music, although I usually write in the margins when I need longer notes.

May 8, 2018, 9:15 PM · One of the core ideas in the Suzuki approach is "one thing at a time." I would suggest asking your teacher which of her scattershot suggestions is the most important idea for you to focus on, but from your description I suspect that would not go over well.
May 8, 2018, 10:34 PM ·

Any tips on how to remember a lot of information on the spot? No. There is only so much information our working memory and short term memories can absorb at one time. This is not the issue anyway. The issue is, you're scared and the teacher is frustrated, and this issue needs to be addressed, it can't go on.

May 8, 2018, 10:43 PM · The teacher should focus on one thing at a time and not give out sermons. Most of the advice from the experienced teachers on here is spot on and exactly what I would suggest. Some teachers have weird ideas and can get too clever, so you must ask her to slow down and explain one thing at a time and keep it to one or two things per lesson to concentrate on.

She is also getting too detailed about interpretation at this point in your development.

You don't say how advanced you are and at what level you are working.

May 8, 2018, 10:57 PM · "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results"
If your teacher does it again and again and doesn't change the approach to teach you, apply the above.

Also: if you change so many variables at the same time is very difficult to isolate the problems in the execution. Your teacher should be, using your example:
“For the first line, make sure you are letting the bow bounce at the end of the phrase" Try it.
You try, she checks and corrects. When it's Ok,

"then use short bow for the next three double stops, near lower half of the bow, the note should be lively and not flat" try it.

You try, she checks and corrects. When it's Ok, the next instruction.

And in the end *Ok, now put all together*.

At least, that's how I'm taught... And I don't have the best teacher in the world...

May 8, 2018, 11:17 PM · Yes, clarity and isolating each point are the essence of good teaching. Super hot players don't always make good teachers. As Adrian has said, the things the teacher may have had problems with, "may" make them better at explaining to a pupil. Red hot players often have no idea how they do it and therefore can't teach how to overcome the problems.
May 8, 2018, 11:47 PM · Ask the teacher to break the info into smaller portions and let you try them out before getting the next instruction. Perhaps record the whole lesson to help you remember between lessons (although that will not solve the problem of immediate memory). And do make notes in the music. Why try to remember a crescendo when there is a way to note it that we all understand? As a conductor put it when he was frustrated that some people in our orchestra wasn't making notes of his instructions: "Even the lousiest of pencils is better than a good memory!"
Edited: May 9, 2018, 4:16 AM · As soon as your teacher starts talking, grab your pencil and start making notes in your music or your lesson book. Make sure she can see you writing, and do it really slowly and meticulously. After the second suggestion, say, "Okay let me try those things" and then start playing.

Also, presuming you and your teacher are both adult-like people, you could try communicating. You could say, "I love all of your advice because I feel it's really improving my playing, but sometimes you give me more suggestions than I can process at one time. Can we try taking smaller steps? Then I can really focus on each one carefully." If she blows up in your face at this, then you should find another teacher immediately.

May 9, 2018, 4:49 AM · How you approach this also depends on how bad the lesson as a whole is and on the abundance of good teachers in your area I would suggest. If it really is that bad throughout thd lesson, I think it wil be difficult for her to change (teaching competency doesn't happen just like that).

This will help determine whether you want to give more time, write her an email explaining your side of things and see how it works or to start looking for a new teacher. In any case, you would do well to communicate your concern to her. It is a pity that good players are not necessarily mean to always be (good) teachers.

May 9, 2018, 7:08 AM · I am curious how long the lessons are? Could some of this be attributed to mental fatigue at the end of a long lesson?

May 9, 2018, 7:25 AM · Giving too much information is an easy trap to fall into, especially with talented and/or advancing students.
I'm sure I was worse about this early in my teaching. It could well be that Juliette's teacher is one of the best in the area in terms of quality of information.

What I strive to do (I don't always succeed...) is prioritize: what's the most important thing to fix? And limit it to 2 or 3.

As a Masters student, one of my goals was to not make the same mistakes twice. This happens not only because one practices well, but because one simply makes the decision not to make the mistake. I didn't want my teacher to keep repeating himself (although I'm sure he did anyway). So following every lesson
I wrote down as much as I could remember.

I'm not sure what's wrong with writing in a part, as long as the notes are legible, relevant, and not intrusive.

May 9, 2018, 8:30 AM · I've been in a similar (albeit different) situation in that my teacher's style was too much for me (they wanted me to play everything much faster than I was capable, and change everything at once too). When I asked them to slow down, they begrudgingly agreed - for that one lesson. By the next lesson, they defaulted to their old ways. My suggestion: change teachers.
May 9, 2018, 8:36 AM · I can personally speak of this because I've had two teachers that are polar opposites of what OP described.

Teacher 1 (when I was 15): -tells me something-
Me (at 15): -comes back next week and makes the same mistake-
Teacher 1: "how many times i gotta tell you ..."

Teacher 2 (when I'm 21): -tells me something-
Me (at 21): -comes back next week and makes the same mistake-
Teacher 2: -tells me the same thing like it was the first time-
Me (immediately): -oh wait, sounds like she has talked about it before-
Me: -fixes the thing immediately/week after-

So you can see here, all it took was a 2nd re-iteration ...

OP is not alone, because according to the "Learning Retention Pyramid", oral instruction only retains 10% of the knowledge, whereas going as far as "Discussion", "Practice Doing" and "Teaching Others" raise the number to anywhere between 50 to 100%.

So maybe what OP could do is, during the lesson, have a discussion with teacher on the particular topic - doesn't have to be anything insightful, but enough so that you are are able to re-iterate the topic, which would help with the knowledge retention.

Edited: May 9, 2018, 2:18 PM · I taught violin and cello to children, teens and adultsfor 40 years as an avocation, not as my source of significant income. I taught with the assumption that it is the teacher's obligation to help all students learn and not to overwhelm them. This requires a different approach to every student.

The "Great Teachers" whose names are historic may or may not have been good educators but I believe they usually achieved their reputations by selecting great students who became famous.

A pocket recorder would give you a complete record of every sound from your lessons.

I had the good fortune to attend a MIDORI masterclass least year. The 4 teen-early 20s students were all quite good to very good. With them, MIDORI only had to work on interpretation and techniques for achieving it properly, but even with them she only gave them one point at a time, allowing the whole improvement to develop in small steps. A lot was accomplished in the 30 minutes each student received. The only student who did not get that kind of treatment was the "girl" who played a Ysaye sonata - for that one Midori did not even take her violin out of its case or offer much comment. I figure anyone who can play that stuff is very well along their path.

It sounds to me as though the OP certainly recalls the steps in the particular lesson recounted, just had a problem at the time. This sounds like nervousness or fear that may be based on prior experience with this teacher. One should not be afraid of teachers - they work for you. The key to building the musical phrase described by the OP is to understand it in its entirety. To help with this, the teacher should demonstrate it as MIDORI did for the students in the masterclass I attended:
1. describe
2. demonstrate
3. audit the student's playing of it
4. comment and correct
5.re-audit the student
6. etc. for regular students (not masterclass that is a one-time thing) assign practice "etudes" to work the problems.

May 22, 2018, 10:02 AM · My second violin teacher was Paul Stassevich and he had some unique methods of teaching me - for instance - using spiccato at certain parts of the bow: He had a piece of chalk and marked two spots on my bow where the spicatto was played to the best advantage.

He also used his bow (while I was playing) to push my left elbow higher and keep me from gradually slouching downwards. He also made me stick out my tongue (also while playing) to keep me from gripping the violin chin rest too tightly.

He taught me three types of vibrato: finger, hand , and arm and when to use them in various pieces. Bowing was his specialty and he used the Russian style which Leopold Auer had taught him.

He also remembered the importance of intonation and always had me change fingerings which suited my hand size. He was a true clinician.

May 22, 2018, 11:18 AM · Once you get the principles down, the details will be easier to remember— or figure out. Sounds like you may have to do some reverse-engineering on your teacher’s comments to get full value. Recording? Play back immediately with a notebook for observations. Other than that, your only route is to try to get your teacher to focus on the important thing.

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