Importance of physical contact when teaching the violin
I want to get your opinions on a topic, that occupies my brain lately.
How much of physical contact in a violin lesson is NECESSARY and how much of it is APPROPRIATE when you teach playing the violin.
I personally find, that sometimes showing a movement not only optically but through feeling and touching can be a shortcut to understanding it and not be mislead by the meaning of words or problems of understanding. Especially with very small children but also with adult beginners and persons with a bad body awareness and coordination.
The controversial discussion has been around for many years, to what extend a teacher can, should and should not touch his or her students.
How much physical contact between a student and a teacher do you find appropriate for better understanding and faster learning and do you think, that today's pedagogic is in that terms where it should be?
I will hold back my detailed opinion and thoughts and wait for some of your answers, because I don't want to lead the direction of the discussion. I am very curious, what your experiences with this are and how this topic is generally handled, where you live.
Also do you find it even an important aspect of teaching or is it to be ignored and overrated to guide the movements of a student physically?
Important, but not to an extreme degree. If a beginner lacks understanding of what a smooth bow is, I see no problem with (after having asked, of course!), overlapping their hand and pulling the bow slowly as they get a feel for it.
I think it depends on the way that a student learns. I've always had a lot of difficulty translating what I might see and feel from a teacher, into my own motions. But I've seen other students for whom that works great.
Hahaha, I'll talk from a student perspective. As a student, I personally utterly HATE when my teacher takes my bow hand and bows up/down for me. It's so annoying and I don't usually learn nothing about bow strokes when they do that, may be because I'm blocked at the moment, hahaha. I don't care about any other thing, like putting my wrist correctly, or the fingers in the bow... but for bow strokes, I prefer to listen, see examples, explain to me what I do wrong, imitate me, etc.
Well, for Glamian - I don't think he wanted to put down his cigarette to stand up or to touch anybody! In the video I've seen of Bell with Galamian, Bell was his best student in 5 videos and he did not need touching (or much teaching).
A.O. "I see no problem with (after having asked, of course!)"
"I don't think Galamian touched Bell when he was a kid"
In those old videos, Josh Bell was waaaaay past the point of needing a teacher to touch him. I wouldn't be touching a student at that level, either.
I'll give my input as a student as well.
Simon, I didn't react weird when my teacher corrected my fingers, put my wrist straight. I didn't care if the teacher touched me, but I hated when they took my bow hand and bowed for me, it's nothing special, simply that I didn't find it helpful at all.
Everyone has good points. Another group of people who need to be physically corrected more than anyone else is those with a vision impairment or other disability. Otherwise, a combination of descriptive words, visual demonstrations and physical correction are reasonable depending on differences in learning styles.
Here in France, where folks shake hands and give pecks on the cheek when they meet every day, I can still touch hands and elbows without being arrested! But I always ask ("Je peux?")
I agree with Mary Ellen. For certain things and with students at a certain level, a certain amount of touching is necessary. Usually, even after I've done this many times, I'll ask permission. I'd prefer that a child's parents be there - if they are not disruptive.
Raphael, chiropractors are not respected in the medical community, many doctors state that they are not professionals and that the things they do and believe are not supported neither proved by science.
I personally would ask beforehand for all lessons as a catch-all, I in my 20's find it weird if a teacher does so with no warning, so what the average 5 year old think?
I try for an absolute minimum. For one thing, I'm a non-touchy guy from the midwest. My personal space approximates Class D airspace (about 4-5 nautical miles radius).
I use my bow too, sometimes.
My teacher touches rarely and generally just little kids. But one time he was trying to tell me what to do with my elbow and I just wasn't getting it so he just grabbed my elbow and moved it. Sometimes it's just the most efficient way to teach.
"I like to use my bow to poke people.":D
Tim - do you really think it matters in our context here whether doctors respect chiroprators - or for that matter, say Swedish massage people or Shiatzu people or not? The point is that it would be laughable for someone to go to one of those people and say "don't touch me". It's intrinsically about touch in those examples. In our field it certainly is not as intrinsic but it is also a physical activity that can sometimes benefit from a hands-on adjustment.
Yes, this is a good point. Sometimes things look different than they feel. Especially relaxation is sometimes hard to spot.
Oh, sorry Raphael, I didn't get your point, now I get it.
A student who needs their "space" (for whatever reason) will recoil if touched, and we know not to do it.
I'd dare to say that we live in disgusting times. That's really pathetic, Adrian, how can that even happen. The World is going bananas.
Tim, the World simply has too many lawyers!
I'd love to hear a lawyer say something like:
I read once that piano teaches get accused of inappropriate touching the most and I wonder if it's because they sometimes push down on or massage student's shoulders when they are tense. When I taught more I would use a bow to tap elbows resting on sides, lift a drooping scroll or tap the shoulders to get them to relax when they were up around the ears. The bow hold and arm are where things get a little tricky. -M
Is a ballet instructor or choreographer allowed to touch the students?
I don't know, each teacher is different, but it is as simple as understanding that getting touched in a piano, violin, oboe, triangle I dare to say, whatever instrument lesson is totally normal, comes natural when they need to correct your position, bow hold... I don't know why would anybody make such a big deal about this. Some teacher would touch, others don't, just like some teacher would teach you more baroque and others more romantic.
Simon - did some of this come up because of the issue of being trauma sensitive (especially sexual trauma, and other types of PTSD)? If so, there is a simple way to address this with the student: communication. Give the student an option to accept or reject the touch, and go from there. As a student, to the teacher, the only way is to be communicative with what is okay with you and what is not. You don't need to explain why it is not okay, you simply say so. The teacher should be empathetic and willing to work with the student.
Well there may be too many lawyers in the world, but it is fair to say there are too many perverts too. Fortunately they do not seem to be attracted to violin-teaching as a career. Every music teacher I've *ever* had has been extremely professional in this regard.
Pamela: Why I posted that question was mainly to get opinions about the necessity of touching in a violin lesson. But on that regard of being "trauma sensitive" I know that I had students in the past, who had that kind of problems. I teach around 80 kids and teenagers each week so the possibility is high, that there are some, who we sometimes never know, why they react different to touching (from a man). Some strong signals I can talk with social workers from the school about and did so in the past, but it is not often so specific. Usually the social workers already know about the students problems and usually there is not much a school can do, when things have gone wrong at home.
Simon yes it's really for the private studio.
Well, I think this question can be asked from 3 points of view:
Coming from a purely practical standpoint touching is simply another method to show how to do something. I see it as no more or no less valuable than any other way. Different people learn in different ways.
Exactly Timothy - if you were the teacher with a new student, you could simply ask "do you mind if" (or announce) that you were going to correct the bow hold and so on.
I agree Pamela and Timothy. If a student needs me to physically correct them, I ask and try to word it carefully. "I will need to move your elbow to it's correct position, is that okay?" is a lot better than "do you mind if I touch you?". I've never had a problem.
I wonder how teachers like Luis Persinger, the teacher of Yehudi Menuhin and Rugiero Ricci, taught in that regard and in general. I think he must have had a special way to teach besides great ability on the instrument and a great personality. Having so young children play as advanced as they did. Quite something
It's not just about abuse triggers. There's all kinds of reasons for people to avoid touch, includes cultural things like coming from a non-physical family.
This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.