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January 12, 2009 at 11:39 PM


I love teaching adult beginners.  They are determined, talented, stubborn, and often completely messed up by life (but don’t know it ;)).
One of my favorite students in her mid thirties is so reeking with talent it’s a joke but that part of her operates on a rather intuitive, instinctive level where she is at her best. The destructive, low self esteem component of her life is in constant conflict with and denial of this talent. This typically manifests itself in me telling her something which she promptly does correctly and then comments in a slightly whiny voice (being a child is her defense mechanism against success) `Wakaranai!`   (I don’t understand).  Recently we started work on vibrato. Very often that is a process of either briefly explaining the concepts/mechanics (with adults) or simply demonstrating or a mixture of both followed by a series of exercises. In this lady’s case I had a feeling she might be able to by- pass a lot of this so we jumped straight in with the exercise from Basics in which one plays three versions of the vibrato: dotted quaver semi (four to a bow,) dotted 16ths 32 four to a bow, and alternating quarter notes with 16ths rhythm. The speed of the mm is gradually increased. Sure enough she could do a nice arm vibrato on this up to a reasonable speed straightaway,  followed by the usual `Wakaranai! `   Then we moved onto a Dancla duet which begins with a beautiful melody for 8 bars.  I suggested she use vibrato. She went pale and ....
x: `Wakaranai! `
Buri : `What don’t you understand?`
x:   `What note should I try vibrato on?
Buri: How about all of them?
x)   Wakaranai!     (Plays with a nice sustained vibrato on all notes in her second vibrato lesson!)
Adults are funny things......

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on January 12, 2009 at 11:50 PM

Cool, a teacher that like adult students! I just had my first experience teaching. I'm far from perfect but my understanding is good in general and It is just to start an adult learner. But,  let me tell you that she is brighter and have catch things much quicker than many many kids! Amazing no?  So, never be ashamed to start if you are a teen or an adult. This iron will or " stuburness" is incredibly powerful if you use it in the good sense and listen to your teacher!


From Benjamin K
Posted on January 13, 2009 at 3:58 AM

It would seem to me the appropriate response should be: "wakaranakute mo ii, yatte goran!" ;-)

(don't need to understand it, just do it.)

From P. Trouvé
Posted on January 13, 2009 at 6:49 PM

When are you planning to visit America?

I think a lot of "us"  (adult learner ) would just love to have a master class with you.  A master class! something that seems to be only for the young and talented ones!


From sharelle taylor
Posted on January 13, 2009 at 8:21 PM

I wonder  - if  your student doesn't feel she has CONTROL over the action, then she doesn't feel she understands the action.  Could her mind body disconnect (you know, she's so busy being self critical, analytical, planning, self conscious ... that what the body is actually DOING is not being well processed) be reducing the kinaesthetic learning, so even though she can imitate and then produce, its not getting cognitively processed properly so she doesn't feel it getting into her memory? Adults are funny things, and one of our funny things is having to process a lot via the cortex as well as the cerebellum - we have to be able to learn from the top down, as well as the bottom up, unlike kids who don't get hung up because all that frontal lobe crap is yet to be developed so they learn from the bottom up and gradually incorporate their top down stuff.

Even though you observe her doing the action, doesn't mean that she feels she can reproduce the action.  I would expect that some things that would develop this 'feeling' of knowing would be: repetition, your good verbal feedback, her using the mirror / video recording and having both you and she review with comments.  Maybe, as with kids, emphasise the kinaesthetics in learning, even exaggerating (blindfold?, ear plugs? blindfold AND earplugs!).

Oh, if only I could have managed a nice vibrato in a piece after just two lessons!

Nice to have you back, Buri.

From Bart Meijer
Posted on January 13, 2009 at 9:01 PM


Could it be over-reflexiveness n your student? Too busy thinking to notice that she already understands perfectly?

Besides, "wakaranai" will be a very useful expression for me to use. My daughters pick up bits of Japanese on the internet and use them in family conversation. Now I know what to say!



From Stephen Brivati
Posted on January 13, 2009 at 10:23 PM


hanks fr your great comments.  Sharelle,   very thoughtful observations on situation.   In this ladies case her kinesthetic learnign is not ,  as far a s I can see, being limited by cognitive disjunction.  Her problems originate in a very nasty history of child abuse resulting in her getting tied up in verbal loops and using ` i don`t get it ` as a habitual response.   The loops I can break failry easily but positive feedback actually builds up resistance to acknowledging her own self worth.   I get round it by playing a lot of duets with her.  the moment we finish I cut off her self criticism by immediatley thanking her for giving me the pleasure of playing with her.  Most of the time it`s actually true:)



From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on January 13, 2009 at 11:04 PM

Buri, as I see, you also have to play the psy as a teacher! I think you do the right thing and I just want to warn any teacher that it is important to take your student seriously when she or he says that he or she is not able. Often, like Sharelle said, it is because the student knows it is just a luck and that he or she wouldn't be able to do it at home.  Many times, if you succed something, you have to catch yourself while doing it and analysing how do you do it to be able to reproduce it. In general, once that stage is done, it is ok but I have seen too many teachers take students who say they don't have it for just people who lack confidence and play the dady or momy is there don't worry my frighten child...(but I am not saying this about Wakanarai or you since each person is different and you said it was not the case) Good luck to Wakaranai!


From Stephen Brivati
Posted on January 13, 2009 at 11:19 PM


I agree.    But I usually avoid this kind of discussion in lessons anyway.   Can and can`t are lables that set up blockages down the line. Much better to simply identify what is good and work from there.



From Royce Faina
Posted on January 14, 2009 at 3:46 PM

I wish there would be a contest and the winner goes to see Buri for a one hour lesson and then listen to a concert later that evening.

From Corwin Slack
Posted on January 15, 2009 at 2:36 AM

In the circumstances wakaranai sounds like bait for o-seiji no tsuri (fishing for a compliment) 

From Molly Beich
Posted on January 15, 2009 at 10:51 AM

You are right about adults being messed up by life, Buri. At my lessons, I get tense, flustered, forget to breathe, apologize, redo stuff and generally stress. Like you, my teacher has been patiently working to settle me down. She asked me why I was so stressed about it and I didn't have the answer at the time. When I was a kid and took violin lessons I never worried about anything, I just considered myself a decent player and played and enjoyed it.

Later though as I was thinking about it, it occurred to me that from early on in the adult world you always have to prove yourself. Be compentant. Don't screw up. The mistakes I've made working have almost always been met by stern lectures or threats of losing my job or actually losing my job once or twice. You just can't make mistakes. On top of that, I love excellence and so I'm perfectionistic and I've worked very hard to get to the top in my field.

So now here I am, trying to play this thing, and doing things badly week after week, and there's this huge anxiety that I'm trying to put myself where I'm not competant to be. I have this feeling that I'm overstepping my bounds. I really want to play in our civic orchestra so I've been striving to get good enough and not measuring up to my own expectations. 

Isn't that insane? I was surprised to see how screwed up my thinking was, and just realizing that has made a huge difference. I've only been playing again for just under a year (after playing for a couple of years as a kid) and for only 4 or 5 months with a teacher, and I can play stuff now that was unthinkable 6 months ago. I can do vibrato and shifts and I can actually read most of the notes way up high on the ledger bars. And I don't want this to become a chore. So I've decided to wait a year to try out for this orchestra, and I'm just playing without worrying about it and not apologizing for pete's sake. It's become a lot more fun and I think its easier to learn without all that baggage.

So all that to say, I totally empathize with your student, and love that you are glad to teach her anyway. :o)


From Stephen Brivati
Posted on January 15, 2009 at 10:17 PM



>it occurred to me that from early on in the adult world you always have to prove yourself. Be compentant. Don't screw up. The mistakes I've made working have almost always been met by stern lectures or threats of losing my job or actually losing my job once or twice. You just can't make mistakes. On top of that, I love excellence and so I'm perfectionistic and I've worked very hard to get to the top in my field.

This is all so true and its so unnecssary. The world would be a much better place if we could learn to stop judging people which is the root of most of this.  It is my strongets belief that if violin teachers can do this with their students (actually colleagues would be a better word) then we are contributing in some small way to a better world.

Stresses aside you sound like you are making fantastic progress and I look forward to hearing of your continuing success over the years. That`s one of the best things abotu v.commie.  You can share with people as they grow.



From Yixi Zhang
Posted on January 16, 2009 at 7:56 AM

Sometimes they keep saying "so sorry! so sorry!" when obviously they don't mean it.  I know language is used and abused by us and I should just accept the fact. It still irks me when people don't mean what they say and don't say what they mean. I wish I've got your patience.

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