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Pauline Lerner

March 2, 2004 at 4:09 AM

It's so exciting when a student "gets it." Most of my students had been on their respective plateaus until about a week and a half ago. Then, bravo! The drudgery of practice paid off for one fellow. Suddenly, his muscle skills with both hands were good enough that he sounded like he was making music, not just playing notes. I was so excited. He wasn't and neither was his father. They couldn't hear the difference. At his next lesson, he made another quantum jump in the quality of his sound. This time, I took credit. I haven't felt quite right about the way he holds his violin. His body build is beefy, with short, strong fingers and neck. He has been tilting his head back when he played and I thought he needed a lower chinrest. At his last lesson, I had him remove the chinrest. Voila! I had been telling him to move his left arm this way, his right hand that way, the fingers of his left hand...etc. Now his arms, hands, and fingers fell into place. The bow was so much easier for him to control that it made a smooth, warm sound, not at all like the screeching that often comes from the violin of a beginner. I followed up by having him tighten and rosin his bow, and he sounded even better. His father heard and saw the difference and got excited. The student didn't. He's so overwhelmed with so many things to think about while he's playing, and now the workings of both of his hands feel strange and different to him. I kept telling him excitedly that he sounds so much better and will play so much better. His father echoed my sentiments. I hope the student can hear the difference himself soon. It's so much more rewarding to play when you sound good and you know it.

I was inspired to try something similar with another student. Voila again! His violin started to sing. Even when he played slowly and on the E string, it sounded so sweet. He could hear the difference, and he grinned as he struggled. Wow! He, like the other student, is quite talented, and soon he'll make sounds like the ones he hears in his head.

Teaching has had a good effect on my own playing. I see my students work hard to get a small improvement in playing, and I encourage and praise them. Then I appreciate my own small improvements after hard work. Then I practice more and have more fun. It's contagious. It's great.

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