How to quit violin?

September 13, 2010 at 05:13 AM ·

Please advise what is the best way to quit violin lesson with a particular teacher. It's been months and he is also like a friend where we can chat a little bit during lesson, but I feel that I could get a better teacher. For example, for months, I've made the mistake of placing my left thumb too high up on the fingerboard and I correct that mistake myself when I read other violin book. I need a teacher who has attention to details, able to correct mistakes I make, not just teach violin. How?


Replies (33)

September 13, 2010 at 08:23 AM ·

Have you discussed the issue with the teacher?  Especially if you have a good rapport, you may want to see if he can accommodate you with regard to what you feel you need, or else explain his position on elements of technique.  Not everything is writ in stone, and your teacher may have preferences, or be thinking in terms of your unique physiology -- something no book can do.

September 13, 2010 at 09:06 AM ·

I dont know how to discuss with teacher. I want a teacher who has passion for violin.

September 13, 2010 at 09:18 AM ·

Thumb placement is highly preferential.  If your teacher is focused on making sure you are using whatever technique it takes to make you a better player, then he or she may not automatically condemn a certain thumb placement, just because you read somewhere that it wasn't right.  I would be more wary of a teacher who insisted on a specific thumb placement without taking into consideration the vast variation of hand shapes and sizes as well as individual playing style. 

However, if you speak in regards to letting the neck settle into the crook of the hand, that's a different matter.  The crook is way too flabby for maneuvering.  It's like driving on a flat tire.

September 13, 2010 at 09:18 AM ·

Good for you .We generally are unable to tell what a good teacher is.People generally go by personality,which is important, but you are there to learn and learn correctly.Just do it, say '"it's not for me" and get a new teacher.Most people don't test their teachers .How you test your teacher is do a few things that you know are wrong over a few lessons ,ex. holding the instrument wrong ,play out of tune ,bad rhythm ,etc... See if this  is notice and corrected.You don't want to end up paying for ,a friend. A few years back I signed up for a few vocal lessons .The teacher was nice ,well educated,experienced .But I notice she never once corrected my intonation.If I sang out of tune she just kept on going.She new the theory and explained it to me , but that isn't enough.

September 13, 2010 at 09:22 AM ·

Regardless, if you want to quit, be straightforward and don't feel bad for your decision.  The only consideration you should take is toward any contractual agreements that have protected your teacher from loss of income.  Advance notice is polite.

September 13, 2010 at 09:25 AM ·

Charles, you don't need to test your teacher with play-pretend setups.  A good teacher will have far too many things to think about regarding your current situation and your need for improvement to bother lending attention to false pretenses of poor playing.

P.S.  If you were my student, I would begin with your punctuation.

September 13, 2010 at 10:31 AM ·

The teacher will be making corrections all the time, especially since you've only been playing 7 months. eg..he will ask you how your muscles feel and explain how to relax them.....and explain why the neck of the vln rests on the pad of the thumb and why perlman doesnt because he has such humongous hands....and listen to you practising your intonation some duets then do some more tech work.............revise things.....  

September 13, 2010 at 11:24 AM ·

That's why I prefer raw begginers, they're like 'wet cement'. It is in the interest of the teacher that bad habits are not developed which will hinder progress. Like the new chap I teach who began playing by himself.....picked up so many bad things and has to irradicate them from his subconcious, all we are doing at the moment is trying to rectifying this.

September 13, 2010 at 11:29 AM ·

As a beginner, there are probably a million things a teacher can point out that you are doing wrong. Good teachers would be mindful about not overwhelming their beginning students by making too many corrections at once. They point out only a few errors at a time (critical ones first), so the students can work on manageable goals and achieve success, rather than trying to fix too many things at once, fail miserably, become frustrated and quit. If your teacher seldom corrects you, then go ahead and dump him. If he has been correcting other aspects of your playing consistently (such as posture, bow hold, intonation, etc.), just hasn't gotten to the left thumb yet, perhaps he knows what he is doing.

September 13, 2010 at 11:43 AM ·

Take note next time he plays his violin during the lesson and see where his finger/thumb placement is...if it's different to what you are doing, ask why...

September 13, 2010 at 12:23 PM ·

I want to second what Joyce has said. When I started my teacher hardly ever corrected me. I think the idea was that I gain some confidence before getting the minute details right. Now, however, everything's up for criticism: intonation, timing, bow hold, bow position, wrist action.

Maybe you should communicate your concerns to your teacher before acting in haste. Sometimes those who know more than us do things for a reason.

September 13, 2010 at 01:23 PM ·

I personally think holding the violin, holding the bow, movements etc are all as complicated as sending a rocket to Mars, and there are things to attend to and things you wait to address. I had one teacher (one lesson with her) that pretty much started with my feet and worked her way up about what was wrong with my posture, position etc, then let me play a bit (very little) and started in again about what was "wrong", it was all very overwhelming, so perhaps your teacher is working on other things with you at this time, letting you build up strength in you arms, develop a love for playing etc. All teachers are different, I had one, with long fingers, told me I needed to really stretch, the next, with tiny fingers, told me I didn't need to stretch. Quit if you want, with notice of course. Many teachers have more students than they know what to do with anyway!

September 13, 2010 at 01:27 PM ·

perhaps being in a chinese society, there is an issue of "saving or giving face" that should not be overlooked here.   whereas it is thinkable to terminate a relationship in the west, it is not as easy to do in places like hk.

having said that, regardless of what thumb issue we are talking about (as in thumb of the iceberg?), if the gut feeling is that this teacher is not a good fit with the future in mind, one just has to be honest and make a tough call.  this way, one is honest with oneself and with that teacher...always the best policy in the long run, even if the teacher may be upset or disappointed for the time being.  can't please all the people all the time.  here we are talking about the right thing to do for education, not the right thing to do to nurture relationships.  if there is a conflict between the 2,  choose education first.

(here is an example of something rather extreme.  have a friend from a rather prominent family in hk.  every year they go back to hk for a yearly banquet with the grandparents.  the grandma is fond of shrimp and she always saves the best piece for her favorite grandkid, my friend's daughter.   problem is: the kid is allergic to shrimp.  in order not to make a scene and "hurt" the feelings of the grandma, she would eat the shrimp and then quickly but quietly run off to take some anti-allergy medicine right afterwards. )

not many people in other cultures can relate to that, i think:)

September 13, 2010 at 01:50 PM · It doesn't make sense to me to decide that the teacher isn't teaching you well based on one detail of technique you saw in a book. Are there a number of other things he/she is focusing on? A good teacher makes an assessment of how much is enough, how much is too much, and slowly adds more items for you to work on. Does your teacher play well? Have you seen & heard students play who have worked with him/her for a while? Just think through the totality before making a decision based on some details. Sue

September 13, 2010 at 02:10 PM ·

 Chatting during a lesson is generally not a good idea.  It is a distraction - unless, of course, it is directly related to what is being taught - and a waste of time which the pupil is paying for.  The time for chat is after the lesson has finished or on some other occasion outside the lesson.

September 13, 2010 at 04:04 PM ·

A compromise is needed here, you can teach the teacher how to hold a violin and the teacher can teach you how to play the violin. You can teach the teacher how to chat and the teacher can teach you how to ask a pertinent question. You two will make great combination. 

September 13, 2010 at 05:13 PM ·

I read through the topic and noticed that you also said 'I want a teacher with passion for the violin'.  I think this much more significant than thumb position (besides, learning is an active process, you should never presume the teacher is responsible for every step - if you noticed something is amiss (or suspect it) then why not ask?)

Getting back to the passion - perhaps you do have a personality mismatch.  However, what you have to do is to assess what you need at this particular time.  I started (back) with a very technical teacher - it was too much especially since my incentive for playing was purely based on passion.  So I found a more passionate teacher.  After a couple of years I now have a need for better technique :-\ so I'm going to a new teacher to improve that!  The most important thing, as said above, is to be honest with your self (what is the real reason you want to change) and be honest with the teacher.  If you do both then if you don't burn your bridges and, if you make a mistake leaving, you will always be welcome back.

September 13, 2010 at 05:19 PM ·

So far, if I am percieving things correctly, it sounds like we may be second guessing the teacher.  In some settings (and I see what al ku is saying, I have many Chinese/Asian students and faculty here at UW and hve enjoyed their company and learning their cultures) it is rude for a student to ask the teacher. The teacher will get arround to whatever eventualy, etc. However all students benefit by asking questions.  Perhaps you could try; I recently read in a book that my thumb should be like this. I play with my thumb this way. What do you think is best for me?

Also, you could ask at the end of the lesson; So I have learned this and that today. What are the goals you wish for me to work on and accomplish before next weeks lessons?  Goal setting works wonders for my teach and I! My teacher explains what goals I am to work to achieve and why these particular ones at this time and how they are going to help me to achieve the goals that will follow after these!

It's a start. Learning the violin is by accomplishing several small steps in order to accomplish a big step. And you can only accomplish each step one step at a time.  Unlike many other instruments the violin (and it's string cousins) can be a painfully slow process and there will be many times there is no way arround that. It is an illusive instrument...

September 13, 2010 at 05:49 PM ·

The suggestions to ask questions of your teacher strike me as a good first step.  If you are like me, you may be reluctant to say anything that might hurt your teacher's pride.  But it is better at first, I think, to ask questions than to just make a big leap and quit.  If that doesn't work out to your satisfaction, then you can leave.  Your judgment may be right and you might do better with a new teacher.  But your asking for help from this forum suggests that you don't want to hurt your teacher's feelings.  This is just one of life's lessons, I think.  Sometimes you need to express your thoughts and your wishes; sometimes your desire to improve as an artist and desire to maintain a friendly relationship with a teacher will conflict.  Breaking up is hard to do, as a song once put it.  But the courage to aim directly at your goal of improvement will almost always be rewarded.  Will you be happy later in life to say, "I stuck with a bad teacher to avoid hurting his feelings"?  It is perfectly acceptable to just politely say, "I've decided to stop" or "I've decided to study with someone else."  It happens every day.

September 14, 2010 at 12:54 AM ·

I will give my teacher advanced notice but I wont be discussing with him before I quit, because there are too many reasons, really. Logistic is one of the problem.

September 14, 2010 at 09:44 AM ·

Good luck Irene! I'm sure you are doing the right thing. Even is you are friendly with the teacher, you have to think of yourself and your future. You have to find the right fit for you, it's important!

September 14, 2010 at 10:38 AM ·

I think not being willing to discuss it does indicate you have communication issues too.  Sounds like just time to move on.

On that thought, isn't advance notice a bit odd?  I mean once you have said you are quitting are the lessons really going to be that worth it?  Sure, if the teacher really is professional they should be nearly as good (its hard to have really good lessons unless there is a long term comittment and plan) but in this case I wonder if that will happen.

September 14, 2010 at 12:05 PM ·

Without being able to observe you or your teacher, it's hard to give any sort of definitive answer. As to the specific thumb question, that could be a separate thread unto itself! I will just point out that some of the top violinists, such as Ricci, Perlman, Accardo, Francecatti, and occasionally even Heifetz, have all held their thumbs "too high". Also - ahem- yours truly. Ehnnes seems to do everything "wrong" - crooked thumb, elbow out to the left, etc. But somehow, everything he does comes out right. It has a lot to do with individual anatomy. The most important thing is for the thumb to be completely relaxed and responsive.

But no doubt, the thumb is but one thing that's troubling you. As has already been wisely pointed out, the teacher may purposely not want to overwhelm you with everything at once. I think you can find a way to voice your concerns to your teacher in a respectful way. Then go home and think about the teacher's response for a few days. If you're still not satisfied,, give the teacher a call and say that you've decided to stop at least for a while, and re-evaluate what you want to do with the violin. That will be a very uncomfortable call for both of you, but I don't think that anyone loses face that way. The only alternatives seem to me to be continuing with something that you don't want, or just disappearing - which is far more disrespectful to the teacher. If you just can't bring yourself to make that call, write a nice, respectful letter. In both cases, express appreciation for all the teacher has done for you. Let us know what happens!

September 14, 2010 at 02:38 PM ·

I hope that all goes well for you and for the best!

September 14, 2010 at 11:00 PM ·

 @ Irene

Simply say, "that things are not working out " and give him some notice.  It is not a big deal. He will replace you with another student.  I had to let a college level teacher go, cause I felt he was not into wanting to teach me at my lessons. I transfered to another teacher in the same college.  It was not a big deal, Although the teacher I let go was not very happy about it.  He move onto another college soon after. 

September 15, 2010 at 12:25 AM ·

Thumb issues as Galamian stated should not concern beginners. It will find its place naturally in the long run as he mentions in his book. Ehnes btw does not have any wrong position. His left thumb is simply marvellous and he makes use of it more than the others. He has long fingers. Perlman plays with a twisted thumb, the other way... And really, it does not matter!!! With Ehnes,  everything is just at the right place,like Kreisler and Oistrach. Ehnes elbow and arm are in suspension, right under the violin, and he does not need to make any twist when he performs... Heifetz and Szeryng hold their violin flat and far to the left; and that worked good for them...

I believe that 6 months playing is early to take such a decision...

September 15, 2010 at 01:48 AM ·

It also all boils down to what kind of teacher do you wish to have.  Your teacher might be very competent but it's maybe just not the one you wish of as a teacher in the long run or for your progression.  It's hard to always think to one's best interest and it can be very hurtful for both (but no one will die). 

If your dream is to study with x type of teacher who has x type of training, then go for it even if it takes a while to find because, otherwise, you,ll never be happy.  Just don't expect to be taught by Bron, Delay or Perlman ; )  (joke... but the same for me too btw)

Good luck


September 15, 2010 at 08:21 AM ·

@Anne[Marie - oh shucks, I was waiting for James to call too... :-\

Ah well, I guess i will have to stick with my current teacher, I mean shes only 1,000 times better than me... it will have to do....

September 15, 2010 at 11:46 AM ·

Irene, the first thing to understand about violin is that it has its good days, bad days and sometimes great days.  It takes a LOT of patience to be a violin pupil, as much with yourself as with your teacher.  And it takes many years of regular, devoted practice to master the instrument.  I have had four teachers over the years (because of moving addresses) and have found all of them to be different.  My current one decided to tackle my left thumb position for the first time anyone ever has (amongst aother 'bad' habits) and it has taken both of us two years to achieve this to where I now don't need to constantly remind myself of where my thumb is.  By all means, if you have a good relationship with your teacher then discussion over any query you have at all should be welcomed.  The only way to learn is by asking questions, and lots of them, so you'd better be prepared to do this.  Otherwise, you may encounter the same situation with your next teacher, and the next.  You can't keep leaving them because you won't discuss your worries.  Also, for yours and your teacher's sake, don't be in too great a hurry to perfect violin.  I know it is tempting to try to learn faster by reading plenty of violin material both in books and in forums, but you won't do yourself any favours by rushing the process, especially if you are still in your first year.  So be kind to your teacher and yourself, and ask your first question.  Good Luck!

September 15, 2010 at 12:21 PM ·

If I may add to the wonderful advice so far, if you are going to leave any teacher, even under terrible circumstances, try not to burn your bridges. Find and express some appreciation for the positives you've gained. Like other professions, the violin-playing world is small indeed. Somewhere, sometime in the future, in circumstances that could not possibly be predictable now, you may very well run across that teacher. It may turn out to have been very important to have left on good terms and to have shown some appreciation and good will.

September 15, 2010 at 12:32 PM ·

concur with what sandy has suggested. 

this is a situation about how to quit a particular teacher, not how not to quit this particular teacher.

unless this teacher can't wait to get rid of irene (which i highly doubt:), this is about how to deliver bad news, which, unfortunately,  is not an easy thing to do, because it is a struggle between diplomacy and honesty.   how to downgrade a relationship?

think back our dating days.  when we initiated a breakup with someone, were we great communicators by being totally honest, or totally diplomatic, or a combo of both?  did we really say they were boring, they had incurable bad breath?  did we really detail things that they should work on for the future?  or did we lie and use the line: no, it is not you, it is me? :)

so sandy, how do we tell a teacher that we wish the teacher is more passionate and detail, on the way out? 

September 15, 2010 at 02:47 PM ·

 This is my third last lesson, I had planned to tell him that I'll quit in the second last lesson.. and guess what.  He taught the lesson slowly  and was very attentive to details. Gosh! Do you think he saw this discussion post? How to remove my real name from here? :)

Thank you for all your advices,  

September 15, 2010 at 02:55 PM ·

it's why we are here. :^D

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