December 18, 2010 at 08:56 PM ·

do you want teacher to play a little or a lot during your lesson?  what do you want to hear?


December 18, 2010 at 09:42 PM ·

 Speaking only for myself, I LOVE when my teacher plays tunes during my lessons.  I'm studying Irish traditional music with a great teacher and player and there is nothing more inspiring and motivational than to hear him take off with a tune.  And I love playing with him during lessons.

December 18, 2010 at 10:03 PM ·

 When my teacher demonstrates how to play something, it's usually worth 1000 words.  Or more.  So I definitely think teachers should play during lessons and not leave the instrument in the case.

But I think that demonstration should be focused on the student's needs and on specific passages or phrases.  I have seen situations where it was more like the teacher was showing off as opposed to helping the student.  

December 18, 2010 at 10:26 PM ·

Very definitely -- yes.

I will never forget the very first lesson, when my teacher tuned her instrument and then played a short, simple scale and arpeggio passage -- probably only 5 seconds or so -- before starting the instruction.  As I recall, she ended with a clear singing tone on A in 1st position on the E string.  I was delighted.

There's no substitute for having the learner hear a piece or etude -- or a section thereof -- played by a skilled performer.  This was an inspiration to me.  Tone production was one of my early strengths, but I can't chalk this up to personal aptitude alone.  My first teacher's playing had -- and continues to have -- a lot to do with it.

December 18, 2010 at 10:41 PM ·

  I always find it most helpful when my teacher can demonstrate a difficult passage or technical idea on his instrument. He also occasionally uses it to provide an interval drone for me. There are many times when it helps me immensely to hear and see something as opposed to him just verbally explaining it. He always keeps his instrument and bow prepped and close at hand for these small demonstrations, although they do not occur every lesson.

To me, having the teacher play a little as needed for the student is a necessary part of private teaching, and I will do the same for my students when my studio opens. It is inspiring and I feel it helps solidify new musical concepts.


December 18, 2010 at 10:50 PM ·

Yes it is very helpful!  (Though if a teacher wants to play the whole Tchaikovsky during a lesson when you are far from playing that, it might be fun, but not every time...)

I have a suggestion for those who would have a really showoff and egocentric teacher: I would play the game telling that I'm happilly willing to sit and listen to him/her and take pleasure to compare to all the other exquisite versions I heard on youtube... (perhaps it would stop fast ennough... lol) If this doesn't work... bring a digit camera or your cell phone telling that it's too good not to share...

(of course, telling the real problem directly is always the better option...)


December 19, 2010 at 12:08 AM ·

Great to hear and watch the one great  teacher I had, she also encouraged recording it.  There were times I was too moved to consciously pay attention, but it was always amazing and wish I had video of all the lessons with her. I miss lessons.

December 19, 2010 at 12:44 AM ·

I think yes, but I think it should only be another tool for teaching, not the primary or only one.  Sometimes it's very helpful to hear and see what somebody who knows what they're doing does.  

December 19, 2010 at 12:46 AM ·

 I do think it can be helpful. I just don't think it should dominate the lesson. My first violin teacher played the music for me before we started so I could get an idea of it. My new violin teacher doesn't play the pieces for me- she lets me figure it out on my own and stops me when I mess up and helps me through that section by telling me what I'm doing wrong rather than showing me (she shows me if I don't get it after a few tries) which I really like as it helps me think when I'm on my own.

My friend told me about her old violin teacher and how he would play the pieces during the whole lesson in various positions but made her play ONLY in first, never teaching her any others. Obviously he wasn't a good teacher :/. I found out he's in my school's orchestra, haha.

December 19, 2010 at 12:56 AM ·

This is sort of an inane question.

December 19, 2010 at 02:11 AM ·

No, because this implies that intensive physical and mental training is not required beyond the typical Demonstration-->Subsequent Practice linear methodology.  Pick up a violin for the very first time and hold it up.  What happens?  Tension, soreness fatigue quickly set in.  Naturally, diligent practice away from the instructor is supposed to eventually cure that.  But you can't really do anything really well because you are always physically and mentally unprepared to accept the new challenges at each stage of development..  So what happens?  The instructor eventually plunks on a shoulder rest to relieve your arm of having to hold the violin so you can "relax"  Its like you don't need any muscles at all...or any idea how they are properly activated.  What does watching an instructor perform hand vibrato do for the student?  Nothing much at all.  You are activating muscle groups in different parts of the body that never get used like that.  So, naturally, you can't do it.  Instructor shouts 'RELAX' as if it means something.   Its like telling a weakling to relax the first time he bench presses 100lbs.   What the instructor demonstrates is trivial and is in the book (eg. Galamian) .  However, the ability to play very well does not magically appear out of nowhere through endless practice of scales and arpeggios.   It requires crucial other factors, physical fitness and mental skills that they don't teach.

December 19, 2010 at 06:15 AM ·

 I LOVE to hear my teachers play! It's very inspiring and a good reminder that hard work and patience yields results.

Being a visual/auditory learner, having demonstrations of difficult pieces is huge for me also. I can immediately pick up what was demonstrated for me, whereas I may struggle on a difficult passage on my own without an example to follow.

December 19, 2010 at 06:26 AM ·

A bit. A well demonstrated phrase, maybe slowed down and dissected so you can see and hear exactly what's happening with the fingers and the bow beats listening to a perfect CD or watching a dodgy YouTube of unknown provenance.

December 19, 2010 at 06:33 AM ·

Like most things in teaching, there isn't a simple answer to this question. The rule of thumb here, really, is BALANCE.

Beginners need good models for tone, posture, and style. If they don't get to see, hear, and experience good playing in person, it is difficult for them to set goals for what they can accomplish in the future.

One of the teachers who has had the greatest influence on my playing in the last decade, he almost never picked up his instrument when I had lessons. We just talked about playing, and mental concepts involved. When we rehearsed and performed chamber music together, *that* was when I got to see how he chose to express those concepts.


December 19, 2010 at 01:11 PM ·


Here is my answer as a teacher... I think that it is important to both offer crystal clear explanations and good demonstrations; you need both.  There is an old saying that says "you can only teach what you know," and there is a lot of truth to that.  I also think that teachers should endeavour to have as good as setup as possible too, to offer a good visual example with as beautiful as sound as they can make.

Now that said, I don't think a lesson is a performance time for a teacher, but definitely one should demonstrate corrections as one goes, enough to get a point across with as high a standard of playing as possible.  Sometimes it maybe a few notes, sometimes just a principle of hand placement, and at other a phrase or part of a phrase depending on the situation.  Nonetheless, the lesson is still the student's performance/playing time and that has to be kept in mind at all times.

My own perspective...


December 19, 2010 at 04:50 PM ·

 I have been with my teacher for a year and a half and I have NEVER seen his violin!

anyway, he will demonstrate 'what is needed', he will borrow my violin, show me what is needed be it hand position/finger placement, play a few notes/a phrase and hand my violin back.

I don't feel the 'need' for him to play a whole piece for me, though I must say I am curious to hear him play a whole piece, but for that I told him that one day I'll go and see him in concert :)


December 20, 2010 at 03:28 AM ·

My current teacher is the type of showing off. To be honest, he sometimes try to demo something beyond my ability now. Say, he wants to to recognize the differences in playing styles, or some little changes of notes. I can't get that far, yet. I can follow about 2 minutes of music, then after that I just can't keep up. For piece that I never practice on before, I can't follow even 1 minute. I know I'm talentless on music, but I think teacher should play what is suitale with student level.

December 20, 2010 at 04:01 AM ·

Phuong, I hate to say this, but I think your teacher is wasting your time and money when he is showing off -- might even be hurting your motivation too.  Get him to set aside his ego, or find another teacher. 

BTW, I am totally in favor of teachers demonstrating how things should be played as long as their primary motivation is to help you, not boost their own ego.


December 20, 2010 at 12:54 PM ·

I took violin when I was in middle school to 9th grade. That old teacher, I never heard play.

As a returning adult student (33 years old now), I have been playing almost 4 years. My teacher and I have a system down. For some reason, I am still very nervous to start playing cold in a lesson. So she and I always play together for the first few runs of the piece. Plus, I like playing with someone else. I like to hear her intonation, how she handles a section, etc.


Then after I am warmed up, she will have me play alone. It is the perfect mixture for me. 

December 20, 2010 at 01:58 PM ·

Christine, what a nice idea...

On my side, my teacher sort of allows me a "scrap shot" where she lets me play through and... she dislikes when I stop to correct things.  Just a violinist know how bad it feels to play with cold fingers and acid lactic cramps/aches but yes ideally it is a skill to acuire even though I doubt it is possible for all!  In theory, my teacher tells that a good violinist should be able to play well his things cold at any time of the day and night, sick not sick, tired or not (even drunk... that one is a joke...) 

After the scrap shot, she tells critics and it's always better after... (also because much of the problems she notes during the scrap shot are due to playing cold with no warm ups)  Since the first time is ALWAYS crappy and I can't seem to learn to play cold, that means IMHO I'll always need to warm up before any gigs or events. 

Each teacher has its habbits...  and many have valuable versions ; )


December 20, 2010 at 02:33 PM ·

I started when I was 5 and my very first violinist teacher was a young virtuoso violinist and at the time made several recordings of Paganini , Wieniawski works for R.C.A. So it was very impressive to hear my teacher's playing and children have a capacity to learn fast when they see and hear a good example of what it should sound like...

Later, my teachers were musicians and learning a Beethoven sonata with someone who understood the profound meaning of the music, was very challenging. And yes, it is important to hear your teacher play a beautiful and inspiring phrase and to try to find your own way concerning interpretation...

December 20, 2010 at 05:24 PM ·

I think think the best teacher offers a good balance of demonstration and explanation :) Saying "do it like this" and then putting on a show isn't the best approach. Went for a short-lived stint of lessons for a teacher like this a few years ago. Incredibly frustrating. My teacher now demonstrates often, but always explains "in words" as well. Much more comfortable lesson structure.

December 20, 2010 at 06:20 PM ·

 I really enjoy playing duets with my students, when the occasion arises. :) And of course, I take second fiddle. I suppose this is a different matter? I guess back in days of old, it was quite common for teachers to "accompany" on the violin, as the student played. This is a bit different from demonstrating, though.

Some students respond really well to demonstrating, I do believes this are the "aural learners." Certain students (not all) will play a completely new way after a little demo, rather than a talking explanation. But I think the spirit in which the demonstration is given does matter. As a teacher, one has to listen carefully and listen a lot!

December 20, 2010 at 06:57 PM ·

Music isn't a potted plant.

Good for Laurie playing duets with her students.

December 20, 2010 at 07:37 PM · So many great comments I don't know that I have much to add! But I will, because I've been paying attention to this in my teaching recently--have started working with a fellow teacher who plays quite a bit with her students, and realized that I have probably swung a little too far the other way. Started out as a very demonstrative teacher but realized that I wasn't being specific enough in many cases about technique, body awareness, or making sure my students could read acccurately on their own. So I started explaining and watching more, playing less. In many ways there have been good results there, but watching my fellow teacher work (and she has some of my former students) I realized that in some cases my students were getting just a little stuck because even though I was telling them the right things, they really needed the "sound concept" and I want' always giving it to them. It's all very well to tell a student to crescendo or staccato or swell this phrase here, but if they don't have a clear conception of how that sounds I probably have to model that for them! I am teaching them musicianship as well as technique and theory and all that stuff and you can't teach musicianship without modeling. I don't know if that applies as much to advanced students but definitely for my beginner/intermediate students! It just goes to show that there is balance in everything.

December 20, 2010 at 09:05 PM ·

 In my first lesson with my current teacher I played a Vivaldi concerto (Op. 3/9) and she played the orchestra. It helped to know where the dissonants are.

And she has put together a whole book of duets for us students to play, and occasionally fills in a part herself. 

She often uses her violin to demonstrate, but there have been lessons when she just sat and talked, as well. 

December 20, 2010 at 09:51 PM ·

Laurie: I remember at the very beginning, after a year or so, playing duets with my teacher in student concerts... the book for children was called "Le petit Paganini" (the little Paganini)... I still have the music score...

December 20, 2010 at 10:20 PM ·

That's interesting Laurie!  I'm sure your students love it!

This fall, for the first time, on my demand to do something "fun and easier" on school rush periods, I just started to work on duets occasionnally with my teacher. 

It just never occured to me before that I could play duets with my teacher.  I mean in the setup of lessons I'm in now.  I did some at my first school but the setup was more flexible. I could have done many of the classic intermediate duets since a while but I didn't knew other violinists.  (I sort of assumed that you played duets with your family or violinist friends but that a lesson was made to become better in your solo rep...)  I realize now that this was a bad conception I had!  

I find it really fun because it brings variety, breaks boredom, is excellent for tempo and music skills and allows you to see your teacher as a performer (one can learn witout even talking just by playing with a better musician) Just as playing with a good accompagnist will make you improve.  In addition, if you take some duets easier than your solo peices level, it's even more fun and enlarge your repertoire! 


December 20, 2010 at 11:48 PM ·

And not to forget these lovely duets of Bela Bartok we used to play with teachers or in between students...

December 21, 2010 at 12:12 AM ·

Obviously, yes.  Sometimes showing the student is the only way to get across what needs to be done when words aren't sufficient to describe it.  The explanations are one thing, but just picking up the instrument and saying, "Try doing it like this," can make a world of difference.

December 21, 2010 at 02:51 AM · I love playing duets with students! it can be a great way to help pull a student out of a rut, too, because it almost intrinsically motivates them to rise to your level (if it's rerasonably within their capability) yet it's a fun, not a pressure thing. Not to mention the added dimensions of musicality you can get at!

December 21, 2010 at 03:41 AM ·

 I always loved playing duets with my teacher, normally reserved for the latter part of the lessons and was also simultaneously a sight-reading exercise. When a piece is near finished, my current teach will play the accompaniment on either the piano or his own instrument. It is exceptionally useful.

December 23, 2010 at 05:02 PM ·

My second post on this thread because there is more I have realized. When my former teacher would play for me it meant many things. It afforded me the opportunity to observe closely her exact form, hand position etc, helped me to zero in on what questions I needed to ask,  but more, it always felt like such a gift, some kind of affirmation that even though I was this older person, that she took me seriously, had faith that I could progress, that there was much I was getting right and small adjustments were needed.

I had tried several teachers in recent years, and it was only one that I connected with and a big part of it was the fact she would share her playing. She would also play with me, accompany me on the piano, played along with me while I site read something new (which was a real help and confidence booster).

I can understand that there are some teachers whose playing during a lesson is not that helpful and can seem like showing off, but in my experience, those would be the teachers that the student is not connecting with on many levels.

Dang I miss her.

December 23, 2010 at 05:10 PM ·

 Marc, I've not seen those duets. They sound neat!

December 24, 2010 at 09:12 PM ·

The books I use for teaching, Adventures in Violinland, are chock full of duets and piano accompaniments.  When teaching interval relationships, especially thirds, fourths, fifths, and sixths, it is important to know what they sound like harmonically as well as melodically.  You must learn to listen and judge not sound you make, and you also need to learn to listen to others and how your notes fit with theirs.  How else can you do this if you only play alone?

Playing with students helps them to remember that they are here to make music, not just to hold their wrist this way or their thumb that way.

Sometimes when a student is working on solving a problem in a passage, I will play the same thing they are playing, which helps me empathise.  Then I exaggerate their problem so I can better understand the specific things I need to do with my body to solve the problem, so that I can coach them through the steps I take to solve the problem.  A lot of technical stuff is easier to absorb when it is demonstrated.   


January 5, 2011 at 07:01 PM ·

 I had a teacher in the old school, he always played my etudes along with me. It makes it more fun for me not to have to play alone. But at the same time he listens to me and will stop me and let me improve certain difficult passages playing alone. For me that was the perfect combination. I always liked playing together the same thing. Because you also listen to your teacher and you hear how it should be "in real time" while you struggle along!

January 6, 2011 at 02:54 AM ·

Really, it depends, and based on my studies, I think the teacher should play during the lesson as much as needed: demonstrations, pieces that require two violinists, examples, etc.

January 6, 2011 at 02:44 PM ·

One of my greatest joys is when a teacher of mine plays and I can watch up close and glean gems! Also it is a thrill when my teacher is playing along especialy duets!

January 6, 2011 at 06:43 PM ·

i recall that in his book, Auer posits that if a choice were to be made between a teacher who always plays with his pupils and another one who only analyzes the pupil's playing and  instructs verbally yet never plays, the latter is to be preferred.  of course, a happy medium is preferred but this pertains to a preference between two extremes. Sevcik, i read, never touched his violin during his lessons.

on my part, yes of course i like to hear a good player (the teacher) play so close to me. but it doesnt really always help when the secret of the movement is buried in its subtelty and intracy  like in the case of the forearm-wrist-fingers movement required for the sautille and yet the teacher cannot find the right words for explaining how to go about it. i would find it more helpful if the teacher talked her way intelligently and cratively (after all, finding analogies to link violin playing to other activities - like bouncing a ball- takes insight and creativity) into making me conceive the movement than if she repeated it again and again on her violin with an amibiguous, perhaps even a misleading, verbal explanation.

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