What should a teacher be doing when teaching an adult at a grade 2 level?
I'm concerned that my current teacher does not concentrate much on making sure my posture and technique is correct. He tends to just get me to play through basic childrens books (probably appropriate to the level), and I can just tell he is not carefully studying my bow hold and left hand to make sure everything is correct. My bow hold and left hand corrections instead seem to come from me very carefully studying videos of top players, well known online resources, and reading well regarded books (none of which he ever recommends to me).
The position I'm in when playing, he cannot really see my bow hand properly. Some weeks I've tried changes in bow and left hand, and he hasn't noticed at all.
I know I'm never going to be that great because I started so late (though I've played music on other instruments all my life), but I still think to be the best I can be I need a teacher that will take my playing more seriously and help get me sounding better.
Should he be assigning me bow exercises, left hand exercises and such like? All I tend to do is work through these children's books, play the peice until it sounds about right (though I'm never that happy with it) and move on. The only time we do a bow exercise is to pass the next exam. Something just does not seem right to me.
I've asked about things in the past technique wise, and he does seem to skirt round the issue a bit but does try and help, but I often find the advise a little contrary to most things I see or read but I don't feel it is a good idea to challenge him on it. He himself does seem a good player, and passed ABRSM grade 8 with distinction I think.
Is he maybe saving all that for later when I'm a bit more advanced? Or is it really really important to be doing everything to ensure technique is correct early on? Should he be studying how I play as I play and correcting?
I feel bad about changing as apart from all this we've got on well for the past 1.5 years, but life is short, and I want to do the best I can with this.
My second 'teacher' sounds a lot like your present one, but fortunately I wasn't with that person for as long. I too found it hard to believe that as an adult student, and at a very similar level to you (I think I started at about grade 2 AMEB there after 9 months or something with a former teacher who was very instructional and systematic), and basically this 2nd teacher just turned the pages and said 'lovely' 'good'. If I couldn't do something 'practise it more'.
I moved on to grade 3 and did an exam, still not able to correct a few things, basically I was teaching myself I think. the teacher was a nice person, very enthusiastic and encouraging, but Iw as always bothered that there was no correction of, well anything really.
External circumstances prevailed, and I stopped lessons with no hard feelings, and started with my present teacher.
Believe me, that first lesson was such an eye opener - even though I had had the earlier lessons with an excellent teacher as swell, I think because it was still at the preliminary and first grade I really didn't have the experience to make the most of it and the personality blend probablyw asn't as good either. But the present teacher was instantly very different in terms of correction, instruction: why to do it like this, how to do it like this for the purpose of sound, very precise, very consistent.
I think you are right to question what you are gaining, and it might be time to consider a move. I don't consider the time with that particular teacher to have been instructional, except to teach me how NOT to teach.
Adult beginner here too. Almost a year, almost done with Suzuki book 1.
Anyhow...I got lucky. I simply picked a music school that would allow me to take classes close to my work. The teacher turned out to be fantastic. The Suzuki book is the background of the lessons, but my teacher spends alot of time trying to get me to adjust my left hand death grip (a work in progress...), proper bow hold, proper right arm movement, Sevcik work, scales, blah, blah...the nitty gritty.
Does it matter if adult or not? The fundamentals are still fundamental. Probably more so for an adult beginner that can grasp the WHY of a certain technique that they should be focused on than simply learning songs.
You're paying good money for these classes, expect the best!
"He himself does seem a good player, and passed ABRSM grade 8 with distinction I think"
Is this a joke? I do not mean this badly...
He can play well ennough but teach?
I know that many amateurs of talent teach kids and adult beginners and while I agree that everyone should start their teaching career at some point, it is just wrong to put most talented amateurs as teachers. Many are simply not ready and do not know how to teach even though they play well. They can be very kind, smile and say good things to you but it always lack more complex yet easy to understand concepts and technical/musical deapth.
I am myslef about ARBSM level 10 (I'm pre-universitary level in a good conservatory) and I would never consider myself good ennough to teach professionally. I could help a lot adult and maybe kid started but not teach... I would miss too much details perhaps.
I really suggest to find someone with at least a baccelar in music (a masters is even better), some orchestral, stage and conservatory experience that is able to put things simply in words in a way that you understand and that is extremely analectical person.
It might be expensive but since you are a serious amateur and already know so much about music (even if not violin), you really enjoy this imho.
When I switched teachers in my teens (basically, I initially did so to go in a bigger music school in a bigger city with more musical opportunities), I randomly fell on a very good teacher from Ukraine, trained there that had a career playing in the Montreal Symphony and taught students after it. Before knowing her, just knowing that info was conforting for me since I know the musical training in the countries is usually extraordinairy. It was such an eye opener and everything she teaches is just so clear and easy to grasp with a little practice. I really feel that I'm investing my time and money in something extremely productive (I'm no super talented kid, yet with good ears, will and hopefully some clever practice methods, I still can progress amazingly for an busy amateur.)
I would say to everyone, if you can afford such schools, (maybe attend recitals there and see how the students play and with who they study) it's the greatest gift you can give yourself and musical life is never the same after. You feel so much more confident about your abilities (even though one is not a professional player)!
It's a musical experience of some sort to interact with a teacher you estime highly, that can be a kind of "mentor" for you, yet without treating you as a lesser beeing because you are learning. After all, a great teacher must be a great human beeing too to be a good communicator and psychologist... (yes, we all need this too at some point lol)
Have a read of the blog / interview that was recently posted by simon fischer. that should answer your questions about whether it is time to move on.
Thanks for your responses everyone!
I was beginning to wonder if it was just me, but looks like maybe I do have cause for concern.
Sounds similar yes. There just never seems to be much or any work on quality, its all about just getting through stuff it seems. There's no hands on trying to correct me either, its like he's afraid to be physical with me when necessary (which I think is necessary sometimes from experience with other instruments).
Tension isn't noticed either, and I've had to try and fix that myself (again lucky I notice that fairly easily from learning other instruments).
We never do etudes. Scale work is fairly minimal; mostly just what is needed to get through an exam.
You can probably tell I've had this boiling up inside me for a while!
I did go for one or two lessons with a soloist in London just because I was so worried about my bow hand; that was a very different experience, but I felt guilty doing it without saying anything to my teacher.
I've got so many books over the past 18 months or so including Sevcik, Basics (Simon Fischer), The Art of Violin Playing (Flesch), Drew Lecher's book, Suzuki book 1, Tune a day book 1. I also got Simon Fischer's DVD on tone production.
Okay I went a bit overboard ;) But I think I did this to compensate and badly wanted to know things from all the questions that came up while I was practicing by myself. Plus I spend time watching the likes of Hiliary Hahn, Julia Fischer and Janine Jansen on YouTube to get some clues here and there (and to just enjoy it!).
In the UK, what options are available to me as an adult? Its just private tuition really isn't it? I'm guessing all the top end teachers seem to be in London which is a bit of a trek for me, but that's never bothered me much. I imagine most though only teach at music colleges.
It probably seems daft someone like me looking for a teacher like that, and I wonder if they'd want to teach an adult. I know I'll never be at professional level as I've left it far too late, but I would like a chance at being able to attain the highest level I can.
I hear you - he does play in an orchestra (amateur orchestra I think), and does work in the community and certainly has experience playing in front of people, so I guess that is something. But yes I know good player does not necessary mean great teacher.
I'm not sure what you mean when you say "if you can afford such schools" - as far as I know such options are not open to me.
What you sum up in your last paragraph is exactly what I'd like to find: "to interact with a teacher you estime highly, that can be a kind of "mentor" for you, yet without treating you as a lesser beeing because you are learning".
I think I just needed to confirm that something was wrong. I have this habbit of doubting myself and my instincts and think perhaps it is my fault, but it sounds like I should move on.
If anyone has any suggestions for an adult learning in the UK, i.e. what options there are and if any highly regarded teachers come to mind that would teach an adult of my limited experience, I'd be very grateful.
Thanks (sorry this is so long!).
Andy, you don't need a 'highly regarded teacher' as such. You need a good teacher, and a good teacher for you is one who teaches you well. It doesn't matter one whit whether they've taught Heifetz or some other luminary, if they can't teach you. Expect more. Expect that you'll improve in every lesson especially at the beginning, and in the first lesson come away with something which makes you sound or play better, not just an impression that if you do something a million times some years in the future you might be good.
There is no shortage of musical interest or teaching in the UK. Gather some recommendations and do trial lessons to find someone who suits you better. You're the one who's paying, and have the right to choose the service which you prefer.
I doubt you'll have to travel in to London itself to find a highly qualified teacher. I don't know exactly where you are located, but search around the internet in your area and see what you can find.
Thanks again for the replies.
@J Ray: I understand. It's hard to find who is recommended, and I have looked a lot on sites like musicteachers.co.uk. I've thought of looking Birmingham way, because I guess then there's people who play in professional orchestras such as the CBSO, BPO, etc. I know that still looks to be aiming a little high maybe teacher wise but I guess I'm just worried about the same thing happening again.
A teacher with a good track record would be great to find, but finding out the track record is proving somewhat difficult!
I'm in the East Midlands and willing to travel a bit to find what I'm looking for. I've searched around a little on teacher finding web sites. I guess I just need to try a few out as J Ray suggested.
I guess my question becomes, can anyone recommend a good teacher in the Midlands area? I could try starting a topic with that question, just to narrow my search.
What qualifications should I look out for? There seems to be a few different ones floating about. BMus, etc.
There seem to be z fair amount of U.K. people on here--occasioanlly people do "teacher queries" aas in "Hey, I'm from x, what teachers do you know or recommend in that area?". TTry starting a thread like that and see what you get.
I agree with everything listed above but I think reputation is a far better qualifier than a degree or even performance experience in most cases. Not that those things aren't important! But they are not necessarily the things that make a great teacher.
Although many good teachers are linked into the social media (the ones here, for instance) not all are, so you'll want to explore other resources.
Look around for who plays well, ask whom they study/studied with. Look for people who play well, ask if they teach.
I agree with the poster who said you need a good teacher, not necessarily a well-known one. In the meantime, you could do a lot worse than examine Simon Fischer's material, because it sounds like you are self-aware enough to benefit.
Good success. A good teacher is worth looking hard for.
An adult pupil needs a teacher who is analytical, identifies problems, why they are problems, and works out good solutions for the particular pupil. A useful sign is if the teacher moves around during the lesson, observing the pupil from different angles. If the teacher understands the benefits of the Alexander Technique (even if not specifically teaching it) as applied to violin-playing posture, then all the better.
A good teacher will take care not to deluge the pupil with too much information in one go regarding posture and technique, an approach that is inherently self-defeating. One or two specific and fully explained points per lesson are quite sufficient for any pupil to assimilate, and a solid technique can be built up on this basis over a period of time - in fact, the process is a bit like learning a foreign language.
The above two paragraphs are based on my personal experience as a pupil.
I tend to be wary of teachers who teach exclusively to an examination syllabus, particularly if the pupil is an adult - "one size fits all" comes to mind. It is worth finding out which is at the forefront of such a teacher's mind: producing musicians, or just pieces of certificate paper - sadly, in the case of young pupils the latter is often driven by their parents' demands. Both types of teacher are around.
Andy, another trick to finding a good teacher is to see and hear their students. You can't judge a teacher by every one of their students, and if you find every student to be good odds are that the teacher's doing some serious culling, but it's an indication which will at least filter out the least successful and give you more familiarity.
Nearby music schools should have regularly-scheduled concerts (not now, but in a few months), and while these are intended for friends and family, you might make yourself a friend through acquaintances having children or just find out about them and show up under the assumption that they wouldn't really mind being audited by a potential customer. You can find out more about these from the schools or parents.
A good teacher of children should also be a good teacher of adults but the converse might not hold, at least for young children.
I accessed my current teacher through our local conservatorium. It was mainly established to teach children (therefore the invoices each term were addressed to 'the parent/guardian of Sharelle Taylor, grr), but over the years a sizeable number of adults had enrolled. There had long been children's ensembles 'mini-strings' through to full on youth orchestra playing serious repertoire, and Sylvia (my teacher) had recognised a need for an ensemble that met the needs of adults. That was how I met her - I was enrolled in the Adult Learners / Returners ensemble. So even though it was group learning, I had the chance to see that she was a good and precise instructor. There was subsequently a second adult group for cello learners, and now another group for string learners.
Is there something similar that you can access? It was a good way to learn about teaching styles without having to commit to 1:1 initially. another opportunity could be an amateur chamber music society group, even if you can't play in with them yet, contact with them might reveal contacts for teachers.
Andy, another source would be a local violin shop that services the violinist community in the area, especially if it also does professional repairs or even makes violins. It would have its finger on the local pulse.
One such shop in Bristol was able to point me to my teacher, Suzuki-taught (literally!) and a professional performer for the last two decades.
Thanks for your advice everyone, I really appreciate it.
@Kathryn Woodby: Thanks, I will try that. What would be the best section to post under for that? The section this post is in, or the "schools, teachers, camps" section?
@marjory lange: Good point about not everyone being on the Internet. I avoid most forms of putting myself on the Internet as it is. Regarding Simon Fischer's material, already done that! I have his Basic's book and Tone Production DVD.
"An adult pupil needs a teacher who is analytical, identifies problems, why they are problems, and works out good solutions for the particular pupil. A useful sign is if the teacher moves around during the lesson, observing the pupil from different angles."
That is exactly what he does not do.. as far as I can tell. I face a music stand which is in front of a wall, so I'm basically facing a wall, and he stands to my left, or my left and behind me a little. Never in front facing me..
I developed a habit of my little finger constantly being off the bow.. it wasn't noticed. I developed a habit of my wrist coming up artificially high (noticed when I posted a video on here some time back) but it was not noticed by him.
He at least does not stick to purely exam material.
@J Ray: Not easy to hear current students, but worth a try. There's no music schools as such near me though, and I know nobody else who studies violin. It seems a fairly rare thing where I am, but I will try harder and look further. There is a nearby luthier though, I will ask him.
I think the nearest conservatorium is about 30 or 40 miles away, but worth a look, thanks!
I think there may be one local very smalls strings shop... My area just seems very lacking! If I go out 20 or 30 miles though, things change.
I forget just how lucky I am living here.
30 years ago Sylvia and her then husband were instrumental in establishing the local conservatorium. Her experience as a young violin student was awful - on the train to the Sydney con every week with her siblings, that was their only music instruction with a 4 hour return journey.
When she was accepted as a teenager to do the Diploma, she lacked the confidence and the contacts / network that would have been vital for success. The only person she knew was her teacher. So they established something local which now is unique in what it offers in regional Australia
At least as an adult you have the option of mobility, and even fortnightly or monthly lessons with a good teacher will steer you well.
Hi Andy, You sound just like me! I'm also an adult learner and often questioned my teacher's approach, because I wasn't getting the results I want as fast as I wanted, however I do trust my teacher and enjoy the lessons with him and I know that when I'm ready he will teach me the more advanced techniques I'd so like to be able to do now, but aren't ready for.
He doesn't make a lot of corrections to my bow hold or left hand, because he knows (and now I do) that it will take a long time to build the flexibility in my fingers and arms that will make a difference to my technique.
His main aim (at the moment) is just to get me to play as much as possible (I've been playing around four years). Within that is the aim to get my left hand to relax (no gripping the neck or tension in the fingers) and my intonation to be spot on. As for my bow hand he might say "lift your elbow a little" but not much else, as even after four years my fingers aren't flexible enough, possibly as I've focussed more on the left hand. I'm currently working on bowing exercises to help my fingers loosen up. Giving me more detailed instructions tends to result in more tension, so he kind of gently guides me in the right direction. Maybe your teacher is doing that?
He does encourage me to watch other violinists on line and to listen to their tone, because one of our strongest learning tools is mimicry (and I live way out in the sticks so getting to London for concerts isn't going to be happening any time soon).
I think, looking back, the main thing I have learned is that at this early stage there is so much wrong with our technique that to try and change everything all at once would just creates more tension and make things worse. Also, hand positions change over time, so what is wrong now will probably get better over time and unless it is seriously wrong (eg thumb bending in the wrong direction) correcting it while it is such a work in progress won't necessarily help.
So to answer your question, IMHO, your teacher should be motivating you to practice, encouraging you to play as much as you can and supporting you when you feel it's not going well, with gentle guidance that encourages you to be your own teacher. An overly didactic approach (though it feels like you're learning more) doesn't really help in the long run as you become reliant on your teacher to solve your problems rather than learning how to solve them for yourself.
If you really have lost faith in your teacher you could try a search on school of everything http://schoolofeverything.com/subject/all/west-midlands/teaching?filter0=violin
or you could ask on the ABRSM board for a recommendation or http://www.musicteachers.co.uk/
While its great that your teacher and you have a good meld, Liz, such a gentle approach is not necessary for many adults.
It certainly is not inevitable that being specific and instructional or correctional will lead to tension or over reliance, that is the skill of the teacher - to mentor and guide without building dependence but in fact allow the learner to generalise their knowledge and take the foundations and skill base on to other pieces. that is one of the benefits of teaching adults I should think - we have that capacity over little kids.
A teacher that 'encourages you to play as much as you can' without ensuring that you are playing correctly, accurately practising in the same way, is not teaching anything you couldn't do on your own. In fact, its what has led to the thread in the first place, I'd suggest.
@Sharelle, I think I made my teacher sound way gentler than he is (and maybe made him sound like the teacher you mentioned who was not so helpful to you). He is very insistent on a good tone and accurate intonation (I don't get away with anything). When I wrote "gently" what I meant is that (as I mentioned) he'll say "lift your arm a little" rather than "Your arm needs to be 2 inches higher." If I don't get "it" he might then get me to feel the difference in arm weight (of his arm) at different heights, as it rests on my arm, so I get to feel the effect.
By comparison, one of the other local teachers is very didactic and all his pupils play with the same fingerings and hand/arm position irrespective of their physiques. He won't even discuss alternatives, so I guess (in my mind) that's what I was getting at about reliance.
I guess I didn't make myself very clear (apologies, my first post) about the playing as much as possible thing. Whilst all my "practice" time is spent being as acccurate as possible, with as good a technique as I can manage with my old lady body, "playing" time is more about enjoying the music, musicality, finding opportunities to play with other musicians. Yes obviously teacher wouldn't want me to play sloppily, but it's more a time to feel the joy of music rather than the endless battle with technique and/or exam stuff.
Ahh, now I get ya :)
Firstly, have you expressed these thoughts to your teacher? Lots of adults don't *want to be drilled on endless technical issues, preferring to enjoy it as a hobby. They know they aren't going to be concert artists--they just want to get through a few tunes or hymns adequately.
I think if you told your teacher that you really want him to use his 'serious' approach, and that you are genuinely interested in developing a real technique, he would probably be only too happy to oblige.
If he is unable to teach technique adequately after a fair trial, then perhaps you should consider someone with a conservatory or professional background as a teacher. These are the folks who were drilled themselves by good teachers, and they know how to show it to you.
Any student who attends lessons should be given the opportunity to be taught with correct technique. This is not an either/or situation. You CAN have accurate technique taught, at an appropriate pace, WITHOUT endless drills.
A teacher and student can decide that completing all of the etudes in Kreutzer or Sevcik for instance may well develop a solid foundation, but may not do it in the playing timespan available to the keen adult starter. So maybe some of those foundation skills will be developed within the repertoire that the teacher presents, and the student will not be able to say they have done etude #39 or whatever to metronome speed zippity9.
But that adult starter should certainly be expected to play whatever is being taught, with good posture, left and right hand technique - from the start, introduced as seen fit by the teacher, not left to play ditties. That is what self learning and playing by ear is for. You don't need to pay a teacher to do that.
I have to agree with sharelle here. If I go to violin lessons its because I want to be taught how to play the violin, which involves drills in technique. I think that should be the default position unless the learner specifically says "I just want to have a bit of fun and play tunes with someone". How dare a teacher instantly judge a student and think "they'll never be any good, so what is the point working hard with them - we'll just have a bit of fun (literally at their expense)". Okay I may be making that sound more sinister than it is :) But I'd be genuinely angry to find out a teacher had been looking at me in that way and wasting my precious time (even more important when you are older).
I spend a lot of time practicing by myself and feel I want the best chance I can to become a good amateur, and feel it may be possible with all my other musical background and knowledge, but only with a good teacher to supervise, analyze and guide me.
I have tried saying that I am interested in the technical side but largely my bow hand and left hand are left to their own devices and I know I have bad habits already.
My biggest problem now is I'm a big softie and feel really bad about changing.
You are a dear and a rarity :) "I know it involves technical drill". You do? Then you are one in a hundred. Most adults call up, "I want to learn violin", and then quit in 8 wks to 6 mos., because they simply don't have the time and this is a lot like
"Surely ten minutes a day is enough! The football coach is requiring 3 hours after school every day and he doesn't have time to practice AND get his homework done!"
Yes, I hear this. A lot. So, the teacher may be wasting YOUR time because he is pretty sure you're like the 95% who are wasting HIS.
Just a different perspective so you can ascribe a more benign agenda to the feckless teacher who doesn't give you his conservatory prep routine.
Please don't misunderstand me -I don't advocate sloppy technique for ANY student, regardless of age. But I do teach adults whose joints are at a point where some things just aren't going to be possible. I try to find a way around that. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. At age 70 or so, some things just are what they are, you know?
I had one come for an introductory lesson - the guy was a retired, 70+ heart surgeon, and he didn't come back. I heard from his buddy who was sticking it out with me why he didn't - "She wants me to learn like a kid! She wants me to read music and learn technique! I don't have time for that! I just want to play a few tunes!" LOL
It's a real balancing act for teachers. Given the level of physical ability, time commitment and motivation for each student, how do you enable them to enjoy music and their own playing without sucking all the light from their eyes?
Love to hear other views, here - and any helpful hints are welcome :)
I am not a teacher, just an adult student like you. And I appreciate what Julie has said above. But if after 1.5 years, your teacher is still assuming you're one of "those" adult students who just want to muddle through some tunes, then maybe it's time to have a chat with him, or look for another teacher.
As a young adult (24 yo) beginner I've enjoyed reading this thread very much! I also feel lucky to have the teacher I do. I've been playing about a year now and what a year it has been.
The year I have been there I saw about six new students start then stop. Some young, some old. I played electric bass in high school for four years so I know what it means to be a music student. Maybe its because of that, but my teacher is an excellent teacher.
Every lesson we tune together and do scales to warm up and check intonation. Even with scales if theres something wrong or needs to be corrected, we stop and correct it. While going through songs, we focus on what skills the songs are teaching (we use suzuki book 1 and im at the end!). Main topics recently are: using upper, middle, lower 1/2 or all of the bow, smooth string crossings and slurs, INTONATION, using the same amount of bow for up and down bowing, bowing arm when using the lower 1/2, and the song's dynamics. Rarely, if we were stopping a lot during my lesson, at the end, usually my teacher will say sorry for being tough on me, but its just something that has to be done in order to get better. I know it sounds cheesy but I look forward to my lesson every week. At the end theres always either something new or something I need to still work on. Probably the best thing my teacher has taught is refining my ear to really listen for the big and subtle things in violin playing.
As an adult beginner of 50 I love technical drills, which is just as well given my esteemed teacher's approach ;-). On the rare occasions he gives me a piece (the usual menu it is scales, exercises, studies) he tells me up front what techniques I will be able to improve while practicing this piece.
In a sense I feel that he is teaching me the building blocks I can then use to play music. The tricky thing as an adult is to find these opportunities when you had just started to play, since 'play' is such a big word for it at this stage. It takes some time, patience and perseverance. Two years in I have solved this puzzle for myself in finding an orchestra to play in and every lesson is still a high point in my week.
I am with Julie on not wanting to waste my teacher's valuable time, which is part of the reason I work quite hard (and try to practice smart, as my teacher will insist at the end of every lesson). He has a full time orchestra job and teaches only a couple students on the side, so I think it should be fun for him too!
When I went back to taking lessons in my 20's, I found that it involved a bit of a transition because I was now an adult. As a kid I pretty much remember lessons as just being an hour of being told what to do....maybe it was just the kind of kid I was but I don't remember asking a lot of questions or initiating a lot of discussion. I think adult students should take more an active role in the direction & game-plan of their lessons since they're there on their own volition and their own dollar *AND* often for different reasons. Some want to be able to play pieces, some want to improve technically, etc. Adult students should be discussing their goals with their teacher... if you think something's missing or they're not taking the approach you'd like, mention it. If you're concerned about your posture, have you had a conversation about it with your teacher?
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August 5, 2013 at 10:27 PM · Something just does not seem right to me.
I think you should really move on......