Your teachers' sayings

July 14, 2016 at 09:20 PM · My teacher goes by the motto "not critisized is praise enough", therefore a "good" is hard earned and rarely bestowed.

Things I do hear often are:

- an affirmative "yes": not bad, but there's still room for improvement

- a dragged "OK" with a certain inflection. Often followed by "Let's go back to the beginning and look at a few things, shall we."

- This inevitably means: "Practise that etude for another week and work on ..."

- "We'll continue with this next week"

- "You *do* hear that this note isn't in tune, don't you?"

So, what are your teachers' favourite sayings?

Replies (20)

July 14, 2016 at 10:08 PM · From Lorand Fenyves "your best is barely good enough". It made my blood run cold at the time.

His best one was when I first played for him and he concluded our conversation with "I will teach you how to teach yourself".

Another was "practise makes perfect....not really.Rather,it's the opposite, you perfect the part you're working on and then pracitise the perfected passage or part."

Another profound lesson was " when practising,you don't walk into the studio and just hope things turn out OK or say "thats just the way it turned out".Rather,one must have a plan in place and very specific problems to be solved before you enter the studio". This saved me hundreds of hours of meandering practising.

July 14, 2016 at 11:29 PM · Pleasantly remembered quotes from my Julliard schooled uncle: Jeffrey, what are you tone deaf, you must have a tin ear, you are not counting Jeffrey one two three four, you have to Pull the sound out Jeffrey, have you been practicing etc. I still hear these phrases long ago inculcated at lesson time which still makes me laugh and smile.

July 14, 2016 at 11:53 PM · Just a deep sigh!

July 15, 2016 at 03:06 AM · From my first teacher, Harry Fratkin: "You have to be at one and the same time your own severest critic and your own greatest admirer." "Don't just tickle the strings." And "It's not just you; it's everybody (who has trouble with this or that)."

From my 2nd teacher, Vladimir Graffman: (screaming) "Ach! Vhat are you doing? Vhat are you doing?" and "Ach! Dot's nonsense!" Then, calming down a little: "Look, Raphael, dot eez not de vay to do eet."

From Glenn Dicterow: "Get those overtones to fly right out of the instrument and into the hall."

From Aaron Rosand: "Don't play with the brakes on." "Hah?" (i.e. you get what I mean?)

July 15, 2016 at 01:06 PM · From my other teacher Steven Staryk regarding intonation "a little between the cracks there Peter". He said it pleasantly but meant business.Still does...

July 22, 2016 at 10:23 PM · Not so much a saying, but my teacher starts to twitch when my intonation is off just slightly but not quite enough for her to stop and correct me. Ditto for letting the instrument sag or an elbow going out of position.

July 23, 2016 at 01:40 AM · "You're garbage, let's meet again next week."

It makes me smile, means she still as hope in me.

July 23, 2016 at 06:17 AM · Why is your G sharp? Why is your G always sharp?

Anchor point!

And he always tells me to play with a drone.

July 23, 2016 at 01:28 PM · "This cadenza needs to sound more republican."

"Ah. I see, you share a birthday with Dick Cheney."

"I would expect this kind of playing from my Suzuki book 1 students, not someone playing the most difficult repertoire."

"I am glad to hear that your vibrato has widened and no longer sounds like a wild bungee jumper."

"The most difficult viola repertoire is intermediate violin literature. Don't get your hopes up."

"Just like we don't want to see the outline of your underwear, we don't want to hear the outline of your shift."

"You have chicken feet, flatten your right wrist a little bit."

"You violists are too free-spirited. Why don't you just follow every one of your teacher's fingerings like the violinists."

"I would never take that in public."

"An artist like you deserves better technique."

"Your vibrato serves as the huge amounts of soy sauce put on a bad dish to make it taste decent."

"If you don't fix that Bach, I am worried you won't get into conservatory next month."

"Sounding like this, you will never play that concerto with orchestra."

"It was much better last week."

Compiled from various teachers and masterclasses.

July 23, 2016 at 01:40 PM · My teacher from many years ago said to never think that something has gotten good enough because there's no such thing as "perfect." No matter how good something is, it can always be improved even a tiny bit. And then when the playing or piece is that tiny bit better, you can always try to make it still even better.

July 23, 2016 at 02:48 PM · not representative of any one teacher, but a composite:

"That's not a..." (...a real G. A note. A sound. A tone. A vibrato...)

"I'll hear..." as a way of assigning something for next time.

"goodgoodgood" meaning "ok, let's move on"

"OK, play."

"How did that feel?" when something sounds a little better than before

"I'll take that" when something is acceptable

"Practice well" as a way of saying goodbye

July 23, 2016 at 09:18 PM · 'Wooden.'


'Could we have a less *three-legged* version, please?'

'Shall I tell you what's wrong with that or would you prefer me to parody you?'

(If I keep quiet...) - 'I can just hear you, *seething*!'

'The thing is, it doesn't really work like that.'

July 24, 2016 at 01:15 AM · This post is funny!

July 24, 2016 at 01:16 AM · I had the honour of playing under Charles Bruck,who became the Maestro of the Pierre Monteux School after Monteux died.A conducting student had his arms a little too high during a conducting masterclass.Bruck asked him "could you raise your arms higher?"So the student did.Again Bruck asked "could you raise them even higher?" Up they went higher.Finally,with his arms almost above his head Bruck asked (or I should say yelled) "could you make yourself look anymore ridiculous?" "No?" Get off the podium...NOW!!!!!!

Old school .....I can still hear his screaming in my head after 26 years.

July 25, 2016 at 05:17 PM · From a local tennis pro (yet appropriate): "Grip it and rip it."

My teacher has a goodly studio of Suzuki kids. I accompany the group class on the piano. When they have a part that could be wrecked by a bad entrance or someone missing a Bb, or whatever, he sometimes says, "Don't be the one." He's very good-humored about it of course. I use that now when I teach chemistry to college students!

"Don't be afraid of scratch."

July 26, 2016 at 06:45 PM · At the end of my lessons Jody Gatwood would simply say "Work well" you'd sometimes have to gauge the tone of voice or look in his eyes to determine if he meant this is rough and really needs work or if he meant good job you're on the right track! I guess ultimately I always knew which, assuming I wasn't partaking in any self-deception.


July 26, 2016 at 10:48 PM · "Index finger!" "Shoulder!" "Thumb! You didn't take it with you" "it's definitely better, but ..."

July 27, 2016 at 02:46 AM · Scott Cole,do you remember any of Staryks' one liners?

July 27, 2016 at 09:25 PM · Two of my previous teachers studied with Raphael Bronstein and they both liked to repeat one of his catchphrases: "Fingers before the bow." (Fingers have to be down before the bow moves, to get a clean sound.)

July 29, 2016 at 06:59 AM · I had a teacher years ago, I cannot remember which but a common phrase(s) they had every single lesson "That is nice but you do it wrong" or "You make angels cry und devil dance." or "Not good. No, No, No, No.. not good at all. Again!"

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Find a Summer Music Program
Find a Summer Music Program

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases Business Directory Business Directory Guide to Online Learning Guide to Online Learning

Dominant Pro Strings

Antonio Strad Violin

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases


Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Metzler Violin Shop

Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin



Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins

Potter Violins

String Masters

Bein & Company

Annapolis Bows & Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine