Kato Havas

October 30, 2004 at 05:04 AM · Does anyone have experience with the "New Approach" method by Kato Havas. I just purschased her book and she says some very interesting things in it. In searching the archives of this site there is very little discussion on her (almost none). Yehudi Menuhin writes a foward to the book and in it he says that with a few details he is not in agreement. Any idea of what these details are. All in all I am really enjoying the book look foward to applying its wisdom to playing.


Replies (44)

October 30, 2004 at 05:26 AM · Greetings,

I have her book "Stage Fright - its Causes and Cures - With Special Reference to Violin Playing" published by Bosworth. It's well worth reading and her approach is logical and most certainly useful and admirable, Menuhin praises this book as well - probably because she recites constantly Menuhin's philosophies, phrases, and analyses every movement of violin playing.

It's worth a read but I don't agree with her statement that - with proper training stage fright may be eliminated alltogether...something like that. This thought I disagree with not only because there will always be anxiety and nervousness before a performance because it is our human nature to have this feelings, but because playing without some nervousness on stage is deadly boring. If one's truely well prepared than the nervousness will contribute to their playing, not destroy it.

But that's just my 2 cents...



October 30, 2004 at 08:47 AM · In my opinion, her stage fright book shows little understanding of what real stage fright is all about. The idea that thinking of bowing in circular motions rather than in straight lines is going to stop you from getting a shaky bow is so implausible I don't know where she might have got it from. Frankly, I'll never trust a famous performer, used to playing on stage, and probably never having experienced stage fright in the way some do, to tell me what it's all about. But that's just my view.


October 30, 2004 at 06:19 PM · I have her video of 'A New Approach' and quite frankly I am extremely dissapointed in both quality and content.The excercises given for the release of tension are far from convincing and the examples given by her students performing would not encourage me to make an indepth study of her techniques

October 30, 2004 at 09:25 PM · Greetings,

the comment about 'eliminating stage fright' is just sloppy in my opinion. -nobody- eliminates it absolutely. Even Milstein and Heifetz suffered from it, the latter more than the former. Without it you are not a musician.

I think most people can eliminate the -effects- of stage fright though a variety of means including:

1) Alexander Technique

2) Mediatation/hypnosis/vizualization

3) Correct teaching in order to play without tension.

4) Drugs

In sme cases the only soultion is a long and arduous course of therapy to address the deep rooted psycholgical causes (usually parents....hah!)

I thought the video was a complete waste of money and although I would hate to generalize it, if those are her good students they don"t have the capabilty to produce a large enough sound .Go buy the Heifetz masterclasses...



October 31, 2004 at 01:11 AM · regardless, i have seen her improve players technique drastically in ten minute sessions, so she certainly knows some things well.

October 31, 2004 at 07:54 AM · Greetings,

the people I know who studied with her were veyr satisifed with how they were helped.

An Alexander teacher can improve a player in about thirty seconds though...



November 1, 2004 at 04:33 AM · I'm a very big ANTI-fan of the "new approach." Because of it I ended up transferring schools half way across the country for my SENIOR year of college. My teacher had studied with Kato Havas and was a big fan, but I disagreed with the approaches to just about everything. The technique ran counter to what I was hearing/learning/seeing from the rest of the violin playing world, so I debated the merits of such methods with my teacher. We couldn't even agree on how to hold the instrument and bow, much less how to play with them. By the end of my junior year we were barely on speaking terms. BARELY! Our parting was not friendly. Interestingly, Buri's comment about not having a big enough sound was one of my biggest complaints. I was sick of playing *everything* floating on the top of the string like a fluffy version of Mozart (the approach just doesn't cut it for the Saint-Saens concerto!). And I still had tendonitis and joint problems, much more than I do now.

'Erie (-:

April 26, 2005 at 06:16 PM · My son's violin teacher studied with Kato Havas. Her approach in teaching him was fantastic! In 6 months he was playing better than a niece playing 2 years Suzuki method. Our teacher has sinced moved and we have gone rounds changing his bow hold to conform to our new teacher. The method here seems to be strictly Suzuki method which I am not impressed with. Maybe it was just our teacher that was so wonderful, but my son doesn't play with the same emotion and freedom now.

April 26, 2005 at 09:41 PM · i liked working with her a lot, her approach actually is a lot like alexander in many ways.

April 26, 2005 at 11:26 PM · Combining what Carl and Buri said, I don't think Heiftez and Milstein felt stage fright in the same way others can, else they would have quit and mowed yards for a living. Nobody would put up with that for a lifetime. A period where I felt no apprehension at all was when I was playing out frequently, and was playing things that were so easy for me I couldn't mess up and not recover well. So I think it just has a lot to do with frequency, and technique relative to difficulty level. I read both books 20 yrs ago and don't remember getting much from them but I was just a snot nosed kid. Like now. I'd like to see Alexander fix something in 30 minutes. Not denying it's possible or plausible, I'd just literally get a kick out of seeing it.

April 6, 2008 at 10:43 AM · Hi, as a complete beginner I was unsure which method / teacher to go with. I'm 34 years old and did not relish the idea of being treated like a school boy again! Having spent some time talking to and meeting various teachers in my area (Oxford UK) I had a lesson with Monica Cuneo who has studied with Kato Havas (and translated her work into Italian). Having never played a note on any instrument before this 1 hour lesson I came away relaxed, confident and full of passion. This "New Approach" is perfect for me, At the start of the lesson I was tense and gripping my violin as though I were trying to strangle it.. By the end things felt a lot more natural. I may not have the experince of some of the other users on this site to compare methods or techniques but all I can say is It works for me..

April 8, 2008 at 09:28 PM · I learned more in 6 x 2 hour lessons with Kato Havas than I did in 5 years at college. Without going into all the intricacies and technicalities, it had a transformative effect on my playing and my experience of performing overall.

Like everything, the concept of the New Approach is quite simple, but the details have got to be absolutely right. Alongside a good teacher, the video is a good supportive tool but on its own, it is not by any means the full picture.

Good luck with your lessons with Monica - sounds like you've found a really inspiring teacher.

Best wishes


April 10, 2008 at 02:25 PM · There are JEWELS to be found in her book. Although, I agree with Janet that the video is not so inspiring, and I agree that there is stuff that many people might honestly not agree with, (I am not a total convert myself) and I know that a lot of her pupils might not be the best publicity.....HOWEVER, on encouragement from my old (London RCM teacher, a great lady and violinist,) I read her books and took courses with her in Oxford. The whole idea of 'the giving' hand transformed my approach at the time and released me to be able to play double stops tension free. The sections in her book re. horizontal left hand movement have been so important for me.(although might be contraversial ... ) I could say a lot, but I'll finish just by encouraging people to not throw the babies out with the bathwater and read her books.

July 6, 2008 at 12:46 PM · The New Approach tends to be rather exclusive and evangelical in my opinion, however Kato Havas for me was an inspirational teacher who had a great understanding of the psychology of the learning and performing process.

There is no new way of playing the violin, rather a different language, for instance eliminating left hand finger pressure may seem a recipe for playing nothing but harmonics, but replacing that with weight and balance does have the effect of freeing the left hand for position changes and an expessive vibato, even if Kato says "There is no such thing as vibrato." There was in fact a lot of ZEN in her teaching.

I studied with her in the early 1960s and have noticed that the language of teaching has certainly changed since she appeared on the scene.

September 3, 2008 at 06:55 AM · I don't know how relevant this is, but during a quartet summer school a violist who had studied with Kato helped me a lot by saying 'don't analyse or worry how things should be played - just play is exactly as you'd sing it'. Somehow this helped me relax and I played much better than I had before.

December 7, 2008 at 10:38 PM ·

I studied in what is considered the best Conservatory in Italy, Milan, with a good teacher, and met many more there, in summer courses and in professional situations.

Nobody ever taught me how to deal with nerves (did you find anyone?) and very difficult passages, they'd just say "practice more", "play more in public" (but how, if you cannot do it?), etc. Everybody is very good at teaching the "interpretation" of a piece, what about the emotional side of playing? If you accept this society's drug-oriented way of solving any problems, you'd take some pills and you'd be happy.

I got to a point where I was really terribly nervous playing solo, not happy at all.

To make a long story short, by studying with Kato Havas I got totally rid of all stage fright (not to mention a lot of "technical" problems), now I really love and enjoy performing for any audience. I can really testify the effectiveness of the new approach.

I have also translated three books of hers (in Italian, not just for my personal interest, they are published and sell), there is no simplicistic solution in her teaching. She explains it very well, we need to address the physical, mental and social aspects (causes) of stage fright. After you've already studied for many many years, it doesn't happen in a week. Before expressing any judgement we should know what we talk about.

Here is a tiny summary:

  1. physical tension (gripping) makes all technical difficulties (double stops, fast passages, high positions) very difficult, nearly impossible to play,
  2. this generates insecurity as to one's ability to overcome those passages, mental tension (fear of not making it)
  3. on top of this, put what we think the society (family, teachers, schoolmates, you name it) expects of us (being good, perfect, no mistakes..,) and we end up forgetting about the meaning, the purpose of making music and only worrying, fearing, we get stage fright.

Watch the videos I published here, where she talks about her own experience, she was a professional player, successful soloist, child prodigy, she knows all the aspects of  performing, she herself suffered from stage fright.



Now this is the way I teach and I see that my pupils have a nice tone from the very beginning, enjoy themselves much more, learn more quickly. Playing is not just doing all the right notes, as she says:

"It is important to realise that our responsibility as musicians lies just in this - in the lifting up emotionally and aesthetically of all our listeners, regardless of whether they are examiners, auditioners, or members of an audience. If all our energies were channelled into giving people, through the medium of music, a deeper understanding of their own potential as part of the wonderful mysteries that the universe contains, we would not only do justice to ourselves as musicians, but stage fright would be banished from the face of this earth forever."

December 8, 2008 at 04:26 AM ·

Jim, you are right that great soloists do not have the typical stage fright but maybe it is the same too (but they are better technically!) I say that because a week ago, I listened on youtube to a fantastic video of my greatest idol rehearsing with a pianist the Kreutzer sonata. I then listen immidiately after to the audio only on youtube of the recording he did with the same pianist.  As good as he is, I have immidiately noticed in his sound that he was less tense and fearless in his rehearshal! Everything was more solid, confident, and the volume of sound bigger etc in the rehearsal.  Of course, the recording was nice and fantastic.  But I really saw that the player played like himself in the rehearsal and a little more contained or "stiff sound" in the recording. In short, even these great great artists can be a little more intimidate when they are officially on stage or being recorded! They do get nervous too even if they manage it well.

Anne-Marie just my two a little off topic cents.

July 20, 2014 at 04:37 AM · I would respectfully suggest that you check out my blog post


for successful techniques that address these issues. I have helped many violinists and other musicians overcome these concerns.

July 20, 2014 at 09:33 AM · I came across the "New Approach" around 1970. In this early book, there was a lot in common with Suzuki's teaching, paricularly in using circular and swinging movements in the right arm. I don't know who influenced whom..

In the "Twelve Lesson Course" I personally feel the teaching goes haywire (e.g. cradling the violin neck in the palm of the hand) and the videos on U-toob show a sloppy, wispy style, far from Suzuki's "big, beautiful tone" (BTW, did he mean "big therefore beautiful", or "big and also beautiful"?)

Together with Paul Roland, Suzuki and Havas have in common the great merit of keeping sensation and rythmic pulse at the heart of tehnique, in easily assimilable schemas. Their work has nourished and improved my four decades of teaching, technically and mentally. Aesthetically is another matter..

July 21, 2014 at 10:26 PM · As so often, there is a heady mixture of reality and imagery. Singing teachers are just as bad. A bit like Weight vs. Pressure. Highly practical illusions!

July 22, 2014 at 08:30 AM · It's not rocket science or nuclear physics. Good teaching is observation, common sense, good use, and an understanding of technique as demonstrated by the great players, as well as a healthy dialogue with other good teachers.

Many years ago I asked as a student what leading teachers in London thought of her (Havas) and the general feeling was that she had nothing new or exeptional to say - but maybe she also had some strange ideas.

My own professor thought David Oistrakh was the shining example of the most perfect technique, sound and musicianship. Personally, I still think that today, along with Nathan Milstein. (James Ehnes looks that way too, a great example of relaxed playing).

July 22, 2014 at 12:05 PM · It's already been written - see my post on the chin rest thread.

July 25, 2014 at 12:14 AM · I think the Book about stage fright from kato havas has a lot of very practical advice.

First some things may seem too artificial, while trying to be natural. Like the circular movements. But the bottom line of the book are other very fundamental but relevant aspects of playing:

technically: relax all pressure starting with a good standing position, a good head position and finally diminuished thumb and finger pressure (in both hands).

mentally: The focus should be on the music, not on the own ego. Therefore you have to really occupy the mind. Knowing what note you play is key to expressive playing. Feeling the intervals hearing them before you play them and knowing the exact names of the notes before you play, are the melodical guidelines.

Harmonically one can go into more detail aswell and rhythmically there should always be a pulse, wich is crucial fo catching an audience and make them feel your pulse.

So all around its better to read the book, than to speak about it in a bad way. it is full of very practical exercises.

I have seen videos of Kato Havas teaching aswell. They didn't impress me much. But the effectiveness of her exercises for the ears are very convincing to me.

Plus there are basic tips about how to practice wich are worth more than gold.

July 26, 2014 at 03:35 PM · Circular, swinging, and wave motions are indeed natural. Dead-straight lines are just that: dead! Then we need to give them artificial respiration..

July 26, 2014 at 06:18 PM · When you compare to martial arts its the same phenomenon: you can swing in circles and move from left to right and it will look fancy, but the fastest way is a straight line.

But there is a difference in travelling in a straight line opposed to using force in a straight line. Being able to understand economic movement for traveling in a straight line is in my opinion very important on the violin. Using the image of circles can maybe be helpful to lose certain cramps, but generally I think that the body works quite good for himself, if you focus on the right outcome. In the end everybody needs to treat his body different, because we are built different. The keypoint in Kato Havas system is to focus on the music, especially on the left hand, wich should be the leader in her opinion. Her exercises aim to make everything else follow the left hand fingers and guiding the left hand with a very good imagination of the actual notes and rhythms. She simply sais, that one should practice mindfully, with a intelligent approach and focus. Much like Simon Fischer, or Carl Flesch or any other pedagoge who has written about practicing and the problem of stage fright. She just uses her words and images in a very alternative way, wich sometimes make people think it is less practical. But she is in my opinion quite good at the core of the problem of stage fright: wrong focus and lack of intelligent practice, wich challenges the mind and the coordination

July 27, 2014 at 10:15 AM · Simon, I like your analysis.

Where I find Havas Suzuki, Menuhin and others have "got it right" is in recognising that e.g. a straight bow stroke is produced by an incredible coordination of circular movements. It is worth spending somewhere between 10 seconds and 10 minutes on these motions before going "straight" to the target.

July 27, 2014 at 10:15 AM · Oops!

July 27, 2014 at 09:53 PM · I'm glad Adrian, thank you! I felt to give my opinion because I saw very unreflected and critical posts up in this threat. Kato Havas books are really a treasure if one is able to extract the ideas, he/she needs and can accept. It is definetely not complete or even fundamental. But the book is a enrichment and every violinist who has problems with stage fright or is interested in teaching should know this book.

September 7, 2016 at 03:48 PM · I had the good fortune to study with Kato Havas for a week long intensive workshop in 1994. Those people who are negative toward her method, don't understand it. There are some details that some may not agree with, but the approach is highly effective and is a core part of my teaching. To know her is to be truly inspired by her and to learn to love performing, practicing and playing. I don't use 100% of her technique advice, for instance her left hand positioning is more like a gypsy style violin hold, I don't use it, because it limits expressiveness for me. Her teaching of the bow arm and also methods to overcome fears and clutching of the violin are pure gold! She taught me in 5 minutes what i spent a whole semester in college learning. Her rhythm exercises are excellent too as well as the use of singing! Which really opens up musicality for students. I can't say enough good about her, she is a wonderful human being! I learned so much from her! Reading her book is not the same as getting to work with her. People should find others that have worked with her to be able to comprehend the essence of her teaching.

September 8, 2016 at 06:19 AM · Learning in 5 mins more than 3 years with the other teacher? This is common! The sudden progress is based on what went before; and often comes from advice that the previous teacher had been offering for years...

September 8, 2016 at 09:15 AM ·

September 8, 2016 at 04:04 PM · Or sometimes no teacher at all. I went through a stretch in college where I seemed to make no progress at all-- until vacation. The summer festival would compliment me on how much I'd improved over the last year, and my winter teacher would then compliment me on the effectiveness of my summer's work.

November 2, 2016 at 01:20 PM · i am a guitar player and i have four mounth of experience on violin,

i attended kato havas seminar on 15 october 2016 in Oxford and i really learnt to play violin in only 3 hours seminar !!!!!

believe it or not this is the truth !!!!!

November 2, 2016 at 02:03 PM · It's a miracle!

I've been taking private lessons for several years now, on top of school instruction as a child, and I still don't think I can really play the violin!

November 2, 2016 at 02:38 PM · I can top you as I have been playing the violin for fifty years but still can't play it very well.

November 2, 2016 at 03:36 PM · ...where have we gone wrong?! :(

...oh yeah...

November 2, 2016 at 04:10 PM · Andrea - you would probably learn the bass in 2 hours then, and the viola in 10 minutes ...

November 2, 2016 at 08:43 PM · Mr. Charles, are you saying that there is a direct correlation between the size of the instrument and the speed of assimilation and mastery ? A very deep and interesting hypothesis to be developed. Where else but on Violinist.com.

November 3, 2016 at 08:18 AM · Well, there could be something in that! I was only joking of course!

Where it may not work is conducting. A large conductor may learn to conduct in 20 seconds, whereas a small one might take 60 seconds ...

November 3, 2016 at 10:26 AM · I am so glad that I opted for violin and not viola or conducting. Or accordion.

November 3, 2016 at 01:09 PM · I know of an engineer...who plays the bass...but is having the most success playing the accordion.

I don't know how big he is...

November 3, 2016 at 02:00 PM · i m not saying that i am able to play the tchakovsky d concert !!!! but i m a pro guitar player and all the distance for intervals are on my hand. the things that i want to say is:

with kato havas approach i m playing violin with ease and all problem about intonation are not an issue for me now....

violin is simple or impossible that's a truth!!!!

November 3, 2016 at 11:12 PM · I agree! I like to tell folks the violin is easy to play, but hard to learn...

November 6, 2016 at 12:00 PM · To try and resume some positive aspects of her teaching?

- Rhythm comes from a vertical pulse, not only from horizontal note-lengths.

- Attractive tone, whether on violin or in singing, has a curved "envelope", however flat the curve.

- Tonus should replace tension.

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