Why did you hate your teacher?

April 15, 2005 at 04:55 AM · Not everyone does or has in the past, but if you are one of those who has had a disagreeable time with a teacher, what exactly was it that you found so despicable? Was it enough to terminate lessons, or did you work it out?

Or how about pet peeves? What are some completely un-helpful things that teachers have done for you?

I know, this is a negative topic, but I've been getting bad vibes from one of my students, and I'd like to know what not to do when teaching. I want to put myself in the student's shoes, and though perhaps some public feedback would be useful.

Replies (77)

April 15, 2005 at 06:12 AM · Is there another version of this question to ask, Emily? One may have an immediate dislike to a teacher but realize in the long run that what one disliked then is something one is grateful for now, or even the other way around. If people are bringing up memories then should these be coloured through the wisdom and perspective of time? Is it good always to be liked? I'm thinking that there are two ways of looking back at the memories of a teacher. One is not being happy or even being happy at the time. The other is, looking back on it now, would you still feel the same way?

April 15, 2005 at 06:48 AM · Emily,

As I recently said in another post, I had a teacher I disliked when I was about 10 years old. Basically, I was made to feel inadequete and she shouted (or at the very least, became quietly irate) whenever she felt I hadn't practised enough. She never seemed to be pleased with anything and rarely smiled. I didn't enjoy violin lessons and stopped pracitsing, which made the lessons worse. When I changed teacher, I began to enjoy the violin. My new teacher was kind, funny and smiled a lot and seemed sincerly happy to be teaching. I started practising again.

I don't have that teacher anymore (I stopped with her when I was about 14) but I'm glad I did, because she made the violin fun for the first time.


April 15, 2005 at 07:05 AM · (Emily, you needed to close your italic tag in your original post, so the responses below you aren't in italics also :-D )

The only problem I had was ALWAYS knowing what my teacher would say. Predictability. Do weird and interesting things with your students, and catch them off guard. Keep them guessing what you'll say next; and try not to drone on what they already know (a fine line, since you don't really know what they KNOW and what they can just regurgitate back to you upon request). And digress into interesting topics about the violin, about composers, about styles - it's more fun for you and them! It goes beyond stating "don't say the same thing all the time." We all try to come up with different ways to make our point. All I'm saying, is, don't become predictable!

April 15, 2005 at 08:01 AM · Jenni,

Sometimes I feel like I same the to my students all the time! "Intonation, intonation, intonation!". But I was brought up to practice things in a certain order. The notes, rhythms intonation must be at a certain level before one works on anything else (style, character, music, etc.) I've taught my students how to practice for intonation; ie how to tell if it's in tune, figure out what is causing the problem, how to fix it, etc. But if one's ear is not fully trained, ie. sensitive to pitch, then it's still difficult for the student to practice efficiently himself. I think half the time students practice the wrong thing, therefore developing bad habits.

Luckily I don't say the same thing to every student though, since everyone has different weaknesses. But it does take time and persistence for each individual's weakness to be fixed. I know there are different ways to get a message across. "What is your concept of an F sharp" says DeLay (Making of a Genius by Laurie Sands). One of my teachers would say "It's almost in tune". Another teacher used "Intonation attitude"; All of these very complicated but interesting ways to get a message across.

April 15, 2005 at 01:15 PM ·

April 15, 2005 at 08:54 AM · So, could leaving the italics on be a form of irritation?

I suppose hate is such a string word, but I like to catch attention sometimes, so I used it anyway in the title of the thread. We could substitute dislike, if you like.

Possibly an attribute that is my strength and weakness all at once is that every lesson takes off in so many directions, we could go on and on, and I'm finding it difficult to keep things simple.

The other is my fascination with technique, and I do in fact think that it can be harmful to overdose a young student on bow strokes, for instance, when they are desperate for some kind of spark to keep them going. The one with the scratchy tone, though, she's not liking it because it's so much harder than she originally thought it was. I say I won't lie to her, and I agree that the violin is very hard. I tell her that she will work on these little technique things as long as she plays the violin, if she is to improve, but that it won't always be this overwhelming. The thing I am most encouraged by is the fact that once you have really learned something, you have it for good. You don't have to relearn your bow hold. This is incredibly encouraging to me, but I don't think this gets across to students who are frustrated when we do the bow hand exercises over and over. But which is more frustrating, a bow hand exercise or non-stop scratchy sounds because the bow is swerving due to a stiff hand?

Okay, I imaginge this must be pretty annoying: physically straightening the bow as the student draws it across the string. This is something no one ever did to me, and I didn't imagine doing it to a student until I came across a student who could not feel or see if it was straight. I guided it with her to help her feel what straight is. It feels like I'm being too controlling. I hate touching students, but sometimes I can't find any other way, other than to physically adjust them myself.

What do you think of that?

--By the way, could someone let me back into my original post to edit the italics? It's bugging me.

April 15, 2005 at 08:37 AM · My 2nd teacher i only had for 6 weeks before i stormed out of a lesson telling him he was an idiot. The first thing that ticked me off was the first 10 minutes of my lesson went towards him working out the payment and stuff with the student that went before me. In general he just seemed to waste time. Hmm also he was a bit up himself with his teaching/playing abilities. His bow arm was dodgy dingo i tells yah! He used to take out fingerings for everything i played so more often than not i was left a little confused. He had really bright blue eyes that opened up too wide and he looked a bit like a smacky. He had his own "developed" teaching method which frankly just sucked. for the first time ever i didnt want to practice. I know this sounds but for some reason i dont get along with male teachers as well. All through highschool i had the same problem. Anyway the list goes on but yeah none of it is really helpful cant fully explain why i hate him. So yeah one day we started having an argument over bowing or somthing and yeah stormed out.

Funny thing is, the teacher i found after him turned out to be his teacher through highschool and i've met a few people that know him. They all have the same opinion hmmff. grrrr i really disliked him.

he was a bit of a spunk though.

April 15, 2005 at 11:44 AM · The main thing I would recommend would be to find out as soon as possible how seriously the student takes playing the violin. I recently started with a new teacher who has many very accomplished students, and because I am not at their level I think she may not have realised that violin means just as much to me. Make sure that the student knows you take them seriously. =)

April 15, 2005 at 11:52 AM · Hi,

I didn't hate my teacher. She's a lovely person I still keep in contact with her. I just got frustrated when trying to tell how serious I was with playing and at the same time she was telling me to take it easy. She never gave me more exercises even though I asked it several times. One lesson she promised to add some more Bach to my repertoire, and next time she said it isn't a good idea after all, without proper explanation. I felt like I didn't get as much support as I would have needed. Maybe she was afraid that I'll burn out if trying too much but I am an adult and know my limits. I tried to analyze what's wrong with, for example, my vibrato and asked her what could I do to make it better and she just overlooked the whole thing. So finally I realized that I should find another teacher. It was hard to leave my old teacher because on personal level we connected. But the bottom line is, the teacher is there to help me learn to play, not to be my friend. Of course it is a great advantage if you feel relaxed around your teacher but...

April 15, 2005 at 02:38 PM · Luke,

Sometimes diplomacy works too... =)


April 15, 2005 at 02:39 PM · With my current teacher the only thing that really bugs me is how he doesn't tell me where ia a piece to start, so I am always having to ask. Also, he is often late (the lesson is at my house), but he always stays late.

Now, my old teacher is a slightly different story...

~First of all, her 5 year old son was always coming in and out of the practice room and asking her questions

~She also let me get away with anything. With the slightest amount of complaining, I could do or not do pretty much anything (I know I was a bad child).

~Also, she never taught me how to tune (I was 12 or 13 when I left, so I was old enough to learn how to tune).

~Lessons were conducted while sitting down, and she rarely worked with me on posture.

Sorry for ranting a bit...


April 15, 2005 at 04:52 PM · Emily, sorry, I can't read all posts now, will do it later. Just remember... When I was around 5 years old, my parents brought me to my sister's piano teacher and I started taking classes from her. It was my 2nd, or 3rd visit... can't say... I still have a habit to touch my forhead when I'm thinking hard... So I did it in front of teacher, and she reacted like this," Rita, never do it in public. Somebody can think that you want to scratch your head". It was my last visit (I am still very sensative. My bad...). But, maybe due to this 'evidence' I play on the violin today (though I have another reason, but it would be already out of topic).

Last year I had a student, 5 years old, beginner. And usually she played together with another student (he was 4), whose class followed next. Since 2nd student was more 'advanced', he was a 'leader'. Once I asked 1st student to be prepared next class to lead our group. Next time I knew that she quit my class.

April 15, 2005 at 04:42 PM · The only teacher I disliked was an ego maniac who belittled my previous teacher and the technique she taught me. She did not know how to communicate her knowledge and technique, and would float off to do house chores while I play excercises. She'd spend more time ranting about what bad musician everyone else were, how bad I was, though she was not involved with any performing groups. Her playing was mediocre. That stint did not last long and I left. It was a pain to be in the presence of such immense insecurity.

I loved the teacher I studied under for about 5 years. On the way up to her home, I loved her playing resonate through the whole building and courtyard. Group of old ladies would gather around in that courtyard just to enjoy her practice. Her artistry affected me most, to play not only techniques. The only complaint I have is that she can be harder on me! But, I've learned most from her.

April 15, 2005 at 05:38 PM · Emily,

Take a breath. Are you frustrated about something else in your life? I find I am harder on my students when I am. Also, if I haven't taken time to get myself centered, I tend to want them to be centered for me.

Technique is wonderful to work through but it means that you have the burden of picking something in technique that will "catch" them with success in one lesson. Success is the connection between them and the violin - that is all technique is for in the end. So, as a teacher, you have to find a way to help get that connection, no matter how small it is. THAT is what makes a student inspired (in my not so humble opinion), not music or anything else really. It is the FEELING of being able to move the bow across the strings and hear and feel the violin open up and MAKE A SOUND! That is the most inspirational thing that can ever happen with our instrument - it is the thing that keeps us going when we want to smash it against the wall. Teaching is helping a student catch that moment and then catch it again and again and again, each time layering that experience on the last until that momentary catching stretches out into minutes, then hours, then forever.

Don't be so hard on yourself for wanting that through technique. And don't be afraid to involve the parents with younger children to insist on their child practicing exactly what you want them to. Even if it is hard or odious to them, when it pays off in the lesson and they catch that moment, the agony of that practice will instantly disappear to be made worthwhile by that moment of union. I promise you!

Then you have that agony of practice again to try to catch the next moment. (Do you remember why you wanted to be a teacher? lol It is the hardest job on earth, I sometimes think!) ;-)

This builds, so don't run from it. There will come a time when a young student puts together enough that the whole experience - technique and music - comes together and then the inspiration for practice comes much easier. That inspiration comes from the feeling, "I got it! I can do it!" A lot of hard, not pleasant work can go into that.

As for touching a student, or guiding a bow... depends on how that is done, but I think it is fine. Whenever you're having that urge, take a moment and try to quickly analyze the problem. Is a scratchy bow from a stiff hand? Go back five steps to the stiff hand and start again. Don't be afraid of that repetition. Make it fun somehow. You are creative! I'm sure you can do that. Analyze how to make one difficult step into much smaller, achievable ones and don't be afraid to take as long as the child needs to do that. I'll tell them that too. I outline the steps we're going to take. We go for ONE goal until we get it. Then I'll say, OK, here's the next step. Now I want you to think of TWO things at the same time. Then the next. I brag about them: WOW! You can think of two things at once!! Do you think you can think of three? Guess what? Most smart adults can't do this! You are way cool! LOL It helps.

I learned something important from training my dogs. You can teach a dog to sit in the kitchen where the environment is controlled and familiar. But then you have to teach the dog to sit again in the backyard. Then again in the front. Then again in the park. There have to be lots of specifics before generalization can occur. Go back and take smaller steps. Don't presume that the student can put it together without constant reinforcement of those little goals.

The fun is in the training, not in the goal. Let go of the goals.

You can do it!


April 15, 2005 at 05:41 PM · Emily, I think it is quite possible to dislike your teacher, and I think your thread is wholly appropriate. Most teachers are very sure of themselves, and even though they have the best intentions, assessments of their approaches and attitudes (and not merely their experience or technique) are important.

Things I have disliked at times about one of my past teachers:

1)Yelling, making threats, getting excessively emotional/irrational.

2)Criticizing your past teachers in a non-constructive way.

3)Refusing to let you make ANY of your own repertoire choices.

4)Showing off excessively, and talking about their illustriousness at great length (anecdotes about Auer and Shumsky are great, but using them constantly to buttress the teacher's sense of superiority/authority gets tiresome)

5)Repeatedly cutting a student off very early in a piece they have worked hard on, so that by the end of the lesson they have covered two bars -- it MAY serve a purpose but from a student's POV (especially a child's) it is frustrating.

PS what is up with the italics?

April 15, 2005 at 05:47 PM · I'll post my own special list shortly, but in the meantime Lisa's point about taking external frustration out on students is really important: I once taught back-to-back in school for five hours and returned home exhausted, irritable and still in schoolmarm mode. I'd scheduled a private student within an hour of arriving home, so she caught me still wound up. I was pretty harsh with her that lesson, and although I called to apologise afterwards, it was an effective turn-off for the child.

April 15, 2005 at 07:28 PM · I think I can say this because I'm a student. Sometimes it's the student. Sometimes you're doing nothing wrong. A student can hit a rough patch and blame the teacher or even feel safe enough with the teacher to take it out on the teacher. Sometimes a student may hate now what a teacher is doing, but later on have a greater perspective and thank his or her lucky stars that the teacher didn't budge. And sometimes there is indeed something that needs changing.

What I'm seeing in your post is that you are getting bad vibes from one student. If the student is older, and the vibes are getting really bad, maybe it can be brought entirely into the open. If all your other students seem to be o.k. then maybe the interaction with this particular student needs to be different.

A lot of the things in this thread are very valid. But in my mind the one-on-one relationship in a private studio is an INTERaction and not everything is up to the teacher. Do others disagree with that?

Oh yeah, the italics were funny. My first post looked so slanted that I actually erased it because it made me dizzy that late at night. How do you turn someone else's italics off? Is there a code?

April 15, 2005 at 08:11 PM · What I wish my teacher would do more with me is explore the interpretation of music a bit more. Because most of the time I feel as if I am only playing notes and not music and so I cannot enjoy it one hundred percent.


April 15, 2005 at 08:14 PM · Inge,

Too true. A prima donna student can often take offence where none was intended, and I am sure it can make the teacher's life unnecessarily difficult when it happens. Students often make the mistake of assuming that since they're paying the teacher, they call the shots, when in fact they are privileged to be learning an instrument at all.


Your post has inspired me to work harder. Thank you.


April 15, 2005 at 08:57 PM · Things I wish my teachers had not done... however, I have since become a teacher, so I am sympathetic. It's not easy; teachers are imperfect.

1) Spend two hours without a break on 10 measures of a piece. Repeat the same for four weeks in a row-- no sensitivity to student's fatigue or frustration, and insufficient creativity to help me solve a problem in a different way if the first way isn't working.

2) Not plan ahead; i.e., not remember that I needed to prepare a piece for a recital or jury.

3) Be inconsistent, eg., "This Urtext edition is great!! I wish I had this available thirty years ago!" Next lesson: "What's the point of having an edition like this? No fingerings, no bowings, no dynamics, waste of money!"

4) Flirt.

5) Blow up at me over the phone.

6) Never attend any of my recitals or performances. (This I can understand to some extent-- if someone has a busy performing schedule and/or a large studio, they can't possibly go to everyone's recital. But it's somehow harder when they say they want to come, they say will come someday, and they never do.)

April 15, 2005 at 08:58 PM · oh no, how do I turn off the italics????

April 15, 2005 at 09:15 PM · Wow, every post here so far has value to me. Great!

Lisa, I can tell by your advice that you understand what I'm getting at. My tone may have led you to believe that I'm stressed, probably because I wrote it at the end of a series of more difficult days, but overall, I'm not too concerned. Mostly, I wanted to get in other people's shoes to understand what it feels like to be the student. My years as a student are long ago, and it's funny how the specifics in my lessons are vague. All I can remember is that I absolutely loved my piano teacher, and also my violin teacher. I also remember that they were two very different people, and our relationships were different, as well. I can remember things my college teacher would do that would crush me (never ask a student if they've put on weight). But most are not specific.

Inge, I agree that relationships are two-way, and I actually am in search of the boundary that determines my responsibility. I want to make sure I do everything I can to promote a healthy relationship, but even so, I understand that it can fail if the student doesn't cooperate.

The student I had in mind when I posted reminds me of a dusty violet that won't bloom. She comes in very tired most of the time. This could be caused by so many other external factors besides the lesson itself, but if I could give her a little nourishment to keep her inspired, I would. And there's something about the way she rakes the bow at such an apathetic angle, I think she definitely could do it, but the effort isn't happening, and now she's in a spiraling funk because she sounds bad and thinks she can't change it. Something like a weak bow hand or faulty arm movements involving the bow stroke can take a lot of time and focus, and it makes me sad when that's all we have time for sometimes.

It takes so much creativity to make that stuff fun, especially to a kid who's naturally more jaded than most. She is way too smart to be fooled by silly games. Kinda like the kids who are way too cool to sing or clap. It's a shame that we limit ourselves to this narrow idea of cool-ness when it's actually cooler not to care about looking cool.

By the way, Luke, I need a dictionary to fully understand the descriptive words you used with your teacher. They look like something I'd like to try out in a conversation, but I wouldn't want to misuse them.

April 15, 2005 at 09:47 PM · Hey,

I've been with my current teacher for 9 years and I have mixed views about her. She obviously understands music very well but she does many little things which drive me crazy

1) Never knows what time concerts, recitals etc., will be at til the last minute

2) Talks to my mother, other mothers or other students while I play.

3) Never tell me I have done well in my practice, just criticizes something else.

4) Always exaggerates the problems

Also, the main reason i'm mad at her at the moment is because of an incident that occured this week. I had an exam on thursday, and I had doubled my practice in order to be really prepared. I had practiced all 4 pieces until they were coming out my ears, and I had practiced with my accompanist to make sure everything was ok. Then, the day before the exam, I had a lesson, and she told me that all my pieces were terrible and I would probably fail.

I found this very unfair as I knew it was untrue and I really felt that she was ruining my confidence. She didn't say anything like 'You should be fine' or 'Dont worry too much', just 'good luck'. I went home, and although it was late, I practiced for several hours to correct the 'faults'. I hardly slept a wink because I was so nervous. However, I decided to ignore her for once, played my pieces the best I have ever played them in my exam, and I now feel very confident that I received a high mark.

April 15, 2005 at 10:04 PM · Emily,

My teacher during my basic technique developing years of playing violin pulled my bow herself to help guide my bow straight - I didn't find it annoying or intrusive. So, I don't think you have to worry about it with your students. I place my bow just shy of the fingerboard while my students are playing as a vertical guideline for their bow to stay straight, and it seems to be working well, also. Take care!

April 16, 2005 at 01:22 AM · Grainne's experience is about as bad as it gets... so, in chronological order, my list of pet hates is as follows:

1) Stripping down my technique in the name of further progress, then disappearing without trace - this includes ignoring phone calls.

2) Three weeks before a performance diploma exam for which I was underprepared, letting me know *in the lesson* that it would be my last as my teacher was going on an examining tour.

3) Stripping down my technique in the name of further progress when it was completely unnecessary - and this included withdrawal of my bow for four months.

4) Last lesson before a teaching diploma exam, ripping me to shreds in front of my pianist in the name of combatting performance anxiety.

Btw, are there any students out there with experience of sexual harrassment by a teacher? I realise I'm heading into the realm of blatant malpractice here, but I'm curious to know just how many cases are kicking around.

April 16, 2005 at 01:37 AM · Attitude. Caring.

And in the last two ... lack of.

Teachers make mistakes and wrong judgement calls, I'm sure, and students do too, and also misjudge. But if the attitude isn't there? I think any student of an instrument such as the violin puts himself on the front lines, there is a vulnerability, and there has to be both trust and trustworthiness. I think that even a certain amount of incompetence (who's perfect? what's competence?) might be forgivable but not a callous or uncaring attitude toward the student. What think ye?

April 16, 2005 at 01:39 AM · I forgot to add something important: this thread is about teachers we've hated. However, I also loved - and still do - all the teachers I referred to in my post, I suspect unconditionally. There's a fine line. And perhaps the phrase 'loving your jailor' is in there somewhere too, I don't know.

April 16, 2005 at 04:18 AM · I still occasionally take a violin lesson, and at the last one I took, I realized how very vulnerable one can feel as a student. It had been quite a while since I'd been in that position, but when you are playing for someone you respect and like, you really, really don't want to disappoint that person! You finish playing, you wait for what they say...it is a dreadful moment of anticipation! You know you have room for improvement, that is why you are there. You want helpful advice, but you do want (need?) a bit of validation as well.

Someone I know described her teachers as such:

"Play for a traditional teacher, and the teacher will say, 'That was horrible! Fix this and this and this.' Play for a Suzuki teacher, and the teacher will say, 'That was great! Fix this and this and this.'"

It is not necessarily the difference between a traditional vs. a Suzuki teacher, there are plenty of traditional teachers who take a positive approach; but you definitely see both types of teachers in life!

As a teacher, I think it's easy to be anxious to fix what is wrong and go straight to that, and to forget to acknowledge the things that went well.

April 16, 2005 at 06:07 AM · Emily, I have a couple of points.

You are obviously aware of your own shortcomings, or what you believe are shortcomings, in your own teaching.

I agree with the people who have said that teaching is a two way interaction. Both the teacher and the student have responsibilities to each other. Don't be too quick to blame yourself.

The student's discontent may have nothing to do with you personally. He or she may be going through difficult times in some other aspect of life; may be taking lessons because of parental pressure, not his/her own desire; etc.

I find this thread very interesting, and I've learned a lot about various people's experiences. However, the contributors to this thread are not your problematic student. We can't tell what is bothering him or her. I suggest that you approach the matter directly and tactfully ask the student about it. My own approach, which need not be yours, would be to say, "This is your lesson and I want you to get the most out of it. Is there anything you would like us to do differently?"

Again, I urge you not to be unduly critical of yourself. Don't accuse yourself of doing the things mentioned on this thread. I suspect that you are your own harshest critic.

April 16, 2005 at 06:57 AM · Thanks, Pauline.

Sue, I can't believe the things those teachers did!

(And now that I've been thinking about it, I thought I might warn people that their very teachers may be reading. I don't want to encourage slander or malice, so think of how you would write in a way that anyone could read it.)

And after thinking still some more, it has occured to me that this student's mom has probably flown out of state for the time being to be with her father, who was just diagnosed with cancer.


It seems a good bet that she's got a lot on her shoulders at this point, even if she doesn't talk about it. Plus, her mom is a driving force in the family, and if she's away, I don't know exactly what kind of schedule is being enforced. My guess is the whole household is in disarray.

So there's something to think about, guys. There's a whole world going on, and a violin lesson takes place in a tiny sliver of it, a small space in time that is connected to everything else.

My first lesson a couple of days ago took place about ten minutes after I had dried my tears after a good spat. I stuck a little eye liner and eye shadow on to look presentable and threw distractions at the student until I was sure the episode was behind me. I'm old enough to put things in my heart away at least enough to carry on and not overflow into everything else, but I remember a time when it wasn't like that.

My parents split up when I was in fourth grade. I was such a sensitive kid, and I cried a lot. I quit music lessons, and I don't think it occurred to me until just now that perhaps I lost focus because of all of the other things going on in my life. My parents got back together, and that fall, I took up the lessons again.

April 16, 2005 at 08:29 AM · I hate teachers who doesn't know what they're talking about in the lesson! I once had this lady, who, as I've heard, comes from this distinguished family of musicians and her mother used to be an examiner when younger. Anyways, she didn't even know how to hold the fiddle properly! And she stretches her 4th finger to its place even in 1st position (instead of stretching the 1st finger back)!! AND, she thinks that 30min lesson/wk is enough to prepare for an 8th exam! I left after 2 lessons

April 16, 2005 at 12:46 PM · Hi,

"Play for a traditional teacher, and the teacher will say, 'That was horrible! Fix this and this and this.' Play for a Suzuki teacher, and the teacher will say, 'That was great! Fix this and this and this.'"

"As a teacher, I think it's easy to be anxious to fix what is wrong and go straight to that, and to forget to acknowledge the things that went well."

Laurie: I see your point, but I don't think that qualifying a performance as horrible or great (unless it is great really) is a good approach. I agree that positive reinforcement is important, but so is being realistic in one's evaluation. But, it is important to acknowledge the things that went well or have improved. That is a must. I agree totally with that. As for going more quickly into what needs fixing, there is often no choice as time in lessons is limited.

My pet-peeve, is teacher who don't know how the fiddle works, and cannot tell you why something didn't work and exactly how to fix it. Also, people who tell you "just practice it more and it will get better" which of course is idiotic as something practiced incorrectly can only get worst.


April 16, 2005 at 06:02 PM ·

April 16, 2005 at 06:57 PM · "Play for a Suzuki teacher, and the teacher will say, 'That was great! Fix this and this and this.'"

I agree that it's important to acknowledge the positive aspects, but calling everything great does render the term meaningless. Personally I prefer to specify precisely what I liked, as in: 'I really liked the way you remembered to put in the dynamics,' or 'I can tell you've been practising the bar you had trouble with last week,' etc. But on the other hand, if it sounds no better than the week before, I will say so.

April 16, 2005 at 08:45 PM · When teaching kids I think it's very important to find something positive about each performance of theirs and tell them why you liked it and then continue to work on the rough spots and explain how and why they maybe aren't sounding as good as they can. From my experience, it's more constructive to get a child excited about wanting to do better and be a better player than it is to say "that was great" all the time or "that sucked." Give them analogies or situations they can relate too that encourage them to work hard and want to be better, reward them when they've obviously done the work and be helpful and encouraging when it comes to cracking down and working harder.

As an older student I don't think praise should be as big of a thing. It's great to recieve acknowledgement for a job well done but I only want to hear it if I've genuinly improved and have impressed my teacher with my progress. As an older student I should be and am more confident in when I'm progressing or not so things such as praise I think need to be addressed differently according to the age, level and personality of a student. If you constantly praise a child or a student, what happens when they go to a competition or another event and are told that they have some problems to fix?

It's a touchy topic but I think you need to be sensitive that you aren't setting students up for this constant reinforcement of praise, but you can't beat them down and ruin self-esteem by telling them that they suck all the time. A teacher who has the ability to motivate and encourage and have his/her students learn without having to say "great!" or "bad!" is a good teacher.

April 16, 2005 at 09:04 PM · Um, if you read musicalfossils.com you will find that a teacher's opinion can matter a great deal to an adult learner, and the writer explains why. Getting that out of the way, as an adult I want it to be honest and I would certainly hate a gushy, exaggerated Polka Dot Door enthusiastic tone. (Actually, I think as a kid I would have hated it too.) But if we're on the subject of feedback, it is useful to get specific feedback: work on your intonation, tempo, don't shorten the final note in each bar. Sometimes that feedback has to come with a "how" attached to it, and sometimes the fact that it doesn't come with a "how" has embedded in it a trust that I already know how to do it, which is in itself a feedback.

Emily, one of your blog entries talks about the silences and spaces between notes, the long pauses I think in a piano piece by Bartok (?) and the significance of absence and silence. I would suspect that what is not said can be as much a statement as what is said, and that silence can be as well crafted and thought out as words and demonstrations. I have a funny feeling that Buri might have something to say about this last bit, if he's up to gracing us with his presence.

April 16, 2005 at 10:01 PM · Inge, I don't have any experience teaching adult learners, and I'm sure how you would respond to them would be much different than a kid or teenager. I wasn't saying be mushy with enthusiasm, what I meant was that you want to motivate and encourage and excite which doesn't have to be done with over enthusiasm or lots of smileyness (is that a word?). I think we need to give credit to kids for being a lot smarter than people generally think they are and I definetly have students who would resent being treated as if it was a polka dot door episode. (I do admit that I loved that show as toddler though...)

April 16, 2005 at 10:24 PM · Greetings,

Inge, I"m not sure my presence constitutes 'grace' in any way shape or form ;)

However, I think you all seem pretty much in agreement. I would just add that what we are trying to do in any field of 'education' is to develop independent hnkers/leaners since 99.9 percent of your playing and practice is done away from the teacher. Thus it may be worth considering how to move away from either praise or criticism to some extent and asking the student what they thought was good or bad. It does not imply a lack of warmth or support but it is somewhat different to a lot of what is done. Nor does it exclude staements by the teache rbaout what they feel which may be a slighly diffenre thing. That is, a teacher may be deeply touched by the progress (or lack of) by a student and express with sicnerity "i really apprecitaed listening to that,' or " that passage was so beautiful it really moved me.' Perhaps there is a differenc ebetween this kind of genuine expression and setting out to be judgemental (either positively or negatively) because w eare 'teachers.'

Incidentally, posing the question 'what did you thinkmwas good or bad?' is a very powerful heuristic for fidnign out what goes on in the students head which is what we need o know to move on effectively,

Is that alright Inge :)



April 16, 2005 at 11:46 PM · Kelsey, sorry, I wasn't commenting to or reacting to anything you wrote or anyone else. I ran the various ideas past myself and thought out loud "Would I want this? Would I want that?" and then thought out loud on the screen without thinking that others might think I'm commenting on what they are saying. The image of the kids show people was in my mind, I guess. I used to hate it when I saw those people addressing the children and they would open their eyes very wide like snakes trying to hypnotise the mouse from running away, and then use "that voice". I doubt that any teacher of children uses either the hypnotic stare or "that voice". The only person I've actually seen teaching young children is Mimi Zweig, and I love her manner. When she suddenly darts off in one of the segments smacking the bow absent-mindedly onto the piano because she remembers she wants to teach something with the rod, you see little Amy and the pianist exchanging glances and a giggle as though they are used to this kind of thing - and it instantly tells you that there is a trusting and relaxed relationship among everyone concerned. That kind of thing can't be choreographed.

Buri, you wrote what I thought you would write. You've expressed some viewpoints before about creating students who would eventually become independent of their teachers but I couldn't remember quite in what vein.

Emily, I have a feeling that your one student is going through a rough time elsewhere and it's showing up in the classroom. Sometimes you can do nothing more than "be there" and sometimes you don't even know that you are having a positive impact or lightening the load. But if your student could actually talk about what's bothering her if it involves the lessons, or her practice time, or her perception of her playing that might make a huge difference.

There is that section in musicalfossils.com where Mr. (Harre?) - a piano teacher - is given a viola lesson by his friend, to show him what it feels like to be a student. He feels this incredible surge of anger at his friend during the lesson which surprises him immensely, eventually vents his anger and frustrations which he can only do BECAUSE this is his friend and within that particular atmosphere. Then, to his surprise, he starts creating a very nice viola sound because the feelings are out. (Having "venting time at the teacher" is probably NOT a good idea in real life.)

April 17, 2005 at 02:56 AM · The problem with 'Is it good/bad?' is that much of the time the student doesn't know. They'll guess, or try to gauge from your tone of voice. Also, 'good' and 'bad' are subjective terms anyway. Compared to their practice, it might be good. But to the teacher, it might be bad - etc. Something Inge said is really important, I think: telling the student *how* to fix the problem you're identifying. Always, in my book. Even if it's a physical direction which will then lead to aural understanding.

April 17, 2005 at 04:56 AM · Hi,

For me "good or bad" is qualitative and leads to negative thinking. I prefer quantitative thinking. I often ask my students if something didn't work if they know why, or if it did they know why. Then, helping them find solutions to overcome difficulties. It is better to steer students away from perfectionistic language in terms of good or bad and try to get them to think more objectively and look at what obstacles to eliminate that will help them get where they want to be. At least IMHO.


April 17, 2005 at 07:45 AM · Greetings,

I agree with both Sue and Christian. The criteria for identifying what was more or less successful muts be imbued in the student from the beginning by showing the difference between a good and a bad sound quality. The question of intonation is in there but slighltly separate since I fele it shoudl originate from within the studnet first, therefore they do have some kind of criteria implanted in them by the aural training.

What to do about the problem depends on the level of the student but the more one can ask the stduent to apply a set of internalized guidelines and the less one states directly 'move the bow neraer the bridge' the greater the depth of learning that will occur. There is a big difference between solving a problem and having an instant solution presented to one,



April 17, 2005 at 12:45 PM · Hello,

Last saturday I was on a concert organized by a kind of competition. I heard two violinists of the age of 15, who were considered to play well as they were laureates. After the break I didn't return anymore because I started to feel SO irritated by all the scratching of the bow and MIAUW-sounds every time a shift appeared and every note was 'blown up'. They couldn't make a phrase and I won't talk about all the notes out of tune and the unsatisfying vibrato. I've also been discussing on this website about sound and shifts and now I don't really mind anymore HOW you do it. I think a teacher should above all show his/her pupils what beauty is and learn how to build a musical sentence. Technique and speed come at the second place. I don't want to say it's not important, but the pupil should know every minute of his practicing, that you only need a good technique to bring out the beauty of the music. You play for a public, so why would you irritate them by playing such a beautiful pieces in an ugly way? Respect for the music!

April 17, 2005 at 03:47 PM · I didn't hate her for it, but my first teacher did something that I doubt would be tolerated these days. She would whack me on the right arm, while shouting, "Relax you ARM!!!" I guess stupid is the operative word here.

April 17, 2005 at 07:08 PM · Inge, once again, I agree so heartily with your comments. It is very important to give positive feedback to adult learners. So many of them wonder whether they'll ever be able to play since they've started so late in life. Unlike many kids, they've heard a lot of good violin/fiddle music, and they wonder why they can't make those beautiful sounds or why it takes them so long to learn something "simple," like playing notes in tune. I'm always telling my adult beginners, "This is very difficult to learn and it will take a while. You're doing fine. Don't get discouraged."

Emily, now that you know that your student is going through hard times, you may be able to help. If you can get your student to talk to you about what's going on, that will probably be more helpful than another violin lesson. I did that once for a student to whom I was teaching English. His father had just been diagnosed with cancer. We started talking about cancer in medical terms and then moved into personal terms. We spent the whole hour on this therapy and never got to the English lesson. I wasn't sure whether I should charge him for the lesson. I consulted with friends, and about half said yes and half said no, so I charged him half my usual fee. A good teacher teaches the whole person, not just the subject matter, IMO.

P.S. Emily, I told you so. (Don't be too hard on yourself. There may be something big going on in the student's life.)

April 17, 2005 at 07:12 PM · Pauline,

"A good teacher teaches the whole person, not just the subject matter, IMO."

That's very true. I find it easier to play to teachers that I learn a lot from personally than those I do not. My current teacher is not just a great teacher and a fantastic violinist, but I get on with him very well and we spend a lot of time talking about topics unrelated to the violin. That helps a lot.


April 17, 2005 at 10:05 PM · Carl, I agree that an effective teacher should have a holistic approach to teaching, the violin and music in general. However I've been in lessons which were taken up with psychoanalysis. Sometimes for a good reason, but other times I ended up thinking, hang on, can't I get this on the NHS? I think we may be back to the positive/negative thing here: just as excessive criticism of your playing can be harmful, so can criticism of your character, attitude, etc.

About music versus technique, obviously beautiful tone/music should be the ultimate goal... however, this will simply not happen without technique and knowledge of elements such as speed and how to apply it. And the earlier this study begins, the better. Much easier to ingrain recognition of a good sound in the open-string stage than at elementary or intermediate (or even advanced) level. But it's useless to simply say 'Play beautifully!' without explaining how to. It's as ineffective as shouting 'Relax!' - and I bet we've all been there.

April 17, 2005 at 09:55 PM · Sue,

Psychoanalysis is going a little too far, but friendly chat about things outside the violin (in other words, establishing a rapport between you and your teacher) helps you to feel comfortable in lessons and enjoy the process of learning, practising and playing much more. That is the problem with me and teachers (not just violin teachers) that I resent/resented; I didn't want to work as hard and I didn't enjoy what I was doing - I felt uncomfortable. Maybe that's just me... different people need different approaches.


April 17, 2005 at 10:06 PM · Yeah, I know what you mean. I always make an effort to keep up with students' 'outside lives': where they've been on holiday; how their school exams went; did they get over that cold, etc. And it does establish a rapport. Even simply asking how their week has been helps me to gauge the state of play (no pun intended) for the lesson ahead.

April 18, 2005 at 12:17 AM · Hi Emily,

My previous teacher was a concertmaster. I must say that I was nervous at every lesson, to begin with, because I'm already past 30 and am still trying to learn the ABCs of the violin. Another thing that added to that nervousness was that my teacher was a gifted violinist. This nervousness somehow makes its way into the practice room and affects how a student perceives what the teacher is saying or doing. So, when my teacher expresses a little irritation or frustration, I get a bit discouraged.

Not to say, of course, that it's wrong to express what you feel. But I guess both teacher and student have to reach a level wherein they both can go beyond such expressions and focus on the lesson itself. It takes a lot of maturity on the part of the student to be able to not be so defensive or easily offended.

The only thing I hate about a teacher is when he doesn't make it to class on time or at all. It also doesn't help if he's there but you can tell he's so tired that his patience is shortened or he's just trying to get the whole lesson over with so that he can go home.

April 18, 2005 at 12:34 AM · One thing about my current teacher i love is that she seems to get tougher as i get better. I'll get to a new level of playing and the next lesson she requires my staccato to be a little more clearer, my intonation to be a little more precise and so on. It's like she grows with me which i really enjoy. This works on another level by keeping my head from getting to big. Dont know about you guys but i go through phases where i just think i'm amazing and because i'm able to do somthing new i must have mastered it, but lol as my teacher points out it's so not the case. She just really keeps me on my toes i think.

A couple of months ago i invited one of my teachers ex students over to have a bit of a jam and go through some studies and a couple of pieces. He was a little older than me but much more advanced and it was interesting to see because of his inexperience with teaching how bad he was. He just assumed that for one everyone should have his technique, he had forgotten it's a long long process. And he had the idea that his way was the correct way. I think teachers should also be a little relaxed and open minded about things such as bow or things that differ per person.

Hmm this thread has made me slightly paranoid about my students now lol. I've only got two that my teacher was going to take but she thought that it was about time i started teaching and gave them to me. I'm only having them for the first couple of grades but i'm really enjoying it. The best thing about it is thoguh i'm new i've got my teacher to help me out if i'm having any troubles and if i'm having problems getting somthing across to the students she's always there with different ideas to use.

April 18, 2005 at 04:51 AM · My friend's "That's great!" generalization was made tongue-in-cheek, I just thought it illustrated a point about an overall negative or positive approach: the details a teacher needs to fix are the same, whether they choose to uphold the student's dignity or not.

I agree that a general, "That's great!" or "That's awful!" is completely useless!

I recently attended a parenting seminar in which the parenting expert sung the praises of something she called "descriptive praise." She said that praise like, "That's great! Super! Wonderful!" is not only garbage, it's worse. The child knows he isn't great, super or wonderful, so he thinks you are either 1. lying or 2. sadly delusional. Either scenario does not help your credibility. Instead, she said to praise very specific things: the presence of specific good behaviors and the absence of bad behaviors.

She said to heap on the descriptive praise.

I've found this to work well with not only my kids, but with my students.

One of my students, whom I inherited from another teacher, came to me with a badly out-of-wack bow arm. I kept telling him how to fix his bow arm and reminding him when it fell back into old habits. But things really started to turn around when I started noticing when the bow arm was *right*!

"I see that you played that entire scale with your bow arm in the proper position. I'm having to remind you less and less!"

That, in itself, is a reminder, but I found it to be a more effective one because it put ownership on the student, giving him credit (and responsibility) for fixing the problem.

April 18, 2005 at 09:15 AM · Hi,

I wasn't going to speak up about this, but Luke, you said "I think teachers should also be a little relaxed and open minded about things such as bow or things that differ per person."

Yes, there are variations, but a lot of bad teaching where teachers fail to teach important basics (because they can't or haven't thought about it) or fail to realize their importance and do the student a dis-service in the long run. I think that if there is one thing that a teacher SHOULD ALWAYS be a stickler about it's Basics. No one can play the violin well without the basics. Period.

My overall take as a teacher is that the important is not the good or bad, right or wrong. It's about effeciency. Know what works or doesn't, know why, explain, and get the job done. That is IMHO the most important thing and in the student's best interest.



April 18, 2005 at 05:18 PM · Buri: I would second Inge's opinion that your presence here is definitely grace-ful. I loved your comments about encouraging independent learning and the expression of genuine feelings.

Sometimes I think we can get confused about praise. If I can have some grace in this to talk about dog training again (which is just behavioral science, so don't think I am putting violin students on the level of dogs!). When we train a dog we need to mark the moment of performance when the performance is correct. That marking is any noise which the dog learns means a positive sound (first you train the dog to know that the sound is positive). So, GOOD!, is a marking, not a praise in its essence, although that association creates the meaning of praise for the student. In that sense, "praise" is absolutely necessary at ALL times. As teachers, we are marking correct behavior to play the violin well. And, alternatively, a negative marking is also necessary - that balanced with no acknowledgment at all - depending on the severity of the straying. Both types of marking pair the behavior with the reward, or lack thereof, in the mind of the student.

I see all that as different than encouragement (again not necessarily praise). Encouragement is a relational component. I know my student, I understand his/her motivations and fears, and I use my (hopefully positive) influence to build self-confidence, maturity, and a willingness to be vulnerable and take risks. This is also absolutely necessary on the part of the teacher ALL of the time.

Anyway, hope that adds a dimension to this great discussion.

Emily: I wasn't saying you were out of sorts, just thinking about myself and when I have the most trouble with students' lack of progress! :0)

Luke: I laughed at your comment about your teacher! I always joke with my students when they achieve something hard and say, "OK! Your reward for getting this is to do something harder!" Needless to say, they act like they don't think it is funny. I think it is hysterical! LOL


April 19, 2005 at 02:38 AM · Christian, did you mean basics or Basics, as in Simon Fischer?

April 19, 2005 at 04:44 AM · Totally agree with you christian i'm just saying sure teach the basics and teach them well just dont expect perfect basics. The basics take time in fact in my opinion they're the hardest things to master.

April 19, 2005 at 05:53 AM · Laurie, I like your idea of getting the student to take responsibility for correcting himself. Sometimes I repeat the same thing so many times that I wonder where the student's mind is. Can you give me any advice?

April 19, 2005 at 11:09 AM · Hi,

Sue: Know, I mean the basics of having a good setup and posture and knowledge of how the fiddle works (not Simon Fischer). Too many teachers allow, or worst teach, errors in movement.

Luke: I agree. It's the hardest thing. It takes a long time to learn if you have no help, and goes a lot faster with someone who knows and is effecient. But, it all comes down to that, and you have to pay attention to it at all times.


April 19, 2005 at 08:34 PM · Christian, I agree wholeheartedly. In my experience, the more technical - and musical - elements you throw into the equation, the more the student has to deal with, and the more falls by the wayside. If a beginner cannot draw big, whole bows and make a good sound on open strings, how can this possibly improve with the introduction of left hand technique, bowing patterns, more complex string-crossings, vibrato, etc etc? If this stuff is not ingrained from the outset, future progress will invariably be delayed by a period of backtracking to fill in the gaps. More than a few music college students play nothing but open strings through freshman year as a result.

Btw Laurie, I really go with your approach to self-help: as Galamian suggests, effective teaching is really about creating a self-sufficient student - hence a good teacher will eventually teach themselves out of a job. I find it useful to have consistent recaps on the physical elements of playing: how to adjust when grazing adjacent strings, bow distribution, first steps in addressing sight-reading, etc.

April 20, 2005 at 05:56 AM · Thanks Sue. :)

Pauline, this crazy parenting seminar I went to really opened my eyes. The expert, Noel Janis-Norton, said to never ask a child to do something more than once. Of course, the first time you ask, the direction has to be very clear, and you have to have the child's full attention. After that, though, they *know.* So she suggests, instead of saying, "BRUSH YOUR TEETH!" 25 times, asking, "What is the one other thing you need to do before bed?" Eventually they start remembering themselves, it's amazing.

She said that you only have to "teach" a task once, the rest is "training," getting them to do it all the time.

I've found that this concept has its application in teaching. Let's say the problem is a straight thumb on the bow arm. Unless it's his first lesson on bow position, chances are the student knows where the thumb is supposed to go. Instead of saying, "Bend your thumb!" you would say something instead like, "Where was your thumb?" or "What would you fix on your bow arm?" Something that makes them do the extra step of diagnosing or recognizing the problem themselves.

April 20, 2005 at 12:40 PM · That's so true. I suppose such an approach does demonstrate a certain degree of predictability, which has been suggested as a negative trait, however I often find I can simply flap a hand or tilt my head to a certain angle and my students know exactly what I'm getting at and respond accordingly. You said something about dog-training, Lisa?:)

April 20, 2005 at 02:56 PM · Yeah, to a certain degree I agree with what Laurie learned at the seminar. With good attention a learning moment can happen fast, but only in that situation specific incidence. Reinforcement has to occur over and over.

I tend to use that independent approach in the learning process as well as the reinforcement process by asking a lot of questions and seeing how far the student can get by analysis and exploration. That sets up an immediate experiential/analytical foundation that the learning can take place against.

No one can remember everything about a complicated learning session. With great concentration we usually retain about 80%, less concentration, less retention. I am always explaining that to students (especially adults) so they do not feel like they are learning the "same" thing over and over when, in fact, they are layering a new learning against the previous week's practice of remembering as much as they could about what was taught. But I do let them struggle to remember by asking questions before I'll teach something again. I want to make sure I've exhausted their ability to try their best before I repeat anything. The brain is a "muscle" too and many people don't learn HOW to exercise it.

It took me a long time to get as extreme in this approach as I am now because it takes much longer (but the learning is far more permanent). I spent many a year trying to stuff things into my students way too quickly.


July 21, 2005 at 04:08 PM · Interesting thread

I only have a few pet peeves of some of the previous teachers I've had

studied with

-Assigning repetoire which I don't like to play, or not letting me pick the pieces I like

-Not telling me beforehand that they will be traveling

-Impossible to call or reach, to reschedule lessons

-Keep other students longer before me, or let me out earlier without any reason.

-Cancel lessons frequently

-Having an ego problem, or demonstrating passages in a manner of showing off, or just plain thinking they are superior.

July 21, 2005 at 04:39 PM · I once had a teacher who taught 2 intro to music courses and 8-9 private violin students on the same day. I was her last student those nights! She would always complain how bad of a day she was having and how she just can't wait until the day was over! During the lesson, she would just sit there and eat dinner while I played for her, not offering much feedback except "play louder!" Oftentimes she bragged about who she has played with, where she has played, etc by telling me stories that really had no point except to say "I played in Carnegie Hall" or "I studied with Itzhak Perlman." She barely brought her violin to lessons and in fact, sometimes used mine to demonstrate passages! Of course I didn't study with her for too long!

July 21, 2005 at 05:01 PM · That's terrible Norelle. You definately didn't deserve that.

Every teacher I've had always gives their undevided attention.

July 22, 2005 at 08:43 PM · -Lack of time

-Letting me play with bad intonation, posture and other things

-Not pushing me enough

-Underestimating me

-lying to me consistently

-not answering my questions frankly

-bragging about other students

No wonder I am behind and a terrible violinist. I've had no so good teachers ever until now.

July 22, 2005 at 10:34 PM · Out of curiousity,

how did your teachers lie to you?

August 14, 2005 at 07:09 PM · What I disliked most was that my teachers didn't push me far enough. They all pretty much assumed that I would never become a violinist, so they just taught me the notes/rhythms/etc without the *feel* of the music, you know?

August 15, 2005 at 02:10 AM · And from the other side, 'feel it within yourself' should never be the answer given to a student who's not yet mastered the mechanical fundamentals of the instrument. The violin is enough of an enigma when you are starting out and where concrete definitions and practical example can be applied, they should be.

August 15, 2005 at 03:26 AM · The real question is this: are you a musician or a teacher? I have found 99% of so-called teachers of a musicial instrument are not teachers: they are musicians trying to teach to augment their personal incomes. Also, I found 99% of trained teachers not to be musicians. Extremely rarely have I found a person anywhere who is both a natural musician and natural teacher.

For a so-called difficult child student, you, the teacher, must be first a teacher, and musician second. If you have no training in teaching children, you and the student will become very frustrated. So, either you get some training, or you recognise your limitations and politely decline the student.

For the mature student, or serious student, you can be first the musician. Serious students will have the innate discipline and interest to permit you to be strict, and uncompromising. Excellence demands such.

But, no matter which student you have, positive reinforcement is always better than negative. Every student needs your support, and you should show you care about them. Your student today could well become your younger friend later in life. A positive, caring attitude always gains more, for the student and for you.

A teacher is a leader, a shaper of minds and souls. It's a big responsibility. Good luck!

August 15, 2005 at 08:41 AM · Well thought opinion, Ron.

August 15, 2005 at 01:05 PM · The things I hated about my teacher(s) are also the the things I have come to appreciate later in life.

Usually the things I hated were in an orchestra environment, not during private lesson though. I can remember seeing a baton fly across a few peoples heads on occasion, followed by solo performances from the out of tune perpetrators. But rest assured, everyone went home and made sure they practiced their parts by the time all was said and done.

August 16, 2005 at 04:28 PM · Well, I guess this topic has pretty much been completed, but I just wanted to answer the other wording to this question...what do you love most about your teacher?

My current teacher is the best. I love her dearly. She maintains the balance of a very close friend and a teacher very well. She aims for perfection, but keeps me up-beat, too. She has goals for me for the future, and keeps reminding me of them. She listens very carefully to what I have to say. She thinks about me throughout the week, and sometimes calls me to talk to me about my music and stuff.

I guess I just wanted to brag about my wonderful teacher!

August 17, 2005 at 01:05 AM ·

August 27, 2005 at 05:00 AM · I feel quite lucky in my teacher's I've had over the years after reading these posts. I don't have too much to complain about. The only thing that I never liked was when my teacher and I did not have fun in a lesson.

Even the critisism I got on my intonation, technique, etc... was fun. One lesson a few months ago, I made what we called a "frog" note (vs. a wolf). It really did sound like a croaking dying frog. "Can you make that sound again?" she asked. I said "Let's see!". Low and behold, I did it. She tried and did it herself as well. She then handed my instrument back and said "Well, that is what you DO NOT want to do during a solo!"

We laughed so hard our sides hurt and tears were streaming down our faces. I never made the same frog sound ever again.

PS - that *frog note* was an F on the C string (viola). I can still do it on purpose every once in a while for the humor factor.

August 28, 2005 at 09:58 AM · My little Thou Shalt Not list is due entirely to encountering one teacher who did every single one of the following:

1) Thou Shalt Not needlessly take apart a student's technique, leaving them incapable of playing anything except specialty exercises. Thou Shalt Know this to be a red-flag of those exercises' probably limited benefit, and Thou Shalt doubt the clarity of thy explanations if a student has to do them for more than a week or two.

2) Thou Shalt Not have a student playing some possibly useful exercises without also giving some pieces or etudes which incorporate those exercises into actual playing.

3) Thou Shalt Not deconstruct the technique of a highly advanced student over the age of eighteen or so who is considering a professional career. Not unless thou canst guarantee reconstruction in a manner of weeks or a month at most. Besides, if they can play well with whatever technique they currently have, why fix something that's not broken? And if it's broken by then, art thou sure that there's any fixing possible that demands, essentially, that the student throw away the preceding decade and start over?

4) Thou Shalt Not be unspecific. It's lovely to know what Mozart was like, but how is the anecdote thou art relating about his personality going to SPECIFICALLY impact the way you want the student to play his works? If thou must critique, do thy utmost to explain what is concretely wrong and, in plodding, prosaic terms, how it can be made all Good and Shiny again.

5) Thou Shalt Not barrage students with simply cruel or destructive statements. "Take up a different profession" is not a constructive statement. "That was terrible, and here is why and here is how it can be fixed" is harsh, but potentially honest and definitely constructive. Avoid the former. Don't fear the latter.

6) When working with serious, career-minded players, THOU SHALT NOT make promises of professional assistance and networking which thou hast no intention or ability to keep.

And celery? It's Anathema. Yes, indeed. Along with boiled chicken. Everything else is cool, though.

(Wouldn't that be awesome, if God handed Moses a little Post-It like that stuck to the tablets??)

August 28, 2005 at 01:32 PM · Emil, you should get insomnia more often. I like your celery comment, and I plan on stealing it. You also need four more commandments.

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Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Jargar Strings



Violin Lab



Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine