I need some teaching advice for a stubborn student.

July 6, 2005 at 05:59 AM · I have a 16 year old female student.

She refuses to play forte. She hates whatever I assign her to play, and rarely practices.

I canNOT get her to play loud. She plays everything mp-mf and says she doesn't like playing loud.

In her piece, "Meditation" by Massenet, there are some fortes. I explained that this is what Massenet wrote, and that she should have more of a range of dynamics. She won't.

I tried having her play just ONE note loud. I got maybe a mp out of her. That's it, I just don't know what else to say to get her to play out. She won't.

Can anyone offer some advice?

Replies (41)

July 6, 2005 at 06:43 AM · I'm not a teacher but I'm curious, is she unwilling to play forte, or that she doesn't KNOW how to play forte? It may sound silly to say that she doesn't know how to play loud, but up to recently, I couldn't play forte very well and I'm 16 too. My new and current teacher made me play open strings for practically the whole time on our first class (1 hour) because she wanted me to play different dynamics.

You could try playing the Meditation using her style, and then play it again with the proper dynamics, which will obviously sound better, and ask her opinion, make her talk about it.

Maybe your student doesn't really know how to play forte and she's covering up by saying that she doesn't 'like' how it sounds. Teenageers ;)

July 6, 2005 at 07:31 AM · Hi Catherine,

some ideas which you might try:

  • Have her use a practice mute - then she can "mechanically" play forte without having the excuse "I don't like the sound of it".
  • Have her use earplugs - same effect as the one above with a different method
  • If you've got Leopold Mozart's violin method, there's a nice quote in it. He advocates - like you - that a student should always be advised to play with a "manly" - nowadays we would probably use "self-confident" tone production. Then he tells about some self-proclaimed virtuosi who will play anything with the bow barely touching the string, thus covering their incompetence. "If they have to play with a strong tone all their art vanishes".
  • Is it only when she plays alone (self-consciousness, insecurity) our also when you play along with her?
  • In public speaking courses, you learn that to pretend to talk to a person in the last tier of seats in order to reach the proper projection

"She hates everything I give her" - does madam have any suggestions of her own that might suit her particular tastes or is she also mute when you ask her what she would like (my guess).

As a last resort, stop wasting your time with her and throw her out.

Wishing you the best of luck, Juergen

July 6, 2005 at 08:15 AM · Does she feel the loud dynamics hurt her ears? Perhaps she is very self-conscious and doesn't want people to hear her...does anyone at home discourage her when she practices? IS she being forced to play violin and is acting out?

She is adult enough for you to have a serious conversation with her about what she wants with the violin and why she plays violin. Please try this before you toss her out of your studio.

July 6, 2005 at 11:19 AM · We can't get past the first 3 lines of Meditation anyway. I didn't teach her for 2 weeks and when I returned she said she had only practiced maybe twice. I tell her to start playing, but she just stands there and stares at the music and doesn't want to play unless I also do too. I was like "This is a solo piece, and you won't be playing this with me so let's see what you can do on your own" etc, but that doesn't work, either.

So then I try playing with her, demonstrating a nice forte, and tell her to try....nothing.

And once she got mad and said she (I'm not sure, hit her violin, or cracked the back on an object or something). I think I should ask her if she really doesn't want to play first. And then if she does, tell her that I am the teacher and if she doesn't want to do what I want her to do, then she should find another teacher.

The only problem is her family is poor and can't really afford more music--She said buying Suzuki Book 3 or 4 would be too much. argh.....

And she doesn't know enough music to suggest anything she would like to play.

I cut my lesson fee in half for her, too.

I'll try some of those ideas that you guys listed above and see what happens...

July 6, 2005 at 12:25 PM · I used to teach in a rather impoverished town where a lot of the houses had dirt floors...litterally. (I was the school music director) These kids tended to act out in odd ways out of frustration either from the stress of being next to homeless or family situations at home-- often families were less than supportive of something 'frivilous' such as music when they have to worry about paying rent and eating. Your student's behavior (nearly breaking the violin in two) from anger is not normal when combined with her seemingly 'I could care less' attitude about practicing or apparent fear of playing alone. Something sounds out of place....I hope I am wrong, but maybe there is a whole lot more to this story at home?

July 6, 2005 at 12:42 PM · Perhaps I'm less kind than everyone here, but there comes a point where this kind of student will do nothing but suck your energy. It's like sticking your finger in an energy sucker for the entirety of the lesson. Am I correct in assuming that you're drained after the lesson and filled with negative energy? If so, then protect yourself. Don't teach her anymore. What's the point? Surround yourself with students that are willing and eager to learn. Be the kind of teacher you want to be, no compromises, and the kind of students you want will come to you.

July 6, 2005 at 01:09 PM · Also, maybe you need to make the student understand that if she doesn't care to listen to you, practice, etc., she is wasting her time and yours also! You should probably set some goals and deadlines! Teaching students like that can also be very discouraging and non-rewarding for the teacher!

Have you told the parents about your concerns?

"Be the kind of teacher you want to be, no compromises, and the kind of students you want will come to you."

I agree, I have students that travel over 40 miles to come and study with me. I admire the effort my kids put into learning the violin! That is also very rewarding to me as a teacher and a great reminder of why we also love to teach the violin! I always offer the first lesson for free to give the student and teacher (me) the chance to see if "I am the right teacher" for the job. 99% of times I can recognize a student that doesn't practice and/or won't be worth my time!

Yes, I'm tough but I prefer to spend my brain cells on students who want to learn!




July 6, 2005 at 05:55 PM · If money is an issue, is she paying for her own lessons or are Mom and Dad paying? You might have a talk with her parents about it, if that's appropriate. Have her take over payment -- it sounds like, if you've halved your fee, she should be able to afford it with a part-time job. And/or, suggest that she only schedule a lesson when she's practiced at least three times in the week.

July 6, 2005 at 07:17 PM · It sounds like she probably isn't living a luxurious life of excess... I might venture to guess she doesn't have a lot of exposure to violin or to "classical" music in general. It might be a bit unorthodox, but what if you spent a couple lessons just LISTENING to music? Hearing wonderful, violinistic playing might do something to inspire her, and give her a better idea of exactly what the goal of this whole violin endeavor is. (Or, if she's a very trustworthy sort, lend some recordings to listen to at home.) I've also had those annoying students who act out like this because they really have no interest in playing violin, it's just something their parents are making them do. I had one who tried everything he could think of to break his violin (a clumsy student instrument built like a brick). He finally succeeded by running it over with his bike (he never could explain how it "accidentally" got out of the case before he "accidentally" ran over it as he "jumped off the curb." (Thankfully, his parents wouldn't buy him a new one and he had to quit...) And then there are those students who are truly afraid to play alone (or loudly). I liked the "playing forte with a practice mute" idea mentioned above, I think I'll try that one out myself. You might encourage her to try making loud noises with the instrument when she's home alone and no one can hear her. If she gets used to that then you can work on bringing it out in front of someone. I've had super-shy students who were afraid to make a lot of noise and, always having been an extremely quiet introvert myself, I share with them that the violin is the one place where I can really "let it all out" without having to use my voice. Believe it or not, it worked for at least 2 past students.

Just some random thoughts...

'Erie (-:

July 6, 2005 at 07:54 PM · Heres what I think (as a student)-

In lessons (not so much of a problem in orch), I have a hard time playing forte. And, I think this is because I don't like to make mistakes in front of people. Once I know how to play what ever I happen to be working on, I can usually bring up the fortes. This is less of a problem for me when I'm playing with other people (such as orch or if my teacher is playing too).

Sorry if this wasn't much help


July 6, 2005 at 09:04 PM · Hmmm..

Well a mistake is a mistake, whether it's forte or piano. When it's just me and her, I'll notice it regardless of the volume.

I think I'll discuss the reasons WHY she wants to take violin lessons, then doesn't practice.

If she insists she wants to continue, I'll do what I do to my beginners...I give them a "special listening" assignment for the week. Once a week they have to listen to a classical work, learn the title, composers, and discuss what they liked about it with me at the beginning of their lessons. Maybe this way she will be more exposed to classical music. Problem...she can't afford any music or CDs. I'd copy some for her, but seriously, I've been putting more effort than her into her lessons, and I dont' want to put any more in until she gives some.

July 6, 2005 at 11:21 PM · It sounds like she is feeling very insecure about her playing. I would definitely have a frank discussion about what is bothering her. She may not know what is bothering her, but I have noticed that 99% of the time people don't want to practice or play something because it makes them uncomfortable. If your student does not live in a single family home, she may be forced to practice quietly all the time. A practice mute could be the answer. When one of my students has finacial problems, I allow them to check out materials from my "library" and return them later, once they can afford their own. Just like a library, they must pay to replace any lost or damaged item. This takes some of the effort away for me, of copying and making recordings, etc.

July 7, 2005 at 02:37 AM · I like the idea of letting her listen to alot of music and find out what she likes. if her parents can't afford to buy the music maybe you could make some xeroxes for her to use. I hope you won't give up on her yet. My teacher loans me all kinds of books and cds to read and listen to. It really inspires me. I like the idea of listening to music with her and analyzing it at a lesson if she didn't practice.

Also she could look at the video of the teenager playing Meditation on the violinmasterclass.com website. (Click on performances) Maybe if she sees other teenagers playing the violin it will inspire her.

July 7, 2005 at 06:19 PM · Another way to get her playing more loudly might be to get her to play with other people who do play out. I always thought I played loudly enough until I played 2nd violin to a woman who really makes a *lot* of sound (good sound!). Finally I got over my shyness (mostly ;)).

July 7, 2005 at 10:54 PM · Heh...I have a hard time playing forte...but still I try. I'm thinking it's because in my apartment, I'm afraid of other people hearing me so I don't play quite as loud. Which got me thinking...

Do you think maybe at home she's afraid of people hearing her? Or any place else for that matter? Like she feels intimidated or something?

Sorry if this kind of thing has already been discussed.

July 8, 2005 at 12:35 AM · Oh m-gosh, I had a teenage student just like you described, not too long ago. She had actually been taking lessons with me for a few years, slowly working her way through to Suzuki Book 3 or something... I, too, eased my rate a bit, and tried to be entirely flexible with my schedule for her. And she showed some promise (nothing great, but at least she could read music and play in tune).

And she could play soft things beautifully. But whenever it came to a mf or a f, she would just keep playing soft, way out by the tip...

I tried, taping off portions of her bow to get her away from the tip so much; having her sing her line (she actually cried and begged me no); she couldn't tell me what pieces she wanted to play, but even if I guessed and brought out something totally fun, it would be the same problems...

She really seemed to enjoy playing for a while, and she did actually practice (well, some weeks were better than others...) BUT everytime I came over to teach her, she immediately drove her family either outside or to the back of the house so they wouldn't hear her play! I did manage to get a couple recitals out of her, though....

Anywayz, she finally hit a block. She went to lessons every other week, then once a month, then.... well, the situation kinda took care of itself. It was such a shame, really. But, obviously, there was nothing more I could do for her. She does have other activities she's involved in, like dance. And, who knows, maybe she'll come back to the violin when she's matured a bit...

I will add, too, that, even though I was very attatched to her, I am glad I'm not being drained any more....(the lessons tended to be more frustration than otherwise...)

July 8, 2005 at 05:02 AM · I sounds to me like there's a strong, overbearing parent or authority figure in her life and she's passively (or not so passively!!) resisting what's being expected of her. A student with music in her soul will be driven to play on her own without force or humiliation, both of which may be happening to her. If she feels incapable in general, she's not going to put herself in a position to be further humilated at a violin lesson because she makes errors. Things happen to kids, especially at school but sometimes at home, that cause their light to go out early on, and they refuse to take risks or make themselves vulnerable.

You can't fix this child. You can be warm and welcoming and give her a safe place to be, but she may never "play out" because she just can't...

You might try forgetting the volume issue and work with her on sounding point, bow speed, bow pressure, etc. Ex: "I want you to play this piece close to the bridge with a fast bow. See how much your strings can vibrate...Wow! Your instrument really vibrates. Listen to mine vibrate...What do you think? Let's play that line together and see what it sounds like when we both play with a fast bow close to the bridge. Can you feel the vibrations in your body? Where do you feel them...etc."

Does she have physical features that naturally enhance her facility? Long fingers? Graceful hands? Strong muscles? Mention them..."You have those great violin fingers. I have so many students who don't have fingers like that and they struggle reaching some notes. You are really lucky." Or "You have so much strength in your bow arm. You're lucky...Some violinists are really small people and have a hard time making a gutsy sound..." Or whatever.

Best wishes!

July 8, 2005 at 05:27 AM · Catherine wrote:

"She refuses to play forte. She hates whatever I assign her to play, and rarely practices."

To become a violinist requires enthusiasm, dedication, reverence for music and the violin, and discipline. If she had *one* of these qualities there *might* be some possibility of cultivating the others. Since she apparently has none of them, not one!, it would seem that she ought not be taking violin lessons. I agree with William Wolcott's post above. Also see: http://www.psychpage.com/learning/library/person/pa.html

July 8, 2005 at 01:00 PM · Peggy, your suggestion is interesting. Maybe if she doesn't hear the words "forte, loud, or volume" I can get her to do it by saying "fast bow closer to the bridge."

She doesn't want to be a violinist, she's going into a completely different subject, but just taking lessons because....she wanted to?

July 8, 2005 at 01:54 PM · Catherine,

When I used the phrase: "to become a violinist". I didn't mean "to develop to professional level", I meant to have a significant relationship with the violin, a relationship to the instrument which merits that the person receive violin lessons. A student for whom the lesson is a passive experience, like getting a haircut, one in which the student brings no effort and preparation to the lesson, should not have violin lessons, in my opinion. If you give lessons to a student who should not have lessons, you undermine your own self esteem.

July 8, 2005 at 02:28 PM · I'm no expert, but perhaps even avoid saying things like "fast bow" or "forte" -- all of which can be variously interpreted. Perhaps you might focus on the precise amount of bow you want used on a note or group of notes. Maybe walk through an entire passage with your pencil and label -- A, B1-B2, C1-2-3, D1-2-3-4, etc. It's clear and indisputable, and if she does it, she'll get a fast bow in the right bits, which means she'll risk achieving forte whether she wants to or not. At least that's how it works in my imagination.

Just my 2 cents. What do you think?

July 8, 2005 at 02:34 PM · You described an eleven-year-old me, Catherine.

Chances are very good that she plays forte when she's sure she's alone. It's kind of like when a student first experiments with vibrato (although it sounds like it's been longer with your student). They don't like to be told they're doing it wrong, so they try to get it on their own.

What you can do is try to make her feel like you aren't paying attention. Google random words online. Make her feel alone. Talk a minimum amount. This may actually make her feel more comfortable (it worked on me).

When she lets herself get into the song, you'll know. Let her do that for a while then start to appear to pay more attention. Don't criticize too much at first and be sure to use positive comments. then ease her into the real world and help her out.

After a few reclusive lessons, try to bring things back to normal.

I just think she's afraid of doing it wrong but this may be blocking her from doing it right.

As for the not practicing, i just think she feels discouraged or is using it as an excuse for not sounding perfect.

July 10, 2005 at 09:21 PM · I don't think "throwing her out" would be the humanly thing to do. She doesn't like practice, but does she like violin? Make her be in love with the violin. The fact that she doesn't want to develop a carrer based on music means the lessons should be something done for pleasure.

Does she had any other teachers? This is important. It could be something about a former teacher. But if you built her up from zero, than it is more complicated. Anyway, you have to find a way to make her enjoy music. I am not literally teaching, but I am confronting to teaching problems every day. And the esential, if she does music from pleasure and not professionally, is the dedication. Even if sounds like a cliche, this may depend on you.

July 10, 2005 at 11:11 PM · I'm not surprised at the get rid of her attitude. As far as sucking the vitals from your soul and leaving you in a formless heap goes, well, anything can do that with the wrong attitude in place. You're working for her really, so after you've made it clear what you'd like her to do, meet her on her own terms and help her play a beautiful mp.

Teach her various styles of music, if you know them. She doesn't want to play the Tchaikovsky concerto, and that's fine.

Another thing, assuming she does like classical music, are you sure you know what goes into playing loud? Maybe you're able to do it naturally. She might be instinctively refusing to follow bad advice.

July 10, 2005 at 11:07 PM · This discussion is very close to a discussion about parenting. (I suppose that many discussions about teaching are close to being discussions about parenting.) I don't believe that you raise happy children by requiring nothing of them. Nor do you raise morally upright children by telling them that every behavior is acceptable. The same goes for raising violinists! Children and violinists need to be supported, nurtured and encouraged, but they don't blossom well without right attitudes and behaviors being required of them.

July 10, 2005 at 11:24 PM · I might allow a wider range of acceptable morality. There's more than one good religion. Not to carry the analogy too far... :)

July 11, 2005 at 02:23 AM · "She hates whatever I assign her to play, and rarely practices."

Based on this statement, this goes beyond playing forte. Believe me, if the student wanted to play forte, she would learn how, period.

This is about attitude. We can all try and guess why the student has a bad attitude; family life, abuse, neglect, drugs, cutting, etc.

In the meantime, ask yourself this: Would you surround yourself with friends that have a horrible attitude? Would you study with a teacher that had a horrible attitude?

Then why teach a student with a horrible attitude?

Yes, it's possible she can change. If that's the route you want to take, great. Then concentrate on the root of the problem: attitude.

Did you tell her that her attitude is poor? Did you ask her why? Maybe she'll tell you.

I don't care if she wants to be Heifetz or if she just wants to play for fun. Playing the violin is a gift, a privelege, an art. It needs to be respected, regardless of the level. And by the statement Catherine wrote, she (the student) does not seem to have respect for the instrument, her teacher, or the process of playing.

July 11, 2005 at 02:53 AM · "I'm not surprised at the get rid of her attitude."

Jim, that's not an attitude. That's sound judgement based on several years of experience, and statements made at the top of the thread. The "attitude" lies with the student.

Look, I'm a huge fan of the Karate Kid. I love the student/teacher relationship between Mr. Miagi and Daniel. ANd yes, Daniel had a bad attitude BEFORE he started studying karate. But when he studied with Miagi, he did everything Miagi asked him to do, no questions.

I guess I see this situation a little differently. I see a student with no desire and a bad attitude. Again, I could be wrong (there's no way to know for sure without seeing her). This is based soley on the opening statements.

There was a line in The Karate Kid where Miagi says, "No such thing as a bad student, only bad teacher..."

I agree. www.dictionary.com defines "student" as follows:

1. One who is enrolled or attends classes at a school, college, or university.


a. One who studies something: a student of contemporary dance.

b. An attentive observer: a student of world affairs.

I doubt this student "studies" the violin, and I highly doubt this student is an attentive observer. I don't believe this student is even a "student".

You cannot make someone love music. You cannot make someone love anything.

"you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him/her drink."

July 11, 2005 at 02:48 AM · You're assuming things about her and jumping to negative conclusions. Your statememt that she doesn't love music gives that trait away. A passing thought, some things that seem like morality are actually a substitute for it. We need to pay back the magnanimity that from time to time we've all been the beneficiary of.

July 11, 2005 at 04:00 AM · "She hates whatever I assign her to play, and rarely practices."

I'm not jumping anywhere. I'm just giving my opinion. Take it or leave it.

I never said she doesn't love music.

July 11, 2005 at 04:07 AM · Ok, I'll leave it ;)

July 11, 2005 at 04:15 PM · Many teachers, including myself, have a very hard time just getting rid of a student when trouble arises. For one thing, the problem might lie with the teacher and not necessarily the student. If we just fire all of our difficult students, do we ever really learn anything about our teaching? Do we ever improve, or do we just stubbornly believe that we are perfect seasoned professionals with nothing else to gain? Personally, I don't back away from a challenging student, because there is SO much I have yet to learn about teaching.

If there is one valuable thing I learned in my graduate coursework, it is that children rarely have behavioral problems simply because of a "bad attitude." The problem always goes deeper than that.

July 11, 2005 at 03:51 PM · I agree with Keri. Difficult students can be our chance to be better teachers.

I had a student once with ADHD...real bad. He was able to pick up the cello and do anything I asked however...when I could get his attention that is. So instead of tossing him out of my class because he was a constant behavior issue, I had to learn to be a better teacher. I learned about pacing my lessons to keep his attention but still work on songs we learned weeks ago, giving him little goals that were perhaps different than the rest of the class, and us both learning where the boundaries were before frustration or tempers flared.

July 11, 2005 at 04:14 PM · "He was able to pick up the cello and do anything I asked however"

That still indicates a desire to learn.

Hating everything you're assigned and rarely practicing is a different matter all together.

I don't back down from teaching challenges either, provided they're real teaching challenges. I guess I just have some prerequisites, namely a student with the desire to learn, and the respect to do what I ask. Otherwise, in my opinion, it's a waste of time for everyone.

Hating and refusing and rarely practicing are huge statements to me.

If an athlete in virtually any sport shows up with a bad attitude, rarely practices, and refuses to do anything the coach says and hates everything the coach tells him/her to do, guess what? They're off the team. And that's the way it should be.

July 12, 2005 at 08:42 PM · A long time ago, I knew a gentle, highly respected music teacher who had a big poster in his studio. The poster said, "Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig." It got the message across--all of us tried hard not to be "pigs."

July 12, 2005 at 09:04 PM · Oh my goodness, I really agree with what almost everyone has said her. It sounds like you're in a tough situation. Wow. Definately you need to find what motivates her.

1) You could say, "Do you want to play the violin? If you do, why? If you don't, what would you rather do? Are you being coerced by your parents to do it? If so, you need to talk to them and tell them how you feel."

2) There are a lot of free ways to learn about music and violin. Libraries are great places to get recordings of awesome violinists. If they (your student's family) have internet access (also available at most libraries), you could look on Violinist.com (of course, you wouldn't want her to, after this :) and look up in google all sorts of violin terms. You don't want her to just play through music just to do it. Have her do research on Massenet (since that's what she's studying right now) and learn information about him.

3. As for the forte...if you can, have her use the entire bow. Have her picture that her bow is on a string connected to the ceiling-it's on a pully and it gently pulls the bow up, and the gravity pulls the bow down.

4. I'm only 16, so I'm not really sure about this comment---take it with a grain of salt: but do you think the Meditation is too difficult for her? I've been studying violin for five years...(playing Bach Solo's, etc...) and I've just about got the Meditation prepared...But maybe it would be a better experience if you had her wait.

5. Above all, don't sacrifice too much of your own time for a student who won't work out. Mrs. Teuful, a teacher of mine, said that she knows that there are students who just won't work out. So, doon't waste your time on her if she has absolutely no will.

July 12, 2005 at 10:06 PM · Possibly two unrelated issues going on with the student:

1. Hating everything you assign & not practicing.

2. Not wanting to play loudly.

#1: Have you tried figuring out what types of music fill her soul? Is she maybe more into waltzes, or fiddle (Celtic, Bluegrass...), jazz, folk. I'm not that crazy about many standard pieces my teacher assigns. (Including Meditation!, which I've only stuck with since it's one of the "must play" pieces.) I take lessons for my personal enrichment & enjoyment, so I really don't want to spend weeks on a piece I don't respond to on some personal level. I love Mozart, Telemann, Bach, Vivaldi... so I don't mind putting lots of effort into trying to learn them. I love variety and I love exploring other types of music. I don't want to waste my time on pieces that are assigned just because they're the normal progression for a classical student to learn. (Formula learning rather than individual.)

#2: Playing forte. Does she speak in a regular voice? Does she raise her voice? I once taught a fourth grade girl who never spoke above a whisper. She seemed incapable of making an audible noise that carried any distance. For at least 5 years she whispered. From what I could tell most people didn't hassle her about speaking up. By 15 she was speaking pretty normally. As a young woman who recently graduated from college with top honors, she's a natural speaker at ease giving excellent speeches. I think she was able to come into her own because no one pushed/forced her but instead her parents & teachers believed in her, liked her, and encouraged her.

Is she wanting to perform for others? Does she plan to major in music? Why is she taking lessons? If it's for her own ability than I wouldn't hassle her at this time about dynamics. Let her come into them when she's ready.

As others here have mentioned, there's probably stuff going on at home that is weighing heavy. It'd be good to schedule time just to have a coke and a long chat & see if she opens up to you.

I wish you well. WJ

July 12, 2005 at 10:18 PM · Hi everyone. Thanks for the suggestions. I wasn't able to get online these past few days, so I've been catching up.

We had a little talk about things...after she said "I can't" when trying to start the Meditation about 10 times.

She just doesn't like ANYONE to hear her play/practice...and there's no where at home where she can go where no one can hear her. Yes, there's some attitude...but I think a difficult student can make me a better teacher, then just dismissing her immediately.

I told her to take a week or two to think about whether she really wants violin lessons...maybe listen to some recordings (to persuade her to continue, of course!), and get back to me. Maybe we can start fresh then, at a location where there aren't other people around, some new music.

July 13, 2005 at 09:58 PM · Cahterine,

I read most of the responses from everyone on how to deal with this reluctant student. What astonishes me is how overly focused folks seem to be on literature (playing pieces). What ever happened to improvising your own music? If she improvizes her own thoughts, she need never play forte, especially if she doesn't intend a forte. Try thinking outside the box. You can read the two articles I have written on getting started improvising at www.musicalratio.com. Most musicians who are normally petrified to improvise have found my article liberating. It takes the point of view that learning to improvise is as natural as learning to talk.

Also, have a frank talk with her about the quality of her violin. Poor quality sound has an incredibly damping effect on the desire to play music, especially if the musician is actually listening. Too often the poor quality of sound a musician must tolerate in their instrument causes her to stop listening...a really negative habit for any musician to acquire, and one which too many already have acquired without knowing it.

Hating hearing your own mistakes is a real inhibitor to practicing. I know, I lived that. Mistakes are either your best friends or your worst enemies. People who embrace their mistakes and learn and profit from the making of them become the most successful people in the world. Those who shun and hide from their mistakes and treat them as their worst enemy rarely ever get beyond them. They are condemned to repeat their mistakes over and over again. The trick is be scientific. Study mistakes and analyze why they are happening in order to figure out ways of not making them.

Hope this helps.

July 13, 2005 at 10:40 PM · Thanks--I'll check out the articles.

Yes--the instrument could be much better. It's hard when you teach a student that really doesn't have any money to buy or rent a better instrument, or buy music or CDs. I suggested she get a job.

I'm already cutting my fee in half.

July 16, 2005 at 07:22 PM · This is very noble, Catherine. Many people would wish to have a teacher that thinks like you.

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JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Philharmonic
Los Angeles Philharmonic

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Classic Violin Olympus

Coltman Chamber Music Competition

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

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