One year progress report (or what a difference a teacher can make)

May 9, 2018, 4:22 PM · It's been about a year since I had my first violin lesson. For some background, I had never touched a violin before, although I was a professional trombonist in my youth and have a MMus in Composition. So I started with a good knowledge of music, a well-developed ear, and not much else.

It was difficult to find a teacher at first, even though I'm in a medium-sized city. Not knowing if I'd stick it out, I didn't want to sign up for a full semester's worth of lessons, which ruled out the music school where my wife teaches flute. I'm an adult (chronologically),and many teachers don't want to teach adults. But I found a teacher, rented a beginner Scott Cao violin, and got started.

At my first lesson, the teacher looked over my instrument. Showed me how to hold it and how to hold the bow. Then we went through the Doflein method. Unfortunately, he did little else for technique. I don't want to say anything bad about the teacher - he's a nice guy and I'm sure he's good for beginners who can't read music, but from then on all he would do in lessons was check off pages I'd played and listen for wrong notes. If I had a question about bowing or fingering he'd just ask me to play something again, and if I got through it he'd say it was fine for now. I had asked often about what I could do to improve my bowing, but was told it was okay (although I could hear otherwise).

Around the New Year, I told some friends I was taking violin lessons. They asked what I was using for a violin, and I told them I was renting one. They said they had one at home that hadn't been used since their son (now a college grad) had been in middle school, and I was free to borrow it if I wanted. Oh, and by the way, it's a French Mirecourt violin that had been in their family for 140 years! Lucky me.

Over the winter I had to take a break due to some minor surgery I was having. When I got back on my feet, I searched for a new teacher. At my very first lesson, I could tell she was a much better fit for me. All she did at my first lesson was correct the way I was holding the violin, suggest a much better chin rest, correct my bow hold, and correct my L.H. position. That much information could be overwhelming to some people, but she thought I could handle it. She's continued to work on those technical issues, plus introduce me to shifting positions. We certainly don't move through material as quickly as my previous teacher, and I have to be more self-directed in practicing scales and etudes on my own. But I've gotten more of the type of help I was seeking in four lessons with her than in months with the previous teacher.

So to other beginners out there, just like you may need to try a few instruments before you find what you like, it certainly could be the same for teachers. A good teacher might not be a good teacher for you.

Replies (3)

May 9, 2018, 4:59 PM · First, "good on you", Madeye. Having a solid music background certainly helps, but so many people (adults, chronologically), would rather not start a new instrument. So, hats off to you.

Second, I pick up on a point you made in passing: many teachers don't want to teach adults.

I have found this to be the case, too. And, I was warned about it some years ago. The very skilled, helpful man who sold me my first violin said exactly that.

But why?

May 9, 2018, 5:13 PM · If you want to know why, there's a whole bunch of discussion board threads on this. Sometimes, you'll find a great teacher on the first try (like I did), but for some, it takes multiple chances. Most people don't start shifting this early, but if you can do it, do it. Congratulations, and keep working!
May 10, 2018, 10:40 AM · Congratulations on continuing and finding a new teacher that helps you more.

I think we can sometimes outgrow a teacher, or flourish better with variety or different approaches. Some are fortunate to find even one good teacher. Finding a second you like is even better!

My experiences haven't been one teacher was better. More like they use different approaches. These approaches can make us a better rounded player.I have been fortunate to share a musical style interest with my teachers.

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