how to take a lesson
I am afraid this might seem like a dumb question. I browsed other threads to see if this has been discussed before, and didn't really find anything...so I will ask what might seem obvious to others.
How do advanced players, post-high school, prepare for lessons?
When beginning a new piece, do you have it all the way learned by the time you bring it to the lesson? Do you play it through during the lesson or do you ask for help in specific spots with specific things? (or some of both)? How much do you direct this, how much does the teacher direct this?
How do you work on technique in the lesson? Do you bring up things you want to work on, or does your teacher?
Does you teacher help you decide what kinds of studies you need to do outside of the main repertoire, or do you plan and do this for yourself?
When working on several major works at once, how do you decide which to bring to the lesson? Do you do this, or does your teacher tell you want to bring the next week (or tell you what to play at that time)?
If teachers would like to weigh in on what they would prefer or expect, that would be great, too.
I ask because I am trying to figure out how to jump back into lessons after quite a long break (and make the most of them), and I have gotten so much older during the break that I am not sure my lesson-taking perspective is quite caught up with that. :)
I hope this all makes sense! thanks for your thoughts!
This is not so much a function of age as a function of level of technique and readiness to set one's own goals, I think.
This is actually a terrific question.
I'm in my late 50s and just started taking lessons again. At this point in my (amateur) career, I need something completely different than what I needed as a young person.
If you have't done so already I would suggest meeting with a few different teachers, if available, to get an idea if you are a good match in terms of personality, schedules, and teaching styles. Then, your first lesson will be discussing the questions you have asked. I suggest to start with pieces a bit below your current capabilities and not terribly long. You and your new teacher may become a bit overwhelmed with a long and complicated piece. It is important that you follow your teacher's instructions, take notes, and practice as much as possible. Adults aren't always good in these areas. Let your teacher know what your aspirations are- what repertoire you are interested in and if you wish to perform regularly.
When I was a teenager, I would (unconvincingly) fake my way through something I hadn't practiced. As an adult, I would tell my teacher- sorry, busy week; I didn't even look at this. It's very freeing.
I am going to enjoy this thread!
It’s great to hear these responses! I am trying to see where I need to adjust my expectations of myself - either expecting too little of myself or too much.
For me, my teacher assigns:
I get assigned a lot of etudes/technique exercises and will work on a variety until my teacher(s) decide I can move on to the next etude/exercise. I'm apparently a slow learner re: the violin, so sometimes I'll be with an etude for longer than expected (or what I do with the etude is not what my teacher was looking for and I have to work on it some more).
The better you learn a piece, the easier it will be for your teacher to give constructive feedback. Generally it's fine to let them guide the lesson & most of your repertoire/etudes.
Anita, I was re-reading your post, and thinking that in light of the fact that you have a very specific goal in mind, that your teacher should really be figuring out an organized way to get there.
I think I would feel so much better if I had a very organized plan to work on technique...I do feel like I need so much work before I can attack repertoire. I know that I address things as I play, and I do think I learn a lot by mimicking what my teacher shows me, without explanations, which can cause me to overthink things...but...
So he hasn't suggested a rebuild? To address unwanted tension?
We talked about the fact that I think I need to re-do both bow arm and left hand to learn how to play without tension - he agreed that would be a good idea. But do I ask him to plan it in detail?
A good violin teacher doesn't usually need to spend any out-of-lesson time planning for what a roadmap looks like, especially if it starts with "fix these technical issues". I think all of my good teachers could pretty much pull that plan out with thirty seconds, if that, of thought. Even in a masterclass, the typical teacher who sees an issue can lay out, rapid-fire, the pile of things that you need to do to fix some particular issue.
Could there be a bit of a disconnect between you and your teacher with respect to learning styles?
When reading through the different types, the "how does it work?" learning style hit the buttons for me!
(It does really help if learning is systematic, though...so developing the big picture is easier)
I liked the post where you said your teacher worked on your "Boeing technique." I'll bet your lesson really took off from there!
Haha, Paul, I saw that later and decided not to edit because it delighted me. I was hoping someone else would be amused!
Thank goodness Anita’s in Germany where the air traffic controllers are getting regular paychecks, presumably...
This is an interesting question, since everyone learns in different ways. And by the time we're adults, we have an idea of how we best absorb information. Plus, since we're adults, we're paying for our own lessons instead of our parents, so we're more apt to want to optimize our time to get the most value.
Tension issues are so common for violinists that I wonder how many pupils your teacher has had, Anita.
I bring whatever my teacher asked me, unless I really want to work on something specific. Usually etude and piece. I haven't been practicing my Bach for months though....
For me the dynamics are probably a bit different!
It's interesting to hear all the different experiences out there.
"Overthinking is my game." You've got company. It's the game of probably 2/3 of adult violin students.
Anita, how many of your teacher's students are conservatory-bound teenagers, or undergraduate / graduate students headed for professional careers?
I actually have no idea about his other students. I doubt he has any undergraduate or graduate students - he doesn't teach at the Musikhochschule (conservatory). I tried to take lessons there, but was told I had to be enrolled in order to do that.
One of the things that seems to have characterized your musical experiences to date is poor teaching.
I agree with Lydia. The most important responsibility a student has is to choose a suitable teacher. "Poor teaching" is not something that happens accidentally; it is the result of a poor choice of teachers. Every teacher has something different to offer, and only a few teachers have the skill to prepare students for successful conservatory auditions.
I am really going to have to give this some thought. If I were to go to a new teacher, I would want to leave this teacher in a way that was mutual - that he also didn't feel like he could give me what I would ask of him.
Anita if I have been following correctly, your goal is to get to a level that could gain you admission to a conservatory. So the most concrete path would be to start from a representative set of typical pieces you must be able to play at auditions for conservatories in Europe. Fix such a set with your teacher and then the goal should be pretty clear to your teacher also: to be able to play these pieces on a high enough level. If he thinks you should first work on intermediate pieces before going to such pieces, he will also suggest them. Also when technical weaknesses show up, well, they will show up so again it will be clear that you need to work on them and he will hopefully suggest exercises. So just let things become concrete!
Anita is hoping to get into a master's program, I believe, so the bar is even higher than conservatory admission.
Lydia, thanks for your words - I appreciate the thoughtful advice. I do recognize that I need very, very expert help if I am going to accomplish the amount of growth in a year that I would need to enter a master program.
You don't phrase it as, "You're not good enough." You phrase it as, "Thank you, but I've found another teacher that I feel is an excellent fit for my needs." Don't burn the bridge, but don't be apologetic, either. Teachers are professionals who are used to students looking for the right fit, and changing teachers when they need a different approach.
Agree with everything Lydia says.
What Jeewon says is definitely true.
I really appreciate that both of you would take the time to give me these thoughts.
How important is who the potential teacher was taught by?
Nothing about you suggests that you don't listen or you can't learn. If a teacher isn't able to make major improvements in what you are doing, they are the wrong teacher
Lydia, how did you know that I am a catastrophizer?? I thought that was a well-kept secret. :)
I haven't had lessons for along time. But if I took some I would want to get as much as possible out of my teacher. I would therefor primarily ask for the teacher's guidance as regards both technique and repertoire.
Here's something too: Sometimes I feel I'm not getting a lot out of my teacher. But then, I have to ask, how much am I putting in? Last lesson I played Elgar Salut d'Amour, which frankly is kind of an easy piece even though obviously I do not play it perfectly. I didn't really receive very many comments. But since I know my teacher quite well, I understood what he was (tacitly) saying: "You don't need my help with this." I know because he has used those words in the past. He means that I've already got the tools I need to fix the problems and I should just be applying those, which is true -- in the case of the Elgar I was thinking about using it for the "three hour challenge" so I had to stop working on it before it was well polished. If I press with specific questions, then of course he always has solid answers. When my lesson turned to a concerto cadenza, then there were many specific recommendations.
Had a really wonderful meeting with this conductor and professor of music psychology (I didn’t know that before today!)
Sounds fantastic! Best of luck! The book list would indeed be very interesting.
....and the teacher responded. I call tomorrow morning to set up a meeting with her.
Good luck Anita! You are very focused and now have a good plan for what you want/what you are looking for in a teacher, so I think it will be very fruitful and go well! It is inspiring following your journey and progress in figuring this out in such a short time with such great help from here!
You might also want to warn your new teacher, Anita, that you're prone to these kinds of negative thoughts.
Hey that's great Anita! Things are falling into place :)
Thank you, Karen! :)
I wouldn't worry about "polishing" anything before your lesson. Since you're in pain, and you want to benefit as much as possible from your lesson, why don't you REST and hire a massage or two before Thursday? Spend your practice time stretching and taking hot baths. Seriously! We hire teachers so that they can help us. Not so that we can impress a captive audience-of-one. We all tend to fall into that trap though. Tell your new teacher, "I haven't practiced in a few days. I have tension issues. My old teacher wasn't able to help me solve them. That's why I'm here." Then open with your D Minor Allemande -- nice and comfy.
For my recent teacher, I played what I had "completed" to date with my other teacher as it was planned for a recital in a few months - it still needed some help, and during this first lesson the teacher got right to the heart of the issue. I also brought my etude books and other repertoire that was on the recital program - we did a bit with the other repertoire which was very informative.
Ah, yes...thankfully I have PT (which is, in part, massage, and he’s really good!) on Tuesday...hoping he can help relieve the blockage. A long walk and yes! a bath today also helped.
If you have rotator-cuff issues, which it sounds like you might have, NSAIDs, hot showers (water as hot as you can stand against your shoulder), and PT-recommended stretching exercises will help a lot.
May I post a video here of the beginning part of Mozart?
Yes, please post!
Ok! thank you!
There are lots of great things to build on there Anita. I can tell your technique and movement are holding you back a bit, but nothing you shouldn't be able to resolve over the next few months.
My first recommendation would be to practice without using any vibrato at all. You want the hand to feel loose and balanced, and you also don't want to distort the pitch / mask intonation errors with vibrato. Adding the vibrato once the left hand is solidly learned is easy. Also, the exercise of no vibrato forces you to maximize expressiveness with the bow.
This thread has moved on a lot since the original question, but I would offer one simple suggestion: keep a practice/lesson diary. Even the most obtuse player (that's me) will start to notice when writing for the tenth time "equalise up bows!" or "keep bow straight on the E string!". So part of lesson preparation should be trying to show progress on those persistent bad habits.
I just want to say that I teared up a bit when I saw how many specific things you addressed, Jeewon, THANK YOU. I am excited to get to work, after I do all my AT exercises and stretches and so forth. Again, I am overwhelmed by the time you spent just to help me!
I don't know if intonation consistency gets
You're welcome! :)
Wow! What great advice - and I haven't even watched your latest video yet!
ok, I'm pausing in the midst of practice to just quickly say...it's so wonderful that the intonation of the notes shift to pull towards the tonic! It's like they are saying, in this case, "D, we want you to shine, so we are going to lean a little toward you to support you...so it will be clear that it's about you".
Anita, yes. The diatonic scales have their own intrinsic musicality.
Pamela, my absolute favorite quote from Mindset: "a person's true potential is unknown (and unknowable); [...] it's impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil, and training." It makes me excited every time I read it.
I have heard great things about violinlab and I have seen a few of the sample videos. The only issue with violin lab is the subscription fee. When you compare that to the cost of weekly lessons, it's not much. But the other side of that coin is that when you're already paying for weekly lessons (for two children) plus occasional lessons for yourself, then you start to pinch pennies a little harder elsewhere in your budget.
I wonder if the vibrato is actually part of the manifestation of tension. You can get a little bit of an automatic vibrato when the hand is really relaxed and balanced, but I don't think that what you're getting is that.
"It is SO HARD to not vibrate! It is also SO HARD to not correct the wrong pitch when practicing the opening! :)"
And will a good teacher help me know all of these things and help me develop a way to practice it all so that it will gradually get better?? If not, then I don't know how to manage it!
Yes, of course it will get better! Compare your last two videos for pitch (with the previous video slowed to 50%): within one session you're already starting to adjust your pitch, and play with greater consistency!
Some light reading for winter break or summer...
Ok. Yes. Time and hard work. And a good teacher.
The contact button on my profile should give you my email.
Some more light reading by the fireplace... ;)
Just skimming the Bloch book.
Anita - I have not read the book you mentioned, but I've done a bunch of other work/reading with the body in regards to trauma/pattern processing and holding, and so on; so a lot of this is not new to me in one aspect (although it is new in the sense that I'm associating things with playing the violin now).
"It never ends :)"
I am too busy panicking right now to respond, but I will read everything probably tomorrow after the lesson!! 0.0
About the "collapsing" of HH's third finger, as far as I understand it is actually very important that your last joint is really loose while playing, as it enables vibrato to be immediately available, so to speak. For example,
Releasing, yes. Collapsing implies a lack of control.
Go Anita go! And stop reading this forum ;)
OK Jeewon. in a sense it is very "satisfying" (can't find a better word) to hear that the absolute best must keep working on the very same basics that everyone has to work on. it somehow confirms that violin playing is an art that can be learned, but I am not expressing myself clearly.
Yes jean! It's very heartening and I'm grateful she shares like that. So down to earth and humble!
How is it that suddenly one feels like one has never before seen a violin, much less held it or even played it??
It is better to think of how far you have come than how much more you have to travel.
I feel that way every time I have a lesson, and far too often in practice when integrating new concepts/techniques, Anita! How was your lesson? What happened? Did you click?
Ok...Survived the lesson! :)
I think that sounds very promising!
For what it’s worth, I started up again with a teacher from the former soviet era. I have two books, Schradiek and Wohlfahrt, from time to time she pulls out something written in Cyrillic and she says it’s Lully or Haydn. That’s it ! Check your vibrata at the door, practice slow, and follow the process! I’m a “trust the process” guy. While I have played some amazing, fun repertoire in my past, my process now is playing lines 1-6 of Schradiek I, 4 notes legata, 8 notes legata, 16 notes legata, and Wohlfahrt #16 for bow control and finger strengthening. I have noticed such an amazing transformation in my playing, I think I am playing the best I have ever played now. Hang in there. I really enjoy this forum and how there is so much positivity and support to get us to the next level. I am looking forward to the day she wants me to use vibrata. That will be the indication that intonation is solid, tone is good and we are moving forward. Trust the process!
Ok, then I will be excited!! :)
Quick question that I don’t want to start a whole new thread for... :)
Index finger contacts the bow at the second joint, and the index finger is placed close to the second finger? That's the Russian hold. Heifetz et.al.
All 4 fingers draped on the far side of the frog away from you? (Picture?)
Ok! I wasn’t sure. The pinkie position she was asking for didn’t look as extreme as Heifetz...
Jeewon, I believe it’s what she also uses? In other words, not just a temporary thing?
Having trouble picturing it... Is her pinky touching the top of the stick with the underside, like the other fingers, or its tip?
Oh, sorry, no...the pinkie is placed on the side close to the body. On one plane down from the top. Does that make sense?
Yes, that would be more conventional, on the inside-top facet of the octagon. Then what Lydia said: Russian (as defined by Carl Flesch. Heifetz' hold was deeper than second knuckle with the 1st finger, and he often used the 3rd finger to balance the bow with pinky lifted.)
Anita - oh I feel for you so much.
Kavakos talks about his use of the Russian hold in this interview (2/3s to the end.)
By the way... Re.:
ohhhhh...I seee. Yes, well, that's good then! :)
Bow-holds all involve some trade-offs, but people tend to use what they are taught, since the hold is integral to your whole right-hand/arm technique. The most popular modern bow hold is the Galamian-style hold, which fuses some elements of the Russian with some elements of the Franco-Belgian.
Just a little update, post-first full lesson!
Anita - fantastic!!!!
Hi Anita, I finally took the plunge and registered to this website after years of lurking, and I just wanted to say that your story is inspiring! Even though I have no aspirations to become a professional, I am in love with the violin and do plan to go as far as I can with the instrument.
Pamela, thanks! :) yes, shifting feels super weird. Because everything feels so different, it seems I can notice tension more. I’m trying to use this as a chance to release tension - stopping everytime I feel it and resetting. This might seem crazy, but I even feel like I hold my throat tight. How I came up with that, I don’t know...
I feel like I close my chest off, so I understand what you mean about holding your throat tight! I have to remind myself to allow my chest to be open (it's a very vulnerable feeling, but also empowering).
I’m listening to the book Bounce...and the author just talked about the effects of doubt (close to fear!) and how to deal with it...
I think I am a bit lost re. this jabbing vs. swinging motion...I can't picture...I think because my bow hand is such a mess in the first place!
Downbow: if the elbow is as high as the hand, it will stick out to the right until we reach the tip of the bow, when the arm will be straight ou in front. But if the elbow is hanging below the hand n(as proposed by Suzuki), there will be an added momentum from the upper arm swinging forward. If the elbow adopts a half-lowered position, this momentum will be less.
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