Two Teachers-Same Time - Different Focus - Confusing!
My regular teacher is out of the country for two months. She's in Australia visiting family, dealing with all the smoke from the fires, and (despite the smoke) she's relaxing. We do occasional lessons on FaceTime while she's gone.
Since I won't have regular weekly lessons, just for fun I started some Irish fiddle lessons with another teacher, and as good as he is,(He's really good!) I've run into some problems. No offense to him, he approaches the bow hand differently with a more pronounced bend in the right wrist. There is a lot more slur with the bow, and a focus on the rhythm and beat being most important. "Irish dancers don't care if you hit a C# or a C natural, what direction the bow goes, or anything like that, as long as you keep the beat."
Well, that's all great, but I actually care about hitting a C# or a C natural, and going from his lessons to hers and then back to his has thrown me for a loop. Bend the wrist for the Irish music, keep the wrist less bent for the other music, and so on.
It's making me very crabby.
So, my question is this - Have you ever had two teachers with different techniques at the same time? Has it worked for you? Not to denigrate either teacher - they are both dedicated and focused - but is it worth it?
My gut is telling me to stick to my regular teacher and go to the other teacher somewhere down the line (if at all). What do you think? Thanks.
When a teacher wants me to change something that I know works and that I like, I will still try their suggestion. But if I don't like what they're showing me, I tell them it's my way or the highway (after explaining my reasoning of course). Granted, this is usually when it comes to interpretation and ornamentation because nobody has much to say about the fundamentals of my technique, but I imagine the same attitude would apply in your case.
It may be that your rhythmic sense is bad enough that this new teacher is trying to get you to focus on it entirely by telling you it's OK to leave intonation behind for a bit. Sometimes we need to "think like a drummer" in order to make improvement. A drummer doesn't worry about C vs C#, they just worry about hitting their notes at the correct time. In a perfect world, we would do all of the correct things simultaneously, but that's just not how learning works.
Trying to please two different teachers with different techniques can lead to madness. Not only do you have to remember which technique to use with which teacher, but using two very opposing techniques such as very different bow wrist angles means that while practicing one technique you're not spending that time improving the other technique. Which is why you're becoming very crabby. My advice is to stick with the teacher who is teaching you the music you prefer to play most of the time.
Also keep in mind that fiddle technique is not classical technique.
I moved to Ireland (Northern Ireland) a lot of years ago.
The right note at the wrong time is a wrong note - regardless of genre.
Charlie is right; and I would actually argue that rhythm/tempo is even more important, in any genre, than intonation is.
Welcome to the ancient "observations" about fiddling and playing violin.
Second what Lydia said: Fiddle technique and Classical technique are two separate things. In fiddle, it's not necessarily the beat, or tempo. Of course you have to keep a steady beat, just as you do in classical music. It's more of the equivalent to an accent or how one stresses syllables of a word.
I've seen classically trained violinists play classical music and self- (or experience-) taught fiddlers and classically trained fiddlers playing "fiddle music" - but the latter play it in tune - with cleaner "chops" and even with some appropriate vibrato!
I have the same as you - a classical teacher and an Irishbfiddle teacher. I haven’t felt like there are any conflicts, but that may be because my fiddle teacher hasn’t told me to hold the bow any particular way or use any particular posture. He more tell me how to make it sound. I have had extensive instruction from the classical teacher in terms of coordinating my physical movements to serve the musical ideas, get the best sound, achieve certain technical things, etc.
All of this is excellent advice. After some soul searching, I stopped the Irish fiddle lessons for now. I'll pick them up again once my technique is more stable. I have to remind myself that I'm still fairly new to the violin with only two and a half years of lessons. As an adult student, I think I fall victim to that adult desire to push myself beyond my current abilities. I need to remind myself the cold fact that I'm still a work in progress, and while some bits are in good shape, others need a lot of attention. Learning the Irish fiddle still lies somewhere down the road, but I need to travel the road to get to that point. A big thanks to all of you.
In agreement with Erik, it may be that it's the time spent seeking perfect intonation that is ruining the rhythm. Playing in a group forces one to stay in tempo. When I was a teenager I played piano for a ballet school. I had to do a lot of sight-reading. That throws everything but rhythm out of the window pretty quickly. Maybe you could play to a metronome? In disagreement with Erik, intonation on the violin is my number 1 priority. But how you practise matters. Practise for intonation: play for your teacher with rhythm, and hope the practice filters through.
We play like we practice. If you always practice out of rhythm you will play out of rhythm and you will practice-in your hesitations. You have to focus on getting one thing right, maybe, but that thing should sometimes be rhythm and not intonation. And you should practice slowly enough to be able to get everything right. And if necessary, practice on open strings to have perfect rhythm at tempo. And practice the connection between two difficult note repeatedly until the transition feels smooth.
I started with a folk teacher, then added a classical teacher, and then abandoned the folk teacher as the classical technique more rigorous approach was most fitting my personal style. I must say my folk teacher paid little attention to my bow technique, which wasn't helping. Of everything you said, the "more pronounced bend in the right wrist" recommendation is what I would find most concerning. I can see emphasizing more action from the fingers/wrist, but little good will come out of bending the wrist more IMO and I am working hard in doing the exact opposite, so I would discuss with your folk teacher why if I were you before emphasizing what is perhaps a bad (and difficult to break) habit for both fiddlers and classical players. Perhaps ask your folk teacher to focus on developing the proper rythm, which is the essence of folk music, rather than bow technique; not that fiddlers don't have their own peculiar approach to bow technique, they often do, but the classical approach will not prevent you from plying folk music well, while this isn't always the case the other way around.
Having two teachers on a regular basis is one too many. If a teacher has a student short-term, like a summer session or workshop/master class, they should Not try to do any major change in posture or mechanics, only suggest a change at the end of the session if something is definitely wrong. Mainstream classical training prepares you to play things like Tchaikovsky symphonies. Early music, Baroque style technique is more compatible with British Isles fiddle styles.
I cannot imagine switching between those two styles. When I had to transition to a new teacher, I ended up going with my former teacher's recommendation and it's worked out really well. I've considered taking additional lessons, or workshops, etc., but I don't want to deal with the conflicting messages at this time.
Not bragging, just saying that it is possible. I have been called a chameleon, constantly switching styles and equipment, even bow holds. I just keep them segregated in different parts of my mind. I have 4 violins and two violas, that are set up to do different things.
Returning to the question of intonation, in some parts of Ireland (mostly in the West) there may an extra note coming up in a tune that isn't found in any classical scale. Usually, it is the quarter tone between C nat and C# on the A-string, which is often called a "trick" note. When used properly it has an especial effect on the understanding of the tune.
Thanks to all above commentors, I appreciate the diverse insights from experienced and skilled violinists! The discussions here give me a community of musicians that I don't have enough of in my workaday small town life!
Thanks, Michael Kennedy, for another episode in the chronicles of your development. I especially enjoy your posts because I identify with your relatively recent start at a mature age. And I admire your journey because you've gone further and faster than me. I started up almost 5 years ago and have been completely self-taught until finally, a few months ago, I found a teacher very skilled and experienced (already at only 21!!!) in early music, the period I've decided to learn. 4 lessons so far...
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