February 9, 2020, 4:13 AM · Hello,
So this morning I came to a realisation. My current instrument teacher. He and I get on very well and he is very good and I have improved massively in the time since I have been with him (since around August last year). I realised this morning, however, that I don't get the same sense of "inspiredness" from him as I did from my previous teacher. The reason I changed teachers was budget and distance (current is closer and cheaper).

Does anyone have any suggestions?

Replies (30)

February 9, 2020, 4:54 AM · As long as you keep on improving massively with this teacher, perhaps you can find enough other sources of inspiration elsewhere? YouTube, recordings, internet, etc? Sorry if this is simplistic.
February 9, 2020, 10:47 AM · "I don't get the same sense of "inspiredness" from him as I did from my previous teacher"

Perhaps because he focuses more on technique and less on repertoire than your previous teachers, hence your "massive" progress? Just guessing, you have to tell us more I suppose if you want better feedback.

Edited: February 9, 2020, 6:10 PM · So I agree with Jean and Roger. No ... wait ... I so agree with them. Argh ... I just can't get this "so" think to work for me.
February 9, 2020, 11:59 AM · Go biweekly with the better teacher. The difference a more-inspiring teacher makes really can't be overstated.

I have two teachers (one classical, one Irish fiddle) and when fiddle teacher initially suggested private lessons (after i had completed a group session) i told him i couldn't afford two teachers -- but he offered a sliding scale option. Also, if money is extra short for whatever reason, I just contact both teachers and tell them I need to skip a week.

I think bi-weekly is enough though!

February 9, 2020, 12:45 PM · You may not find the "perfect' teacher.

Get what you can from him-maybe you will have to inspire yourself. Teachers cannot be all things to all people.

Edited: February 9, 2020, 4:31 PM · Since you're heading for conservatory at age 22, you should focus on technical skills as massively as possible. Repertoire is important too, but worthless without the necessary skills. And there's a whole life left for inspiration, and there shouldn't be just one main source of inspiration anyway, at no time in your career.
If with "inspiration" it's "motivation" what you mean, then at your age and as someone who's already earning his own money with a real job in the real world, you should be self motivated enough.

You've found a teacher you made rapid progress with, he's nearby and affordable. Hence I'm wondering where's the problem? He's obviously doing a great job!

February 9, 2020, 4:39 PM · Maybe take some time to remember your goal with playing, why you’re playing and where you’d like to end up after your degree. That can help hugely with inspiration.

As the others have said, technique is very very important, while not always enjoyable, it’s worth the work in the end.

How do you find your practice sessions, do you always finish on a good note (as it were)?

February 10, 2020, 2:59 AM · Some practise sessions are good. Others bad. Same as most people I guess
February 10, 2020, 5:09 AM · When practice sessions are going bad, stop beating your head against a wall and start working on something else so that you can end up feeling as if you've accomplished something worthwhile. Even if you end up playing review pieces that you conquered a year ago -- remind yourself how far you've come and feel good about that.

Regarding the teacher, my advice is if you felt the older teacher was better, "drive further and pay more."

Inspiration is important, regardless of what is being worked on. Sometimes it is hard when our teachers want us to work on technique with a view to some future piece which will require that technique, to understand at the present moment just why we're doing that. If you need inspiration with your current teacher, when you're working on something that isn't very inspirational, ask your teacher what that is building towards. It may be that your current teacher has a great long-term goal for your progress but is a poor communicator of what that goal is.

And constantly remind yourself of how far you've come by playing older pieces. Don't get discouraged looking ahead at how far you have to go because there isn't any end to that road. Ask any world-class soloist and they'll tell you what they are constantly working on to improve.

February 10, 2020, 9:15 AM · Does the personality, style, and overall comfort level of a teacher matter all that much? Absolutely. As an example, I was an English teacher for 37 years. For the last 12 years I worked in an International Baccalaureate program with a colleague who taught the same course. His personality was very different from mine. Some students clicked with him, while others clicked with me. Some liked how both of us taught, and a couple of students weren't satisfied with either of us. That happens. It doesn't mean anyone is "good" or "bad". It's chemistry. Regardless of the reason, if your teacher doesn't click with you, don't waste your time. Find a teacher who can fill that missing piece.
February 10, 2020, 9:24 AM · @Michael, he and I get on very well. I have a tendency to get on with everyone
February 10, 2020, 9:25 AM · What exactly is the issue with your current teacher, as compared to your previous one?
February 10, 2020, 11:16 AM · Every violin teacher I've had was a lovely person and knowledgeable about what they were teaching. Plus, we got along well and enjoyed each other's company. However, I'm not talking about getting along with each other. I'm simply talking about my level of excitement when I walked into the lessons, and my eagerness to do well for that individual. Two teachers didn't seem to move that spark inside of me, while the other two continue to make me want to push myself. For whatever reason, two clicked, and the other two didn't click. If I don't feel it, I don't wait for it to come. I go and get it somewhere else.
February 10, 2020, 11:33 AM · Inspiration is your job. Technical improvement is your teacher's focus. It sounds like your teacher was doing a good job. If the lesson time is short, the teacher will just not have enough time to talk about aesthetics and other subjective stuff.
February 10, 2020, 12:07 PM · Joel,
I would say that, ideally, a teacher should inspire the student. I wouldn't say it's all student.

I'm just saying we have to be realistic and realize that switching teachers could mean more inspiration but less of something else. The grass is always greener...

Edited: February 10, 2020, 8:51 PM · I was thinking about this discussion in the context of my job teaching university chemistry. A teacher provides technical solutions and methods of practice to advance and secure fundamental knowledge and skills. That's the mechanical side, and it's very important. But the teacher should also help the student to learn how to think differently and to become more intellectually independent so that they can approach the next new problem with more confidence and with a higher likelihood of a successful outcome. That's the inspiration side. It's very hard to say which of these is more important -- they are mutually sustaining. You could argue that the mechanical part takes pedagogical priority because without technique there will be nothing to inspire. But the inspiration part should be happening from the very first lessons too, and I believe usually it is.
February 10, 2020, 3:03 PM · I'm confused - if there's been a lot of development as a result of working with this teacher, wouldn't you be MORE inspired because of such improvements in your playing?

Are you working on rep that you feel is too challenging, or not challenging enough? Are you stuck in a routine that needs a change?
Is there something else going on for you? (Possibly too personal to answer on a public forum.)

Edited: February 10, 2020, 3:41 PM · Haven't you said you are aspiring to play professionally? If so, you should be highly self-motivated. What kind of inspiration are you looking for?
February 10, 2020, 5:51 PM · I think Paul nailed it correctly. I'd listen to what he wrote.
Edited: February 11, 2020, 1:08 PM · Jake, has the amount of perspiration you have got from your present teacher reached 99 times the amount of inspiration you got from your previous teacher. If not, you know whom you should carry on with - that's if you don't think Edison was too screwed by his screw to be taken at all seriously.
Edited: February 11, 2020, 1:42 PM · The lesson we glean from Edison is that the true value of one's inspiration is to push through the tedium. Edison only needed 1%. Your mileage may vary.
February 12, 2020, 6:07 AM · @Pamela, there is no issue other than just not feeling that inspired after each lesson together. @Andrew, yes. But motivation and inspiration are something I struggle with while aorking a full time grave yard shift. I think if I was at school/college, it would be different
February 12, 2020, 6:55 AM · "But motivation and inspiration are something I struggle with while working a full time grave yard shift."

And yet you have managed to "improve massively" since you have started with your new teacher. I think this is quite an achievement!

This may sound like a dumb question, but I am a bit curious what "being inspired by a teacher" concretely means. What would your teacher have to do or say to inspire you more? By what means can a teacher inspire a student? Are inspiration and motivation the same in this context?

February 12, 2020, 7:39 AM · I'm not sure how to describe. I guess its a sense of fulfillment during a lesson. Makes me feel like I can do what I put my mind to, supportive I guess
February 12, 2020, 9:00 AM · There's the rub: you are working graveyard shifts while doing intensive musical training. Are you similarly struggling with feeling the buoyancy of inspiration-motivation in other areas of your life as well?

Fulfillment comes from within. It does not come from an external source like a teacher or a job with a well-paying salary.

February 12, 2020, 10:10 AM · Fulfilment can come from within, but I think a teacher could play a part too.
Jake, do you take notes from your lessons, so you know what to work on in your personal practice time?

You’ve already come so far, hopefully your mojo will come back! Revisiting old pieces can be a nice way to review and remind yourself of how far you’ve come.

February 12, 2020, 11:38 AM · Teachers, and others, can certainly play a part; however we need to be fulfilled within ourselves enough in order to determine if a teacher is a good fit for our journey.

Jake - I've left lessons with previous teachers very very very frustrated (for a lot of reasons), and that's why I stopped working with them. Despite my frustrations, I still put the work in because I have felt in my bones that I was doing what I most needed to be doing - it wasn't fun though, that's for sure. So, I don't understand how someone can be making great progress while working with a teacher and also saying the very same teacher leaves them uninspired. It seems like a cop-out to me, and an excuse for something else that's going on. That something else could simply be that you are exhausted and feeling down as a result, winter, anxiety about the future, or something entirely different.

February 13, 2020, 5:57 AM · Another thought-
How long are you aware of feeling un-inspired?
You say you have improved massively. Is it possible that after a period of rapid improvement and changes, you have plateaued, so that the improvements are now less detectable, hence the sense of ennui?
February 13, 2020, 6:52 PM · @Rosemary, that hadn't occured to me thanks for the thought ^_^
February 13, 2020, 7:47 PM · I think inspiration does make a difference. I had a teacher that seriously inspired me to practice by thoroughly raising the bar of expectations, assigning a ton of work, and being super clear about what he expected me to do. I found myself practicing four hours a day when I'd been a reluctant-and-unfocused 45-minutes kid, and he told me that I had better learn to get it done in two hours by being more efficient.

Sometimes external motivations can help an awful lot, even if you are pretty motivated in general. I've found this true professionally in my non-music career, too.

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