Teachers with different opinions

Edited: August 12, 2023, 3:30 AM · So this week me and my wife have had again a lesson with a teacher after some months.

This was our first teacher, a professional violinist. After he some months ago we have had some lessons with our daughter teacher, an experienced Suzuki teacher, much younger.

We are always happy meeting with both of them due we appreciate the person, their art and knowledge, but we are also happy having had decided to continue practicing alone for a while, so to understand how much we can improve having our decisions about what and how.

The teacher was pleased with the substantial progress we have done (alone), and we know we have much more confidence even if of course we are beginner with all the limitations.

As his style he corrected us with dozen of details. Our problem is as soon we try to put together all the suggestions he give us, we are barely able to play anymore, due also they are all different from the suggestions the other teacher give us.

Playing with the tail or the center of the arch, the arch vertical on the strings or rotated, play near the bridge or in the center, have the left hand rotated parallel to the fingerboard or orthogonal, the fingers vertical on the strings or more relaxed, these and other are all differences between them.

In our understanding this teacher - the professional violinist - teach us the way he was teached, with a professionalism goal as background. The Suzuki teacher is teaching us in an easier path, probably considering our age. The first one push us in trying new things (I.e. he bring us a book allowing us to play as a couple Suzuki songs, with first and second violin versions), the second one is very strict in proceeding little steps, no room for forward looking.

Discussing with my wife my mood was keep what we think is an improvement for us so to being able to play, use what is easier, wait some time before next lesson so we are able to metabolize the changes.

Still we are wondering which one we need to have lessons with next time, try someone else, or just enjoy both having our decisions.

Replies (14)

August 12, 2023, 5:34 AM · There is an old saying too many cooks spoil the broth. Thus I would recommend only using one teacher.

From this distance I am not certain which one is right for you. It may be the Suzuki teacher.

It is important to note that both teachers can be correct. There can be more than one path to the destination. However, taking advice from both of them will probably result in a mess.

August 12, 2023, 7:32 AM · Agree with Mark 100%.
Edited: August 12, 2023, 10:24 AM · I understand, that's logical.

The problem is who to choose between the more enjoyable and free but very difficult to follow (professional violinist) and the unflexible but easier (Suzuki teacher).

If we would have had followed only the second we would have never enjoyed discovering our limits testing interesting new pieces (we play of course at our level), but staid stuck on the same 2-3 pieces for months. If we would have had followed only the first we would probably have had a hard time grasping the basics to progress on, due is simply providing too much advice and in a way difficult to understand, we can only now appreciate better.

If the choice was straightforward I would have had never asked, we feel they are really different and the ideal will be having one with the mix of both of them: more didactic like the Suzuki teacher but also more imaginative / flexible like the professional violinist.

I think we will try following on with the professional violinist, due is pushing us more in trying new things, trying to filter the understandable/usable advice and temporarily archive the remaining up when we are ready, based on our better understanding of the topic. If this will be the correct choice we would be able to discover in some time.

August 12, 2023, 10:05 AM · You're not going to progress taking lessons irregularly. Your best bet is to find a teacher that has a track record of producing good students, hopefully who plays well themself, that you can take regular lessons with. If one of these two fits the bill, then just pick one and stick to it and do the work and trust the process.

But that's just if you want to get better at the instrument; there are all kinds of ways people can have violin in their lives that are great.

August 12, 2023, 10:51 AM · Frequency of practicing is depending from our work, April-June was difficult even practicing once a week, after we restarted once a day, now with a teacher again.

Frequency of lessons depends also in the teacher: he is frequently busy on rehearsals and tours, and due we need time practicing we are even happy to have more time practicing and digesting his tons of advices.

The final goal is like: play La folia with the teacher telling us we can start playing with others (5-10 years), play Irish fiddle in a way to think playing for friends without them start yawning in a few minutes (no idea, maybe nearer term goal).

August 12, 2023, 11:01 AM · That's understandable; our goals are often in conflict with the material conditions of our lives. Luckily, a cab can also take us to Carnegie Hall!
August 12, 2023, 12:28 PM · I think it depends partly on what goal you have in mind long-term. If the intention is to go toward a professional career in playing, finding a teacher that is heavily involved in advancing students through the various hurdles is important, and a way to determine if a teacher fits this description is to look at the students and ascertain what they’re doing and where they end up eventually. How many end up going to music schools? How many get into major schools, how many just end up with music minors at other schools? How many get good scholarships? Do the teachers who take over the students at the next level like the teacher and welcome the students eagerly?

If the goal is to instead get the most enjoyment out of playing the instrument and to find personal satisfaction in playing, choose a teacher that is engaging and keeps students interested by having them learn repertoire that they can use for both learning and personal growth as musicians. In the formative years there are just so many competing interests, and if you haven’t made an absolute commitment to playing, it’s very easy for other interests to absorb time and enthusiasm. In that scenario, the best chance for maintaining the interest in playing is to associate with people who focus more on the joy of plays my than on career development.

Neither choice is a wrong one; the catch is that you have to determine which one is right for you.

August 12, 2023, 12:35 PM · Oh dear.
The professional needs to divide his considerable skills into assimilable parts, and the Suzuki Teacher needs to appreciate the adult mind, so different from that of the child. Both need to accept progress in one aspect at a time.
The better teacher for you is probably the one who can listen to your wishes..
August 12, 2023, 12:42 PM · In my opinion, committed study of something like the violin (even if only a passion) implies "blood and tears".

I would go for the older teacher that pinpoints what you have to learn, in order to enjoy playing more (LATER).

If you see the violin activity only as a playful thing, without much hassle, that takes away your joy now (but that does not guarantee you will enjoy it in the future, when you won't have built some bases), go for the suzuki teacher.

August 12, 2023, 3:28 PM · Blood Sweat & Tears have their place in the rat-race, but none whatsoever in amateur music making! Effort, patience, even temporary discomfort or frustration, are inevitable, but there are many joys to be had, right from the beginning.
A teacher who saves enjoyment for "later" is incompetent, if not cynical.
Edited: August 12, 2023, 3:58 PM · Just to recap the situation, me and my wife have just reached or approaching our 50s, have both our career (me in technology, she in ballet teaching), so our perspective can be only the one of amateurs, that try to include as much as possible violin in their life both as singles and most importantly as couple (thus why we appreciated so much the teacher bringing us Suzuki duets book last lesson).

Sure we want to achieve playng well, not just getting some sound out, but this due we like learning, focusing on difficult things and we enjoy so much this violin word (gone with the teacher to many concerts since last year starting), not due we need to have a living from it.

So thinking trough this discussion - always need to thanks all the expert posters helping us - we will try following on with the professional violinist as teacher, just since we like more being pushed in doing actual music, and now we know more we think we will be able to go around his rough edges (want to further stress, it's a cheerful person, just very fast and overloading in his advices), eventually also clarifying better with him a sustainable path.

Edited: August 12, 2023, 7:38 PM · Greetings,
First I would agree with Mary, Mark et al that having two teachers like this is , based on experience, almost certainly detrimental. However, hard you try to balance things out and make the best of both situations it really doesn’t work.
One point that does interest me a lot since I teach adult students very frequently is that they often say they have no time to practice. I understand this feeling very well because when I get home from work my dearest wish is to slump down in front of youtube. Somehow I get past it…
But what we are talking about here really is a flawed misunderstanding about practice which we tend to assume is occurs in fifty minute blocks starting with scales kind of thing! Not so.
If you took one very simple exercise like detache in the third quarter of the bow or near the heel and played it for 30 seconds everyday you would improve a lot. If you added 1 minute of silent left hand raising and lowering of fingers you would improve exponentially at the cost of one and half minutes. Everybody has this much time. Otherwise you would never clean your teeth.
Also, this kind of habit formation needs a little thought. having read extensively about this I am fairly confident that this kind of habit formation is not will power but based on main two factors:
1) Easy to do
2) Stacked on a trigger.
Thus, if you make something 20 seconds easier or more difficult to do you may or may not do it. This explains why Amazons sales increase by millions within days when they introduced 1 click shopping. So, leave the violin case open on the kitchen table when you go out to work. This also give s you a strong visual cue. Case closed, 20 seconds, no practice. Case closed!
As for number two, analyse your daily habits and routines and find that space. Do you always turn on the drip coffee machine when you get home from work? Great. For the three minutes the coffee is brewing do the practice. It’s basic habit formation, not will power.
PS I recommend you check out the Julia Bushkova videos on youtube.
Edited: August 14, 2023, 3:38 AM · In retirement I seem to have even less time to practice (lack of "triggers"?)
To maintain something of my acquired skills, I find that I do all the things that Buri has just suggested.
When I can do an extended session, I start with something I can play well, as slowly as necessary for Total Awareness of sound and sensation. Then I find subsequent challenges less challenging...
Edited: August 14, 2023, 8:44 AM · Stephen sure you are right, to be honest there are periods we didn't have the mental and physical energy doing anything else than focusing on the overloading amount of work need to be done (like before end of year event for my wife school, where she is crazy preparing everything and I have both my actual work and the activities I want to finish for that event to complete), but other periods the lack of trigger and the 20 seconds rule prevent us to practice all the available opportunities.

Now I will keep both the violins ready on a cabinet (outside our daughter, and the dog reach) to catch every opportunity.

Adrian I discovered sometimes starting with something more challenging but also engaging is an encouraging start also, depends also from what my wife (more methodical than me) thinks for that practice session.

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