My Teacher's Remark

November 19, 2017, 9:02 AM · I don't know if I should have done that, but recently I have overheard a conversation between my violin teacher and another teacher in the hallway, where she remarked:

"The problem with Peter(me) is that he thinks too much in terms of down-bows and up-bows."

At the time and to this day, I have no idea whatsoever about what she meant! It couldn't possibly be that I play robotically since I am often criticized for being too expressive in my playing. And I'm a bit afraid to ask about it because the remark is from a conversation that I overheard....I really hope that she is going to bring this up over the next few lessons, for some reasons this comment has been bothering me for a few days now....

Replies (11)

November 19, 2017, 9:19 AM · At least you are remarkable enough Peter for your teacher to discuss with her peers. I think you should not make a mountain out of a molehill and try to forget what you overheard her say. What you need to learn or correct she will help you with in time but it is a slow process for most people including myself. She sounds like a good teacher to me.
November 19, 2017, 9:38 AM · It could have been worse. The teacher could have said "Peter doesn't learn very fast" or "Peter is as musical as a mud fence" or "why does Peter insist on having the Taco bell $5 Biggie Box right before lessons?"

It sounds like a specific and objective comment. And likely an issue the teacher has addressed in some way with you, perhaps worded in a different manner. Maybe it has to do with bow distribution?

By the way, one of my teachers was an incurable gossip, and said things to students about other students. I remember going in to one of my first lessons, and the teacher said about the previous one "she's SOOO musical!!"

What was I supposed to do with that comment?

Edited: November 19, 2017, 11:44 AM · I agree, if there is a problem then she recognizes it and will address it in your lessons, most likely in different terms. In the mean time, if you're like me and can become crazy curious then record an video of your practicing at home, compare the outcome with someone playing similar song on the youtube. My guess is you're not considering enough with other aspects of bow usage, ie., portioning, speed, rotation, etc.

Edit: Better yet, don't tell her you heard her talking to someone. Just tell her you feel your bowing needs improvement. Then ask her if she has any suggestions.

November 19, 2017, 12:07 PM · Im guessing here but maybe it has to do with a difference in the volume of down bow vs upbow, given that the downbow travels in the direction of gravity and thus there might be a tendency to have a stronger sound going down vs up. My teacher pointed this out to me in my playing.
November 19, 2017, 12:36 PM · I wonder if what she's talking about is more related to fluidity and the mental connection of phrases from bow to bow.
November 19, 2017, 12:40 PM · Hi Peter, I understand it can be quite devastating to hear something your teacher said about your playing that is not favorable. It's good that you are expressing your concerns openly rather than bottling it up and let it consume you. It is much better still, Peter, if you could express it directly to your teacher. I tell you why and suggest how.
1) No one here knows what your teacher was really saying and thinking than your teacher. I'm afraid, no matter how well-intended and helpful people want to be, any speculation could make things worse for you and your relationship with your teacher.
2) This is a good habit to build in any occasion as you are growing up become an adult that you need to give people the benefit of doubt when you over-heard something that might not please you. Give them a chance to explain and you'll more likely to be surprised that people (especially your teachers or parents) are generally a lot more reasonable than they sometimes appear to be. Give them a chance to explain and you have nothing to lose but everything to gain. At the very least you will show your fair-mindedness and maturity.
3) Last but not the least, you will be a lot happier in life if you can avoid listening to something that is not meant for you to hear.


Next time you see your teacher, you could start with telling her to help you with some concerns that you have during practice, such as, "Am I thinking too much, especially about bow direction?" "How to improve my technique in general, and bowing arm in particular?" "Is there something I can try to get me to another level of playing?"

I hope this is helpful.

November 19, 2017, 12:40 PM · There may be a disconnect in learning styles.

Peter, are you the type of learner who needs to figure out and plan bowings in detail before you're able to express the phrase?

November 20, 2017, 2:41 PM · Thank you, Mr.Jetson, I also think that she is a good teacher, I'll try not to over think it :)
November 20, 2017, 2:47 PM · Scott (sorry if I'm being offensive, I don't know in which situations I should use honorifics on online forms...), I could indeed recall her commenting about my bow distribution on multiple classes, mainly that I use too much of it. She always emphasizes to never use more bow than musically necessary, so I think there's a good chance that might be what she meant.
November 20, 2017, 3:03 PM · Actually, Lydia your comment reminded me of a lesson a few weeks ago. My teacher once told me not to focus too much on the bowing and to focus more on the phrasing of a fast passage. She then proceeded to demonstrate her point by playing the passage, of which she played with immense musicality and fluidity, despite the passage being very fast. When she told me to replicate what she did, she seemed dissatisfied. A few cycle of demonstrations later she seemed to give up on her point. So, now I look at it, it may have just been that. Although the mental connection between the bowing and phrasing is a concept a bit too abstract for me to wholly comprehend, do you mind elaborating on it a bit more?
November 20, 2017, 7:57 PM · I'm with Lydia. I also surmise that your teacher's comment is about being too "local" or "microscopic" in your approach.

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