Playing with Students


Connie Sunday said: Oct 14, 2013
Connie SundayViolin, Piano, Viola
667 posts

At what point in the food chain, with respect to teaching stringed instruments, does the teacher play less? Because my university teachers did not play for me, and did not hold their instruments during the lessons. Seems like I’m demonstrating constantly with my beginning students.

From visiting with other teachers, It sounds like, the more advanced the student, the less teacher-playing. But playing all the time during their pieces is a bad thing, especially if teacher just listens to the ensemble (themselves, basically) and doesn’t address the student’s playing.

This inverse relationship between teacher playing and advance direction, matches my remembrance; I don’t think either Fleigel or Davidovichi ever picked up their instruments during my lessons. But I currently couldn’t teach any of my students without my instrument at hand.

Free Handouts for Music Teachers & Students:

Sera Jane Smolen said: Oct 15, 2013
Sera Jane Smolen
Suzuki Association Member
Ithaca, NY
24 posts

I find that a combination of playing with students and listening to them carefully works well. On the one hand there are times, learning a working piece, when bowings, phrasing and character can be conveyed, saving alot of time in the lesson. Sometimes the structure of the piece can be re-inforced this way. Sometimes it just helps with their confidence. When we listen carefully to their playing, they can then learn to notice details in the way they are executing the notes and phrases. I think they appreciate it when I hear them “alone” when they are more confident with the piece. This balance works well from my perspective at all the levels. I do not think it is appropriate to teach advanced players without role modelling, loving the music, creating a great tone with vibrato, giving impetus and life to the phrase, or without so much as lifting the instrument!!!

When we learn to truly hear the music of children,
we learn to hear the music of the future.
—Michael Deeson Barrow

Karen Zethmayr said: Oct 15, 2013
Karen ZethmayrViolin
15 posts

I agree with Sarah Jane that “playing with” has a place at all levels.
In the beginning, I find that it helpful for them to use one hand at a time whenever possible. Playing “with them” sometimes means taking over either the bow or the left hand. For most parents I give them a chance during the lesson to get used to this strange kind of dance. Hands alone, just as in piano, builds precision and prepares for hands-together.
Playing with them at any level can be a way of making a game out of turn-taking imitation of a tricky spot, adding layers of difficulty as competence increases. That way instead of uttering the dread words “do it again,” you can model doing it again for the sheer joy of it.
Playing with them can be playing an accompaniment, either from the duet book or another source. That gives them a chance to respond to tempo and dynamic changes as an ensemble player, often without the need to preach about ensemble skills.
Playing in unison is a wordless way of making sure they get the hang of keeping a steady tempo especially in those oh so predictable places where you just know they’re gonna rush. Again.
I use rounds from the beginning, because we can play in unison or harmony. Harmony helps them tune to simultaneous sounds, as well as to the linear melody, or just relying on the tapes, if still present.


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