Playing along during lessons

Elise Winters said: Jul 21, 2014
Elise Winters
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Austin, TX
37 posts

I have noticed that some teachers play along with their students quite a bit in lessons. I just had an intermediate student that came back from Point CounterPoint (chamber music camp) and said that her teacher there did this frequently. The teacher was working with her on Mendelssohn quartet & Taneyev trio.

Typically I play along with my students only rarely. For beginners, I will model the passage—(calling attention to specific rhythmic / notes / articulation, sometimes narrating as I go)—and have them match my rhythm / notes / articulation. For advanced students, I ask them to reflect on their own playing and do their own problem-solving (guiding them when needed).

Occasionally I’ll play along with an advanced student as a quick “shortcut” if they need to get something in their head quickly—e.g. orchestra or chamber music. Also I’ll do it to keep a student going who stops frequently, or to spur them to play a faster tempo when they are “stuck” in a slower speed or need a quick dose of reality. ;)

Do other teachers play with their students frequently? If so, when do you choose to do this, and what benefits does this provide?

Danielle Gomez Kravitz said: Jul 22, 2014
Danielle Gomez Kravitz
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
59 posts

I mostly play along with my students when we are running through review. The fact that I’m playing with them and not “teaching” them seems to make them more relaxed. If they stumble in a passage from not being warmed up they are able to immediately get back on track because they’ll still know where they are in the piece.

I use the time to silently judge their progress. They’re relaxed and I didn’t tell them to focus on anything in particular, which means they will be doing whatever is their current habit. So it’s a great way to see if they remember to do bridge fingers or no waiter hand (or whatever it is that they’re working on at the time).

Other than review, I don’t really play with the student during the lesson unless, like you, I’m modeling something. When we’re working on current pieces, I want to be able to hear the student, not me.

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