Today’s post is inspired by an email from a reader, who describes a somewhat common dilemma:
I want to get your advice on having two violin teachers at different times of the week. On Monday and Thursday, I attend lessons for one hour. And on Friday for one half hour (I’ve been the Friday teacher for two and a half years now). I just started the Monday and Thursday classes, which I find more challenging. … It’s like the light has come on in my head all of a sudden with my Monday and Thursday teacher. Perhaps its the newness of the teacher, getting to know her etc…. I just can’t part from my Friday Teacher. I really love her.
This reader nailed it exactly: The light has come on due to the newness of the new teacher. When we start with a new teacher, often all the NEW approaches they have that are different from what you have had before causes your brain and fingers to open up new pathways, and you discover new ways of thinking about things just because a different light is shining on the matter.
The new teacher is obviously good, or you wouldn’t be having this new “renaissance” of thoughts and ideas.
Sometimes, when you switch teachers, there is a hateful little period where the student RESISTS the new ideas of the new teacher, or doesn’t like the approach of the new teacher, so they think the new teacher is a BAD teacher.
Sometimes they are, but it’s usually just that an adjustment has to happen. You were able to skip this adjustment period, because obviously you resonate well with your new teacher.
When I have students, I am usually able to help them to the MAXIMUM amount in the first 2-3 years I am with them. After that, the progression slows way down, and lessons can start to seem pretty mundane. There is still PLENTY I can teach them, but you know, the honeymoon is over.
As a teacher, it is my job to try to keep things as stimulating as possible for the student to avoid burnout and this feeling of boredom. Recitals are a GREAT way to motivate and inspire, as are awesome pieces that are just out of reach, so you have to learn 3rd position or spiccato before you can play the piece. It’s a great motivator.
ADVICE: It’s tough, because you really love your Friday teacher. However, if she finds out somehow that you are taking lessons from someone else, I don’t care who she is, she will be upset. I know I would wonder why on earth you needed other instruction, and why you didn’t tell me, and kept it a secret, and so on (and I am EXTREMELY non-possessive as a teacher)
But it happened to me once…I found out 2 students had started taking lessons on the side with some guy from a university. It really offended me. If they had come to me, and asked me what I knew about this guy, and if he was a good teacher, and if I minded if they took a few lessons from the teacher, it would have been SO MUCH BETTER. I never forbid students from exploring other points of view.
So take it from me: You need to casually mention lessons from other teachers, and ask if your teacher minds if you supplement your lessons with other lessons from the other teacher, just for a different point of view and to accelerate your growth. She may have her feelings hurt, but at least you were up front. You did the right thing, and she may be hurt, offended, upset, or she may wish you well and encourage it.
The other thing to decide is if you can afford to continue with both teachers. If you can’t, then you might consider giving yourself a few months to decide, and then make your choice. Then gently tell whichever teacher you are leaving that you are moving on. Just simply say that you are needing a different viewpoint and approach. And I wouldn’t just drop it like a bombshell. I would mention your desire for other viewpoints, masterclasses, and so on, and then give your teacher a date when it will be your last lesson. This gives you a chance to assure her that she is valuable to you, and that you love her teaching, but just need a fresh perspective.
EVERY teacher knows that students eventually must move on. Sometimes the teacher chooses when it happens, and sometimes it’s the student who chooses when it happens. In this case, it will be you who chooses, or, if you are rolling in dough, you can have your cake and eat it too!
GOOD LUCK. It’s a tough thing, but it’s just the way things work in private lessons!
Are any of the rest of you flirting with another teacher on the side? You can confess in the comments.
How do you recommend I broach the subject mentioned above to iether or both teachers? Thank you
Sorry for the delay. I have been busy with my holiday sale.
Gosh. I read your post several times, hoping I would suddenly have some amazing, insightful words of wisdom for you. But it’s indeed a tricky situation.
Basically, you want to try to “have your cake and eat it too”.
Your daughter is emotionally attached to the original violin teacher overseas. Depending on your daughter’s age, it may be time to urge her to move to the other teacher in the USA. But, there is a lot to be said for students who work for the LOVE of a teacher, and you want to nurture that.
I would explain this situation to the USA teacher, and let USA teacher help you sort it out. That puts your USA teacher in the loop, avoids secrecy, and chances are, you will get awesome insight from this teacher that will be exactly what you need.
GOOD LUCK to you. I hope you get to have your cake and eat it too!
Hi. My daughter has a teacher she loves but she is overseas and she sees her in the summer. She is an older world class soloist and she loves teaching. My child adores her. Every summer for the past 8years my child works with this teacher and grows in leaps and bounds. Most of the teaching she gets in the States is “maintenance” and an opportunity for recitals. We have recently moved and have found another world-renowned teacher who actually had the same violin teacher as a composer who wrote music to honor and to be performed by my daughter’s overseas teacher. This second person, the US teacher has it all together, is extremely nice and keeps offering opportunities for summer study to my daughter who will hear none of it as she equates the summers to being with her beloved overseas teacher. As our relationship with the US teacher is new I am afraid I may offend them by rejecting their generous offers and explaining the situation to them. My daughter is talented. Her future success may be a lifeline to the overseas aging teacher. We cannot abandon her after all she has done for us or hurt her feelings as all she talk about is about the next time she will be able to spend with my daughter. On the other hand,I feel that my daughter needs a good teacher here when she is here. I would love for her to be able to take the US teacher’s offer for the summer and go to her teahcer overseas but that is impossible dut to the length of time.
I did it. Opened up and told my teacher that I am still very much interested in continuing lessons, though for now, would like to explore and experience a new perspective. We talked and he said that it was good for my personal and professional growth. It was a refreshing conversation. He’s still my teacher (but not :)…) and he even recommended teachers that I may be interested in. Thanks for your reply! It really helped me decide to go for it 🙂
Good job! That took courage and character! I’m very glad to hear that your teacher was receptive….that shows that he has good character as well, and that he cares about you.
Thanks for updating us!
Hi! I’m currently experiencing this kind of situation. I just graduated college with a violin degree. I’ve been with my professor for 8 years now and am still continuing lessons with him. Tho I have nothing against my teacher’s whole approach (method, attitude, material), i just would want a fresh perspective on violin playing. How do you think can I speak to him and tell him that I want a different teacher? Please help.
If you have no complaints, and if you are continuing to make decent progress, perhaps you do not need a different teacher on a permanent basis. Maybe you could just take a couple lessons from various people, and maybe you could even get input from your current teacher on WHO he would recommend to offer a fresh perspective.
I have done that for certain students of mine…..I set them up with other teachers to correct a stubborn vibrato problem, or once I set up a TALL male student with a TALL male colleague of mine, so that my student could model after someone with his own body type.
By getting the input of your teacher, you allow him the chance to choose a colleague who he has mutual respect for.
You could also set up a SKYPE lesson with some big names….many teachers are offering this service.
One last option: I think SUMMER time would be a perfect chance for you to take a “sabbatical” from your current teacher, and maybe have a little “fling” with another teacher, if you want something more than just a couple lessons.
The bottom line is: there is always the chance your teacher will be offended, but if you approach it with total honesty and respect, chances are greater that he will support you, and you will keep your relationship intact.
A good way to open up the topic, or to “drop a hint” would be to ask him, “Do you think I could benefit from the perspective of another teacher, for say, 2-3 lessons? Would it possibly accelerate my growth?” or you could say, “I’ve been reading online about violin students who experience a surge of growth from getting new perspectives from other teachers…what do you think of that for me?”
Good luck to you, and I’d LOVE an update on the outcome of your situation!
Good luck to you!
I write to you from many many mile away. I found out about you through browsing youtube for tips, because we never seem to have luck with good teachers. We finally found one but she just moved away. Sad. We now have a new teacher who isn’t bad, but she is totally packed back to back with kids. She speaks fast and a lot and the lesson is just 30 min. To add to that, my 6 going on 7 years old kid is an easily distracted girl and I have no music background.
I am now back to searching youtube for tips and found out about your lessons on book which my kid just started with. Do you consider this as having 2 teachers? I doubt it, cos I am just a poor mum who needs more time to learn and digest each new piece in book 2!
You know what? After we watched your youtube video on the left pinky, about drawing a line across the knuckles, my child’s eyes twinkled for the first time this morning when she did a small pinky exercise her new teacher gave her. It finally sounded good for once!
I also have another question. I have read in your Q&A session about tackling one problem at a time with kids – the checkers idea. My child has completed book 1, she is able to play all the pieces confidently if you ask her to. But I feel her playing is a hit and miss. She would forget a long bow, she would retake her bow faster than she should. Her posture could start well at first and degrade. Her eyes are everywhere when she plays. Would you be able to tell us what are the top 10 problems in kids playing that we should nail down one by one? So we parents can work our way through? Do we start with posture first? Or bow hold or ….. Cos it can take a loooonng while for kids to have a good posture, discounting the fact that they had bad habits in the first place!
Good for you for exploring optional resources, and taking your child’s music education upon yourself. If parents are not involved when children study music, frankly, the child will never get anywhere. The parent is as important, if not MORE important than the teacher! So pat yourself on the back!
Glad to know the pinky line helped, and that the Checkers made sense to you.
As far as the top 10 priorities, there are many ways I could outline that.
I could make a list of top 10 things that need to happen in a practice session.
I could make a list of top 10 things parents need to remember.
Top 10 things the child needs to get under their belt.
Hey, you just gave me 3 ideas for 3 posts! Keep an eye out for those, because they are inspired by you!
But, I will take what I think you are asking: the 10 most pressing and crucial things for kids to nail, in order of importance. So, here’s my best stab at that in order of MOST important first:
1. posture must be secure. Chin rest and shoulder rest must be properly fitted. Child must be able to hold the violin comfortably without the aid from the hands for the duration of the Twinkle Theme. This should be automatic, and no longer require focus.
2. Bow hold must be relaxed, balanced, round like an egg, and AUTOMATIC. The child should not be bogged down with thinking about the bow hold.
3. Left Hand Starting Position: must be set up properly to allow the 1st finger to fold down nicely onto the 1st finger tape. This requires the correct VERTICAL placement, and the correct HORIZONTAL placement. It involves finding the right place for the thumb and the index knuckle. It also requires relaxation, and a nice little mousehole under the neck, between the webbing of the thumb and the neck.
4. Master the UPPER HALF of the bow first, using the motion of the ELBOW ONLY. No upper arm movement allowed at first. (too confusing for muscles)
5. Be able to draw a perfectly straight bow, staying right in the middle of the highway. (mid-way between the bridge and the fingerboard)
There. You have the 5 most critical skills for a beginning violin student, whether they are a child or an adult.
That is ALOT of multi-tasking for someone to do all at once….so I would take each item separately until each is easy. Then, I would work on combining skills, like see if they can Keep perfect posture throughout 3 songs in Book 1, whilst maintaining a perfect bow hold. Or maybe work on playing OH COme Little Children for a perfectly straight bow, and perfect left hand position.
Put a row of checkers for each skill mastered.
Stack checkers for skills that can be done SIMULTANEOUSLY. This is the REAL accomplishment!
Ok, gotta go write an article now! Nice to meet you. Keep up the great work, teacher!
I’m an adult with about a year or so of piano training in my childhood, and have just started violin/fiddle. I’ve only had a few lessons with a teacher who teaches Suzuki but has just started with O’Conner method, which is what he has me on. I found practice miserable and frustrating until stumbling upon your video for advanced bow hold, with the little finger just behind the “top of the pencil angle” on the bow. MAGIC! I was hooked right away, practice became fun instead of painful, and I suddenly could play “Boil ’em Cabbage Down.” with untold variety. But the second song in the book was also difficult for me. . . until I hit upon your video for Speed Dexterity and Left/Right Hand coordination. Somehow, you made it easy to use the pinkie and keep it in tune (I haven’t even had a lesson for that yet!), and, after only two days of “fiddlin'” with that video (pun intended!), I immediately can do the second song fairly well. However, I feel like doing a new song each week just causes tension: I’d rather be doing drills to make the songs possible instead of trying to learn new songs as drills, which seems to demand too many new skills all at the same time: more than my brain can handle.
So, my question is this: would it be possible for me to continue lessons with my teacher doing the O’Conner method while taking your Suzuki course at the same time, or would that be overkill? Certainly what I’ve learned from you so far from just a few videos has tremendously assisted my practice in every way I’ve gotten skewed. What do you think?
AND–thanks so much for your phenomenal teaching skills! I would literally have already considered quitting playing–thinking I just didn’t have what it took–had I not bumped into your youtube videos!
Thanks for writing, and wow, thanks for the kind words! It’s always SO GREAT to know I’ve helped someone!
As for your question about simultaneously taking private fiddle and my Suzuki class, I can honestly say it’s a great idea. (not just trying to sell you) I have many students who, for whatever reason, want to supplement their private lessons with my video lessons. There are many reasons people give me, but I’ve never had one come back and tell me they regret it.
The only issue would be that you’d have 2 things taking up your practice time. But my lessons are self-paced, so you can really take it as slow as you need to. (I pace it slowly anyway, but you can go slower if you need to, and it won’t cost you extra)
Now, on the the O-Connor Method: Many Suzuki teachers are taking the O-Conner training….and I think it sounds like a great system, except for the fact that it doesn’t use enough EASY, FAMILIAR tunes at first to get started. And honestly, I think 1 new song per week is a very fast pace at first! Once you get all the skills in place, then you can tackle more songs….but not right at the first! So, I agree with you about pace.
But you can tell your teacher you want to go a little slower, right? I’m sure he would respect your desires and needs.
It’s great to hear from you, and if you have any other questions, just ask. You can email me privately, or ask in this comments area.
Hope to see you soon on the inside!
After reading your article, I feel much better of what I’ve done. We have been looking for a violin teacher for my daughter(10 year old starter with piano backgroud). We first went to a teacher that a friend recommended. He teaches basically Suzuki method with some variation. I noticed that my daughter has been getting more and more frustrated with the pieces. He moved very fast on the book and didn’t fix any problem on either hand. She was playing out of tune. She has good piano training and knew it. Another friend refered a traditional teacher. We tried once and my daughter (and me too) made her mind right away to go with teacher #2. It was friday,close to the teacher #1’s next class on sunday. I called 1st teacher about our decision, saying we liked to have different approach from Suzuki( I didn’t say anything about his teaching) but we would keep our last lesson with him. The Sunday lesson was pretty tense, as he wanted us( my daughter, and me to tell him what was wrong). The following monday, I called him again(left message since he wasn’t around) and confirmed we would not come back. Then on the coming sunday, he called me back asking again what was wrong with his teaching, and who told me that he used Suzuki method, and he is the best teacher….
Again, I felt much better after reading your article. Btw, we like traditional method more. Our teacher also ask parent to practice with the kid, esp. when they are young.
Good for you for being open-minded, and for being decisive! There is NOTHING WRONG with shopping around a little bit for teachers, and certainly nothing wrong with changing teachers.
More often than not, the teacher will take it personally.
I have had my share of students abandon me! I just have to tell myself….”No matter HOW good I think I am as a teacher, there is NO WAY I could be the right teacher for everyone.”
I hope your traditional teacher works out. From what you describe, it sounds like a good match, especially given that your daughter has some musical skills and formal piano training.
Remind your daughter that it is WAY easier to sound good on the piano at first than it is on the violin. I mean, think about it….beginning pianists don’t play out of tune, nor do they play with horrible tone!
I see alot of pianists get frustrated with violin at first because it’s SO MUCH HARDER to start sounding GOOD on violin!
Thank you, Lora. My daughter is getting better on the tune. Often time, when she is not sure about something, she will check it on piano. We know it is much harder to make a decent sound on the violin than piano. I totally agree with what you said in another article that even for starter they need to play it clean and in tune. And this is what she missed when studying with 1st teacher. I also agree that it is very important that parent sits with kid during practice when they are young. Our piano teacher requires it. Our current violin teacher doesn’t emphasis on it but asked me to sit closer during class to watch better how she fixes the position and holding. Maybe it is just by default 🙂
Ha…yeah, I had to ‘move on’ end of last summer…but yet….not. My helpful tutor happens to also be the leader of the praise group that I play in. She’s been a great help in getting me started but I think the honeymoon was over for both of us. We mutually decided to end the lessons…it “HAD” to be a friendly leave taking because we work together on music all the time ! I’m very grateful for all of her advice and help and am very glad that when it was time to move on we could do so on friendly terms.
I enjoy my lessons with you very much Lora but I also do keep abreast of Beth’s videos and lesson on her site as well…but I think you do know that…lol. 😉 The videos and information are great and I can access them anytime, but there’s just no comparison to hands on one to one learning/teaching…..even if it is through a computer screen ! Thank you so much Lora ! Btw…..that last lesson I felt more incompetent than ever ! LOL ! I had the family all in the other room watching tv and trying to pretend I wasn’t there…and vice/versa…very uncomfortable !
Thanks for all the hits on utube. I learned some cool stuff from watching your tutorials. Would like to invite you to check out a 90 second video of my show.
It has Devil went down to georgia and some of the other instruments I play. I also do a crazy fiddle tricks act! I call it, “How Not to Play a Violin”!!!! Ha ha
I have submitted this video to America’s got talent for the show starting this summer. Hope it’s good enough to get in the door. Would love to keep in touch with you!!!!!! Cindy Renee’
I did watch your video–you are very versatile indeed! I still have “Devil Went Down to Georgia” on my “must learn” list….just gotta make it happen! You are right….you can’t play anywhere without audiences requesting the OBS and Devil! Nice to see you in my comments section……..—-Lora
Interesting. It’s my opinion that that should be one of the first questions a teacher asks a new student on the phone or at the interview. (1) Have you had lessons before? and (2) have you discontinued lessons with the previous teacher? IMO it’s really unprofessional for a teacher to take on a student who’s still studying with someone else. It makes for a competitive situation with the previous teacher, and it’s not respectful to him or her.
Very good point, Julie. There is the unspoken code amongst teachers that you don’t talk badly of another teacher, nor do you try to recruit students from someone else’s studio into your own. Thanks for your comment! 😉
Hi. I had a similar thing occur about a year ago. I had been working with one teacher for about 3.5 years..the honeymoon was over for me. in that I was not getting the help I needed in technique, even though I asked for it. I really struggled with my decision but what brought it to light for me was during the summer when a professional player was helping me with sound points between the bridge and FB…he mentioned to me: “Can I help you with an adjustment of your bowing hand”? Your right hand is stiff and tension is showing in your index and pinky”. I invited his help and it proved to be the turning point for me. I had met another teacher in my home area a year before this happened; she was a professional musician as well as a teacher..(the other teacher was just doing teaching and not playing professionally). So I finished out my lessons for that month that I have payed for and took the summer off (I’m a fiddler as well as a violinst). When the Fall came around..I called the new teacher and ask if there were any openings and there were..so I took two lessons and was so glad that I did..she really saw things that needed attention and her fresh approach made the difference. I called my other teacher and told her that I had decided to work with another teacher, the new gal, and that I wanted another view point and method…no more Suzuki for me as an adult! I’m glad I made the switch…that was a year ago and now I’ve really developed into a good strong intermediate player with a new teacher and I’m playing in a community based Chamber Orchestra. I occasionally email my old teacher and tell her I’m dong well and playing in an orchestra..she’s delighted. It really was hard to move but in the long run..the best move I could have made for my music and skills.
Stay tuned. Diane in SoCal
“FiddlerOnTheRoad”…..I LOVE that! So you fiddle, too eh? Any style in particular? I love the Irish style….and I’m just now cutting my teeth on Old-Timey and Bluegrass, although I find that style much harder for me. I like hearing from other fiddlers.
Thanks for your story. It’s just the inevitable fact: Violin students must move on eventually….either by their own choosing, or by their teacher’s choosing. And it’s definitely NOT EASY when the student is the one making the switch….but if you handle it right, you can salvage the relationship, just like you have shown.
I’m staying tuned, Diane!
Great post – I wondered about that. Open up-front communication always pays in the long run, even if it’s painful at first.
By the way, THANK YOU SO MUCH for the excellent practice document you sent when I signed up……love it!
I’m glad you enjoy it, Jan! Make sure you are signed up for my newsletter sequence….I’m adding all kinds of additional practicing techniques in that newsletter. –Lora