Jump to content


Photo

Is teaching style a cultural thing?

student teacher relationshp teaching style adult learner violin

  • Please log in to reply
35 replies to this topic

#1 JessicaQ

JessicaQ

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 67 posts
  • Member: 895621
    Joined: 20-July 16

Posted 22 July 2016 - 07:57

Recently I've become increasingly confused and somewhat frustrated with the way my teacher conducts the lessons. And my attempts of talking things through seem to have failed. I'm starting to wonder if this has a lot to do with cultural differences and would like to hear opinions of fellow adult learners.

Some basic facts: having started playing from young age, I did a couple of years music college many years ago but have pursued other career and neglected violin playing for most part of my life. My lessons with the current teacher started eight months ago with Bach BWV1004 whole piece including Chaconne and Mozart concerto in G. So I suppose at an advanced level. Aside from these two works, I've also done Mendelssohn concerto and some studies. Teacher is a highly accomplished soloist/chamber musician.

For most part of the lesson he corrects my techniques, left hand right hand etc. Occasional explanations on bowing/fingering details in relation to composition background. I'd say 90% on discussing my technical problems. No positive comment whatsoever. There's definitely never been anything like "good" said. I can't recall anything indicating acceptable like "fine". I'm instructed to move on to next piece when, I can only guess, one is completed to an extent edging on passable. I'm so used to being interrupted by him pointing out my mistake when playing for him, that if for a few extra bars I'm not stopped I start to wonder what's going on.

So my first question is, personality aside, is this normal? My last teacher was many years ago, a very outgoing and passionate person, always encouraging. I really don't have much experience with different teachers.

I tried to talk to my teacher about this. And his reaction was that it's all because I had not lived up to his standards, which were not really that high; the only solution was for me to spend more hours practicing. And that I even thought of and insisted on talking about it, despite his reluctance, wanting some change was ridiculous. We only barely managed to avoid a falling out (we were friends before lessons started) because of this and concluded my attempt of the talk with that we differ in perhaps cultural upbringings. He's China and Austria trained and I British educated.

So the other question is, is this really a kind of cultural clash as in different perceptions and expectations on music teaching that resulted. Or is there something seriously wrong with my expectations (for positive feedback) or his reaction (for refusing to give any)?   

I'd much appreciate your thoughts shared.


  • 0

#2 Norway

Norway

    Virtuoso

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 4668 posts
  • Member: 452922
    Joined: 05-May 12

Posted 22 July 2016 - 08:20

There are all sorts of teachers everywhere - this one doesn't suit your needs so I'd move on.
  • 5

#3 Sylvette

Sylvette

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 403 posts
  • Member: 895486
    Joined: 14-June 16
  • Gloucestershire, UK

Posted 22 July 2016 - 09:02

This is a massive generalisation, but the Asian culture of teaching does tend to emphasise the student accepting the teacher's word without question and discourages discussion. 

A few years ago, I had a singing teacher who, while British through and through, was greatly influenced by a martial arts teacher and admired the culture.  His attitude was similar to your teacher's and he was fond of saying that the pupil could never exceed the teacher.  (He completely failed to see the logical fallacy in this statement.  If it were true, we would never make any progress in science, medicine or anything and the genius student would be held back by the averagely-talented teacher!) He hated being challenged about anything to do with lessons and would not explain the rationale behind his teaching.

I agree with Norway - move on.


  • 3

#4 hummingbird

hummingbird

    Prodigy

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1918 posts
  • Member: 491056
    Joined: 25-July 12

Posted 22 July 2016 - 09:32

We only barely managed to avoid a falling out (we were friends before lessons started)

You run the risk of losing a friend as well as a music teacher if you continue to feel frustrated at his teaching style.  If you want to keep his friendship, I'd tell him that you value his friendship too much to risk falling out and it's better to find another teacher.

 

PS.  Welcome to the forum!


  • 4

#5 JCW

JCW

    Newbie

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 13 posts
  • Member: 437504
    Joined: 08-April 12

Posted 22 July 2016 - 10:04

I don't think it has to be a cultural thing necessarily. My piano teacher (we are both English by the way) did nothing to encourage me at all and never gave any praise. It was only ever constant criticism. Exams told a different story, however. I did grades 3 to 6 with this teacher and got 3 distinctions and a merit. He even commented on one of the distinction results with "I don't know how you have managed that".

I pretty much gave up lessons after grade 6 as he completely ruined any confidence, and belief in myself, that I had. I really want to go on to grade 7, but my view of teachers has been tainted. I know they are not all the same and he is probably a one-off but I think its a case of once bitten, twice shy.

I can hear you all shouting "go find another teacher", which I know I need to do before its too late.

 

Has anyone else had any similar experience? If so, how was it dealt with?


  • 0

#6 cestrian

cestrian

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 759 posts
  • Member: 253314
    Joined: 09-May 11
  • Wales

Posted 22 July 2016 - 10:43

Are you a better player since you took lessons with him? If so, I guess you need to decide whether it's worth the pain and discomfort. If not, well... The opposite end of the spectrum is to have a nice friendly teacher with whom you chat, have a laugh do a bit of duetting and then hand over your cash without feeling that you did much. I don't mind not receiving praise so long as when I get home I detect improvements in my playing ability and that the practise suggestions he makes are realistic, manageable and effective.


  • 0

#7 BadStrad

BadStrad

    Virtuoso

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 4060 posts
  • Member: 88756
    Joined: 28-January 10

Posted 22 July 2016 - 11:07

If you are playing the chaconne, then you're obviously no novice. Your teacher's style seems to be ref!ecting that. At that level teaching is less about encouraging and more about teasing out the best possible way of playing.

A friend once told me of a quartet lesson at the Academy in which the four of them spent the whole time playing one chord. The teacher insisted it was wrong, they (initially) thought it was right. Eventually they found the sound he had in his head for that part of the music. It was frustrating and demoralising playing one chord over and over until they found the best blend of intonations, but once found, it (and their informed choices based on that lesson) made the piece glorious compared to their original version of the chord. The teacher was bad tempered, almost never praised anyone but the results he got were extraordinary. Another of his students, who didn't like his teaching style, or even the teacher as a person still admits that he brought the best out of his playing.

So with that in mind, my questions (to the OP) are these: Is your teacher improving your playing enough to overcome your desire for praise? Are the benefits worth it? Could you find the (positive) feedback you seek elsewhere, performing for example? Would you be happier with a more praising teacher who may not improve your playing? It is easy to think about leaving a teacher, but the grass is not always greener with someone else. Only the OP knows if they genuinely "need" more positive feedback, or whether they just want it at this moment because they feel deflated for whatever reason. Finally, is there anything else going on that might be upsetting you (obviously we don't need details if there is). It is harder to put up with a less gushing teacher if life feels tougher in other areas, but it is important to separate out whether it *is* the teacher, or whether negative feelings from elsewhere are being projected onto the lesson experience.
  • 1

#8 JessicaQ

JessicaQ

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 67 posts
  • Member: 895621
    Joined: 20-July 16

Posted 22 July 2016 - 13:08

I'm really too new to this forum. I can't seem to find a way to reply individually, so can only say thank you to all here. I'm delighted to have found a place like this. As you know, being an adult learner can be quite lonely at times. Thanks, polkadot's for the welcome.

BadStrad, wow! Your questions are exactly what kept me from making the straightforward decision to go for another teacher, reasons somewhere back in my mind that I couldn't quite locate and needed clarifying (also, hence the rather lengthy post trying to give a full picture).

Yes, despite the lack of acknowledgement I think I have improved, partly with the technical guidance and partly from working harder under pressure. I do value real improvement above praise, though that's where difficulty presents. As adult player (and being a woman ;)), one becomes used to being flattered whether out of sincerity or politeness. But thinking of it this way, I know I'm making a choice and can now see it in perspective. As to the final question, I think it's not that other parts of life are having an impact, but primarily that I hear the criticism not always perceived as from him the teacher but sometimes him the friend. 

My last teacher and my teacher now are from distinctively different cultural backgrounds. Somewhat automatically I thought the difference had to do with that. Thinking further with your inputs, cultural difference might not have been a right proposition. But hope that more would find thoughts shared on teacher-student relationship issues helpful.      


  • 0

#9 GMc

GMc

    Prodigy

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1076 posts
  • Member: 322722
    Joined: 27-September 11

Posted 22 July 2016 - 13:31

What did you tell him your aims were when you started?. Sounds to me as if neither of you have explained what you are tryjng to achieve to the other. You are clearly advanced but if he really wants to change your technique I Would expect him to be giving you some exercises to comsolidate such changes as well.

I would change tracher and ask around for recommendatikns at your level then have a few trial lessons. But you have to be crystal clear with them what you want to achieve and how much time you have to soend on this for them to know how to treat you.
  • 0

#10 JessicaQ

JessicaQ

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 67 posts
  • Member: 895621
    Joined: 20-July 16

Posted 22 July 2016 - 14:35

Yeah... another problem. I didn't have a clear goal in mind at all when it started. That's part of the reason when upset, I think more of quitting than finding another teacher. Before this, I sort of happily positioned myself as an amateur, playing occasional gigs, not worrying about practicing. Some more advanced level musician friends suggested I take it more seriously. That's another factor to the self-doubts, as it turned out to be a lot of work and all along I've felt and combatted the thought that I was a disappointment. So besides teacher-student, I'm also trying to think through the more fundamental question of what I want to do in music, which answer may then point me to whether to change a teacher.  

And yes with exercises. Normally the major pieces and studies go concurrently. Another friend sort of helps me out every now and then on more minor details.


  • 0

#11 Norway

Norway

    Virtuoso

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 4668 posts
  • Member: 452922
    Joined: 05-May 12

Posted 22 July 2016 - 15:25

There you have it! You have tried to please other people rather than yourself. It's you that matters - if you are happy being an amateur doing gigs then carry on doing that and developing in your own way - that's a successful musician in my books! Pros are not necessarily better, happier or healthier.
  • 0

#12 linda.ff

linda.ff

    Maestro

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 8034 posts
  • Member: 183500
    Joined: 04-January 11
  • Cambridge

Posted 22 July 2016 - 21:40

This is perhaps going to be a silly question, but - are you performing, or at least aiming to perform? If not, where is all this improvement leading to?

I've never really been in that position because for years my first instrument was the voice, and when my instrument started to deteriorate, the first instrument was the baton. As my technique improved I was always able to put it into practice by performing. So my improvement was partly aimed at other people's satisfaction as well as my own. If I were not performing it would have been just for my own satisfaction, and where is the satisfaction in performing only ever for yourself?

Well, of course, the answer is in the music. There seems to have been no mention of musicality being addressed in these lessons, only technique. I'd be very interested to know if anyone in these forums is at an advanced level of playing, only desires to play for themselves, and yet wishes to continue improving their technique.

My most advanced piano student is working towards grade 6, now has a music scholarship to one of the independent schools in this city, will play the violin in school a lot (he has grade 5) but wants to work on his piano playing rather than narrowing down to three exam pieces. So while we are constantly working on technical matters as they arise, he is getting a lot of *music* in his piano time, and we are sharing the experience and the "feedback" that the music itself gives him. I really think I'd sooner find he is getting a lot of satisfaction from Beethoven, Satie, Bartok, Schumann rather than from his technical improvement. When it comes to a point when he needs to perform (including exams) then we are likely to start to up the work on relevant technique. But my gut feeling is that improvement in playing is pretty empty without knowing lots of music repertoire as *music* for your own satisfaction regardless of how close your technique comes to perfection.
  • 0

#13 JessicaQ

JessicaQ

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 67 posts
  • Member: 895621
    Joined: 20-July 16

Posted 23 July 2016 - 07:02

First of all, thank you for offering the perspectives that have brought me to face issues beneath the surface of dilemma.

Coincidentally until recent years since young I had enjoyed playing piano more than violin. I doubt it's out of any musicality reasons, rather the pressure that came from majoring in violin, and having far more accomplished string players around me. It's simply more relaxing.

After quitting music college, I played in amateur orchestras and for a while led a quartet that performed regularly, but refrained from performing solo. I'm extremely insecure in violin performance. In that sense, I wasn't accurate in saying "happily as an amateur".

A suggestion was that if I couldn't bring it out naturally, then try work from the purely technical angle. That's how my teacher came in. Musicality is more of a technical issue in lessons with focuses on analytical and precise interpretations and execution. His intention is to build my confidence through such exercises along with mastering greater virtuoso techniques. I was not sure how and if this'd work, but am now less reluctant to perform solo, though still struggling. I'm also contemplating on the ABRSM exams that might be a realistic goal I can set for myself.    


  • 0

#14 elemimele

elemimele

    Prodigy

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1282 posts
  • Member: 895612
    Joined: 17-July 16

Posted 23 July 2016 - 09:41

I am always slightly worried when a tacit assumption appears, that learning to a high level is justification for being thoroughly miserable/frustrated. There are teachers who genuinely see no point in positive comments: "I'm here to correct the faults, you know that, I know that, so the only thing I'm going to talk about is faults". It's rather sad, this failure to understand that shared pleasure leads to more thought, more practice, more experiment, more progress.

 

It's not that the purely negative teacher is bad; maybe some people, strangely, like that style. It's that the purely negative teacher is missing half the tools in a teacher's toolbox. Positive doesn't mean weak. Positive doesn't mean "just for fun". Positive doesn't imply a personality that can't handle negative, or a willingness to accept second best. So if you want something positive in your life, don't let yourself be guilt-tripped into accepting a rough time with someone who can't handle it.


  • 6

#15 dorfmouse

dorfmouse

    Prodigy

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1388 posts
  • Member: 1946
    Joined: 18-August 04
  • Germany

Posted 24 July 2016 - 07:54

Yesterday I was reading about eliminating tension in Graham Fitch's excellent site, and came across some thoughtful words about the likely results of constant negative feedback.

http://www.practisin...ting-tension-1/
  • 1





Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: student teacher relationshp, teaching style, adult learner, violin