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Violin/viola teacher doesn't let students play both violin and vio

violin viola playing both violin and viola multiple instruments teachers teaching students learning

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#1 tulip21


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Posted 09 April 2018 - 22:04

Hi everyone, I'm just curious. I know of a violin/viola teacher (who's primarily a violist) who doesn't seem to let his students play both violin and viola (though I know of at least one of his students who secretly plays both instruments). I could ask him, but he's not very close to me, so it'll be hard to fetch him. I've already talked to someone about it (I'm thinking of asking my own violin teacher as I haven't asked). The only reason I can think of for him not to let his students play both is because students might mix up the two instruments, thus hindering progress. Although as a teacher that would concern me, not being allowed to play both instruments may take away from some student's enjoyment. In addition, there are many advantages to playing both including more open doors. Furthermore, depending on mentality, some people have issues with mixing up the two instruments and some don't. Would it be fair as a teacher to at least give students the chance to try playing both equally (quantity wise) if they want to? I wouldn't mind asking students to push an instrument to the side temporarily to facilitate learning another. As a teacher, would you give your students the chance to play both violin and viola? Why or why not? My personal answer is "yes" because it's their desire and it's their study. However, if mixing up the instruments is actually causing problems, I'm sure there's probably some ways to deal with it. After all, the last resort is to get them to quit an instrument, but I don't want to go there if at all possible.
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#2 BadStrad



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Posted 10 April 2018 - 00:00

All but one of the violin teachers I know also teach viola (the "one" doesn't play viola). None of them have a problem with students playing both, but it generally happens a way down the line when the pupil is secure on their first instrument.
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#3 Bremmer



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Posted 10 April 2018 - 06:06

In the early stages, yes, I expect some, perhaps most people would find it confusing, particularly if they don't already read one of the clefs. Intonation wise, is could be tricky if someone didn't have a particularly good ear.  Max Gilbert, who taught me viola, said there were subtle differences in technique, the bow slightly flatter on the strings and a vibrato that perhaps needed to be a bit wider. I had an arm vibrato by then and was at RCM so it was easy to adjust by ear to get the desired effect.


For many years, all my good violin pupils used to take Grade 1 viola when they got to Grade 3 violin, some took higher grades as well. I did the same with my cellists many of whom would have at least had a few lessons on how to play the double bass. Some cellists 'crossed the floor' and tried the violin, one violinist did it the other way. However taking extra exams like this just got too expensive for the parents to continue.

Being a grade 8 cellist as well as violin and viola   and teaching both upper and lower strings,I had some pupils who quite 'got into' taking music exams, and some cellists took their Grade 1 and 2 double bass. 

If at the school ( a prep school with children up to 13, but many leaving at 11 after 11 plus )  where I taught we didn't have a viola player up to spec, I would draw straws for one of my better violin pupils to play viola, using a cheat 'instant' but brain numbing hard method to read the clef to start with. At least then I could have a proper string quartet without resorting to 3rd violin.

There is of course the issue of practice time and doing two instruments.


 If you are at an advanced level, the violin repertoire can be pretty tough for a viola player, and vice versa of course.

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