Viola and violin lessons

I teach online one-hour and half-hour lessons on both viola and violin. I cover many topics:

  • Posture — we need to hold our bodies and instruments well to allow us to play the music without getting in our own way.
  • Intonation — playing in tune makes the relationships between the notes clean and clear.
  • Music notation (pitch, rhythm, meter, articulations, Italian terminology, and other details) — we must understand what the composer is trying to tell us.
  • Sound production — we must produce the sound quality appropriate to the music at every moment.
  • Practice techniques and strategies — we must practice effectively to build our technique effectively and learn music quickly.
  • Expressive playing — as an actor needs to go beyond the words printed in the script to what lies behind the words, we must go beyond the notes to the music that lies within.
  • Bowings and fingerings — finding good bowings and fingerings is an important skill; a good fingering can make a passage much easier and cut practice time in half or more, and a good bowing can make the music shine by clarifying phrase shapes and providing texture.
  • Music theory and analysis — it’s important to understand what it is that we’re playing; knowing the nuts and bolts of how music works can help us play music more insightfully.

Teaching philosophy

I don’t teach you how to play the viola or violin; I teach you how to teach yourself  how to play the viola or violin. Practice is a process of experimentation and discovery, guided by the knowledge of fundamental prinicples of technique and musicianship to build effective mental, aural, and muscular habits.

Effective practice consists largely of two parts:

Isolation and recombination

Many people have a natural tendency to practice whatever piece they’re working on by playing it from the beginning until they make a mistake at some point. They then think to themselves, “Oh, let me just start at the beginning again.” Thus begins a Groundhog Day adventure of playing the beginning of a piece over and over again, only to mess up in the same measure over and over again. A more effective way of practicing is to zoom in and target the spots where there’s a problem, isolating it from the rest of the piece. Then, when that small section is fixed, the musician should gradually recombine it with its surrounding notes.

Isolation and recombination can take other forms, too: you can practice a passage with the left hand alone (without using the bow ), then practice it with the right hand alone, then recombine the hands together again to play the passage normally.

Correct repetition

Our muscles only learn through repetition; whatever you have them do repeatedly they’ll tend to do in the future. So an essential part of practice is repeating some action or combination of actions correctly. If you repeat a mistake, your muscles will learn to keep playing that same mistake.

In my teaching, I aim to lead the student to develop good technique and musicianship, which involves a deep understanding of the music and how it’s put together. The goal is to develop a practice toolbox that allows a musician to learn and effectively play any music that they care to thoughtfully and communicatively.