Violin Teaching vs Coaching

Updated: February 7, 2018

I've been teaching a lot of One to One lessons recently (I added an extra day to my London class - get in touch here if you'd like to book a lesson with me or David!).

It's got me thinking about the nature of what a violin lesson actually is!

A lot of people come to a violin lesson expecting a teacher to teach them how to play the violin! Teacher tells learner what to do, learner does it, everyone's happy.

But is that all there is to a violin lesson?

Of course, imparting information is a huge part of a teacher’s role.

But, rather than simply expecting knowledge (e.g. what to do, how to do it) to be acquired at a violin lesson, what would happen if that knowledge was acquired before a lesson, and then the lesson itself becomes focused on the application of that knowledge?

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I'd draw an analogy here between teaching and coaching. For example, whenever I have a big concert or a recording session, I go and book a violin coaching session at ViolinSchool with David (yes, I study at ViolinSchool too!).

David and I spend large amounts of time every single week talking about violin playing, and so information itself is very rarely the main focus in a lesson environment.

But playing to him is always, without exception, a revelatory experience. Why?

The best way I can think to describe it is to have someone hold up an all-seeing mirror to you. The mirror not only reflects back to you what you're doing (valuable as that is), but it also gives you a new perspective on what you're doing.

You become aware of the potential you have to realise what you already know or can do. This opens up more possibilities for you to use your existing skills much more effectively.

The ideas in a coaching session could be musical, technical, performance-related, philosophical, or even something else entirely ... but the hallmark of any great coaching session is that you come away feeling like you have new insights into how you might use your existing abilities in exciting new ways.

This kind of sophisticated and multi-faceted experience can only really come from a strong personal relationship between a player and a coach (and it's no coincidence that this kind of relationship is considered essential in the world of sports).

If you're just acquiring knowledge then you're learning about the violin. But if you're exploring how to apply that knowledge, then you're learning about yourself!

So although there's precious little difference in booking a ‘lesson’ or a ‘coaching session’ - from an administrative perspective it's one and the same thing! - the actual nature of the time spent together - teacher and learner or coach and learner - is very different indeed!

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