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Adult learner and demanding teachers

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Jacowherearthou, Mar 7, 2021.

  1. Jacowherearthou


    Oct 18, 2008

    I've been doing double bass lessons with a professional of double bass for about a year and half. I played from 5th grade through high school and into college not becoming a music major but staying on music with community orchestra's and occasional lessons. Then I joined the Navy and didn't play upright for 8 years. After I got out, I picked it up again slowly. Then I found this professor. He has lots of experience but is really demanding and makes me feel pretty stupid sometimes. For example constantly pointing out stuff I didn't learn when I was young and how he wishes he had me as a student then. I can't go back in time and learn what I didn't learn. I studied with a professional symphony player in high school but he seems to have been less demanding than my current instructor. Is it wrong to feel discouraged? Continuing to play and learn while working nights for 8 years and having a family and full time job is hard. I finally got onto days this past Summer but it's still hard to find consistent sleep and practice time.

    Thank you,
  2. charlie monroe

    charlie monroe Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2011
    Buffalo, NY
    I wouldn't pay someone to make me feel miserable.
    tww001, pcake, JKos and 12 others like this.
  3. eerbrev


    Dec 6, 2009
    Ottawa, ON, CAN
    Yeah, it may be a teacher mismatch. Try talking with them about the issue, and if they seem dismissive, or their behaviour doesn't improve, find someone else.

    Life's too short.
    pcake, JKos, mikewalker and 7 others like this.
  4. Andy Mopley

    Andy Mopley

    Sep 24, 2011
    Have you spoken to your teacher about how you feel? Perhaps his heart is in the right place, but he is not great at communication. Or maybe he is seeing some talent there which, had you been a student of his, in your younger days, he may have nurtured to make you into a better player now?
    Sometimes we take on things too personally and that's where discouragement creeps in. If you feel that he is the sort of teacher that will get the best out of you, then I would work at the inter-personal stuff. If that doesn't cut it, move on. There is certainly a different ways to teach adults, does he have other students of your vintage you can talk to? Perhaps they all share your feelings or can at least validate yours (either way).
    And remember that at the end of the day, in life, it's all about the goal...

    mtto, oldNewbie and Wasnex like this.
  5. Jacowherearthou


    Oct 18, 2008
    It's hard to figure out what my goal. The orchestra I was last in at a University is disbanded.
    I want to try and play some Bach cello at actual pitch which he was real dismissive of. I was surprised he was so adamant the Dragonetti waltzes are too hard to play.
    Bushmaster likes this.
  6. Lee Moses

    Lee Moses

    Apr 2, 2013
    Personally, I'd rather have a motivated instructor that pushes me than a couldn't-care-less-just-give-me-my-check kind. Maybe there's more that I'm missing, but the comments you mention don't seem like he is trying to belittle you. Even if his comments don't always make you feel good, if his intentions are coming from a good place and his instruction is helping you progress, I wouldn't take his comments as insults.
    Quinn Roberts and AGCurry like this.
  7. CaseyVancouver


    Nov 4, 2012
    A good match will inspire you, not discourage you.

    I still take occasional lessons. I always wait until I’m really looking forward to a lesson. Sometimes the best teacher is not the most prestigious player. I learned that 40 years ago.

    With my current instructor I always record the lesson. We get along great and he may be younger than my kids. He plays French bow, I play German, I also tune in 5ths which I think sort of confuses him. He shows me how to sound good, work on excerpts and various inside stuff with his symphonic work. Great fun.

    I suggest working with new teachers, mix it up a bit. You might be wasting your time and money with this one.
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2021
    pcake, Bushmaster, M0ses and 3 others like this.
  8. Lee Moses

    Lee Moses

    Apr 2, 2013
    Okay, those comments give me pause. Does he mean he doesn't think you're ready to try them now, or that you never will be?
  9. Jacowherearthou


    Oct 18, 2008
    I don't know. Made me think he was saying you'll never be good enough to do that.
  10. Jacowherearthou


    Oct 18, 2008
    Tuning in 5ths? Wow that's cool.
  11. CaseyVancouver


    Nov 4, 2012
    I joined a Chamber Orchestra where I’m the only bass. A lot of the music is cello and I grew tired of transposing the low stuff up. I dislike the C extension. Then I joined a symphony, so the tuning has really worked out.

    Since you are working on the Bach Suites, here is Joel playing the sixth one.
    Joel is tuned in 5ths.

  12. Andy Mopley

    Andy Mopley

    Sep 24, 2011
    You are the only person that can answer that question..A lot of hard work and dedication may prove him wrong, but I do believe that we all have certain "quantifiable" capabilities, beyond which lays an ever elusive target. How we deal with it, comes down to each individual. It is also not about the age itself. It is about the amount and quality of practice (Time, design of practice, focus, etc ) you are willing to invest in your instrument. That's it, that's the secret. Period.
    unbrokenchain likes this.
  13. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Can we unpack this statement? What does that even mean "want to try and play"? It kind of implies that you haven't even tried to play Bach yet, or am I reading too much into it?

    Don't overthink it; just pick up the bow and play some Bach, right now. You don't need your teacher's permission or approval. You can learn any music you want on your own, outside the curriculum of your lessons. If you love Bach then play Bach. If you love Dragonetti then play Dragonetti.

    If your reaction is, "But I can't! Bach and Dragonetti are too hard!" then maybe your teacher has a good point, and you should learn easier music first, work your way up gradually in difficulty?

    Have you heard your teacher play this music? Do you know for a fact they are actually good enough at it, to teach you? They would have to be able to do it themselves, at a high level, with ease, to teach it to their students.
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2021
  14. Andy Mopley

    Andy Mopley

    Sep 24, 2011
    Kind of what I was hinting, in a less direct way, Mushroo.. :)
    Mushroo likes this.
  15. I don't like what you write about your teacher, but in the Bach case he might as well be right. I don't know your level of course - so for the sake of conversation I'd suggest you are something like me. I said to myself 'I want Bach suites' two years ago. I couldn't do it which took some time and pride to sink into my head. It helped me however to learn to measure my readiness: It took me very long time to learn a difficult passage, and when I learned it sufficiently enough, it didn't really help me to play other passages easier. Later I found that when I spend more time on basics, then the harder stuff goes way easier. Try the Bach - you can do it without teacher and even with the teacher, the hard practising you still have to do yourself. If you progress confusingly slowly, then try something easier. I think that the 'prerequisities' for cello suites should be at least Simandl 1+2, or (way better IMO) Rabbath 1+2. Myself, I still haven't learn any of the suites, but I found much of very interesting different stuff.

    I'm teaching bassguitar and I teach kids and adults. My experience is that adults are harder to teach because they have their own head, their own time schedule, and they don't trust me too much with my choices of material. There's a good chance that you'd be better off with a different teacher. However, you can benefit from considering what you want from the teacher, and from discussing it with him.
  16. Garagiste


    Feb 16, 2013
    Brooklyn, NY
    His dynamics are just incredible
    CaseyVancouver likes this.
  17. oldNewbie

    oldNewbie Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2016
    Agree with much above from others, but you deserve better than this guy, even (and maybe especially) if you need more work before you play the at-pitch Bach. That attitude is damaging to your learning efforts, without question. If you really like him for his technical mastery and want to keep with him, bring this treatment up directly. No one needs to be treated like that, least of all a working parent. If he is just unaware of what he's said but is willing to try and do better , he'll make a new relationship immediately and never say anything like that again. Now, do you believe that's going to happen ?

    There are far too many excellent under- and unemployed teachers online now to bother with him, imo. Get yourself a good one !
    And practice slow!
    Hilary Hahn’s 2 year old tells her to “practice sloww!” - YouTube
    Bushmaster likes this.
  18. Ed S

    Ed S

    Nov 14, 2019
    My wife used to have a fiddle teacher who would make her cry. No excuse for that IMO.

    Are your lessons in-person or on-line? If on-line, just drop this guy and find someone else. If in-person, there might be fewer options, so you might want to try to work things out.

    IME, many instructors have difficulty working w/ adult beginners. What I (and my wife) have perceived all to often is a reluctance to set out a strict program of study. Instead, many seem to act more as a "coach", expecting the student to direct the course.

    Good luck!
    Bushmaster likes this.
  19. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    I may be a little bit to the other side ... sometimes I wish my teacher were more demanding. In my view, the teacher's job is to assess a student's strengths and weaknesses, communicate those clearly, and come up with assignments that treat the weaknesses.
  20. Keyser Soze

    Keyser Soze Supporting Member

    I play w/ a piano player who's been playing since he was a kid. His kid-band won a statewide battle of the bands in the 1960s, won a Shure Vocalmaster® PA. He's a highly accomplished rock player and can also player most American genres idiomatically correctly and well. He aspires to jazz, which he's enjoyed listening to his whole life and kind of fakes at playing. He has no illusions that he is a "jazz piano player."

    So he decided to take jazz lessons from a neighbor, who happens to be the chair of the piano department at a local university. This "teacher," it turns out, was a child prodigy classical player who was at university, on a classical piano career track when bitten by the jazz bug. So that derailed his classical career and, eventually, his career became academia. I saw an interview of him and he revealed that some of his classical instructors -- and one in particular -- were total old-school tyrants who constantly berated him and made him feel terrible.

    Oddly enough, he is like this when giving my friend lessons. Sneeringly dismissive. Unkind.

    My friend, who's a sharp guy and a retired professor in his own right, doesn't seem to understand me when I tell him he's crazy to suffer this abuse. I tell him, "I've got a guy who will do a much better job of teaching you and, oh, by the way, you'll actually enjoy it."

    We're halfway there; he quit the tyrant, is now taking video lesson from Peter Martin's web site, Open Studio - Play Jazz Better.

    Life is too short to suffer needless abuse.
    Bushmaster, friend33 and oldNewbie like this.
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