Teacher Talk: your string teaching questions answered by our panel of experts


How do you encourage students to develop their own musical ideas rather than just copying your phrasing, or even that of Heifetz?

John Jones, Cardiff, UK


Mimi Zweig: I try to give my students the technical tools that will enable them to be sensitive to their own innermost musical feelings. They are then able to change phrasings, fingerings, dynamics and musical nuances with ease. I think I would be happy if they had the facilities to imitate Heifetz once in a while.


Boris Kuschnir: I would ask such a student a few questions:


1 Why do people not organise exhibitions of copies of works by Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Raphael, Picasso and other great painters?

2 Why do paintings by great artists cost millions, whereas copies of those paintings are sold for €10 at the supermarket?

3 Why did tickets for concerts by great violinists such as Heifetz, Oistrakh, Menuhin and Stern sell out a year in advance, whereas performances by violinists who try to copy those great musicians take place in half-empty halls?

4 Why has nobody succeeded in copying Stradivari violins – or other classic Italian violins – in such a way that they sound like the originals?

5 When does that student feel happy? When they put their thoughts, feelings, worries, pain or happiness into their interpretation? Or when they copy the interpretation of Heifetz?



Mimi Zweig is professor of violin and viola and Director of Pre-College Strings at Jacobs School of Music, Indiana University at Bloomington

Boris  Kuschnir is violin professor at the Vienna Conservatoire and at the University of Music in Graz


Our Teacher Talk series was first published in The Strad in January 2011. Subscribe to The Strad and get the best in teaching tips every month, from Simon Fischer's long-running Basics column to advice from top string players in Masterclass. Or click here to find out about our digital edition.