Ask the Teacher - Jeffrey Solow


The Philadelphia-based pedagogue teaches technique by asking students to learn to play by feeling

What do you do when you see a student for the first time?

I ask them about themselves, who they have studied with, and general background. Then they play something for me and I ask them about their playing: what they identify as their strengths and what needs improving. Sometimes they have an idea of their problems and sometimes they’re clueless. After they’ve given me their analysis, I tell them what my perceptions are and talk about how we should address them.

How do you teach technique?

Many people teach by saying, ‘Do this,’ ‘Put your fingers and armslike this,’ and there’s a lot of focus on the instrument. That is fine, but masterful performers control their playing by hearing and, even more, by feeling. By the time you have heard a sound, everyone else can hear it, too. You need to control what is about to come out of the instrument. Students have to learn what it’s supposed to feel like toplay, so I use experiential exercises. I think things up, both with and without the instrument, that are foolproof in allowing students to feel the sensation that I’m trying to get them to understand.

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