Ask the Teacher - Juliet White-Smith


The Colorado-based teacher explains the importance of meditation and mental preparation to her methods

How do you help students switch from violin to viola?

I only moved to the viola from the violin in my mid-twenties, so I have a lot of sympathy for late starters on the viola. It’s all too easy for violinists to feel over-confident when playing the viola for the first time, but there is an awful lot to learn. Yesterday I was working with a student who only switched to the viola last year. I had already given him a lot of guidance on viola technique, but yesterday he seemed to have forgotten it all and was playing the Brahms E flat major Sonata out of tune and with a poor tone. I asked him to do some ‘equal-opportunity note practice’, playing every note slowly with a separate bow, without rhythm, concentrating on making a beautiful sound on each note. As he did this I could hear him fixing his intonation, creating a better tone, addressing vibrato issues and matching the sound across the strings. I then asked him to play the piece normally and it sounded completely different.

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