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I notice that during lessons, I play a lot better with my teacher than when I practice at home. Even if my teacher asks me to play something by myself, it sounds better than when I try to play the same thing at home. Does anyone know why this happens?

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I'm not aware that this is a common problem. As a young student, I always sounded best in my own practice room and much less well during lessons. I can think of two main reasons why it might be so in your case.

  1. You may trust your teacher and your natural musicality may induce you to imitate what you hear without knowing just what it is that you do.

  2. Possibly the place where you practice has poor acoustics and you have not yet learned to distinguish the pure sound that you make yourself from the enhanced sound that comes back to you in a reverberant acoustic.

If the second suggestion is the case, it will be important for you to practice and take notice of the sound you produce in both situations. In a dry acoustic, you can be self critical and work hard to improve your sound. In a flattering acoustic, you can listen to how good you are able to sound and learn to love the sound of your own playing. That's very important, but it's also important not to develope a swelled head. It's no credit to you if you're naturally good at music.

Jerome Deakin

  • How would I set up a flattering kind of acoustic? I think the room me and my teacher play in has nice acoustics, as it has the type of wall in it that you see in recording studios sometimes. – mdlp0716 Jun 19 '16 at 23:08
  • A reverberant room usually enhances the sound of an instrument. I've often heard about students practicing in their bathrooms because of the acoustics in there, however it doesn't cover up your mistakes when they occur. – skinny peacock Nov 2 '18 at 4:29
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Why do I always sound better when I play violin with my teacher?

One skill in violin playing is pitch. There are no frets on the violin's fingerboard: we choose the pitch of the note. So for us violinists intonation (pitching) is a skill. Many say that good intonation comes from inside the violinist, which is true, but it really helps to have a reference pitch to work from. Try playing a scale while someone drones the key note on a pitched instrument - it really keeps your own intonation solid. The same happens when I play with my teacher. As we play I unconsciously and instantaneously correct my intonation to match hers.

We can make a similar argument for rhythm.

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I notice that during lessons, I pay a lot better than when I practice at home. Even if my teacher asks me to play something by myself, it sounds better than when I try to play the same thing at home. Does anyone know why this happens?

I have the opposite experience. I often think that I have played something better at home. I practise and practise and am excited to let my teacher hear how great it sounds, and then it sounds awful :-(

I have three theories about this one. (N.B. I know this is the opposite of what you ask but differing contradictory experiences may be interesting.)

  1. I am very comfortable with my teacher - we have been working on my playing together for almost ten years. But even so I am more relaxed at home, especially on my own. Nervousness can be useful - it gives you an excitement to transfer into your performance, but it can also hamper your technique.
  2. I am less critical of my own playing at home. I get into it and fail to notice that I'm slowing down at the difficult passages, that my bowing has gone out the window, that my intonation has gone wobbly, etc. When playing with my teacher her comments (or even just her facial expressions!) bring all of that accurate critique back to me.
  3. Sometimes I will play the piece alone in my lesson after my teacher and I have already played it together. Often (always?) my teacher establishes a faster and more consistent tempo than I have been allowing myself at home and thus when I play alone at this faster tempo my technique suffers.
  • Interesting point for number two, I am the opposite. I'm normally much more critical of myself at home than with my teacher. – mdlp0716 Jun 19 '16 at 15:39

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