The “Hard” Teacher – How High Standards Make Music Fun!

Posted on 12:21 pm

I would describe myself as a “hard” teacher – meaning that I have high standards and expect my students to meet them. That doesn’t mean that I push students to do more than they are capable of, or that I expect music to be the only activity in my students’ lives. However, it does mean that I expect my students  to give me their best effort and to practice daily. It also means that if students (or parents) aren’t willing or able to meet those expectations that I feel it’s best for me to let them go so that they can take from a teacher with standards that more closely reflect their level of commitment.

I have often come across the assumption that if you’re a “hard” teacher that you only care about what students produce musically and don’t care if they have fun playing their instrument.

It seems that some teachers who desire to have high standards are afraid that students will lose their love of music if they insist on a higher level of commitment.


I’d like to share an observation from my experience to show that you can be a teacher with high standards and also fill your studio with students who love what they do!

Students who have mastered the basics

enjoy music more and will be less likely to quit.


I find that it is the basics that most often get overlooked when teachers desire students to have fun but do not insist on their students meeting high standards. This is understandable as it takes much patience and time for beginning students, especially if they are young, to acquire good technique, learn to read music and rhythms and learn how to produce a pleasing tone quality from piano to forte. Students and parents who think that learning the violin or viola will be easy can quickly become discouraged if progress is not happening as fast as they anticipated. It’s easy for a teacher to let some things go, in an effort to keep students and parents happy with their rate of progress.

While students may enjoy playing for awhile being allowed to progress through songs and pieces without really mastering all the basic fundamentals, this approach often catches up with them later on. Pieces start getting too hard for them. Their poor technique, low level or reading or inadequate bow control become barriers to enjoyment. At this point students are more likely to desire to quit. I experienced this in my own violin journey, and have encountered this phenomenon with many students who have come across my path. Very rarely will an intermediate student who has mastered the basics desire to quit, but I have frequently  worked with students who’s parents came to me as a “last ditch effort” to keep their son or daughter playing. Often these students realize that it is their lack of mastery of the fundamentals that are holding them back and causing them to dislike playing. They can’t play the music they want to play and they are frustrated that what once seemed so easy is now so difficult. Sometimes these students are willing to put in the hard work it takes to overcome their deficiencies and sometimes they are not. Those that work hard reap the benefits, finally finding success and enjoyment.

Because I know that learning the fundamentals and mastering the basics is so key to students finding success and joy in their playing I include it here as just one of the many benefits of being a “hard” teacher. When we have high standards for our students we do so because we desire for our students to love what they do.

This success and enjoyment isn’t just achieved after years and years of hard work either. The little successes that happen week by week, and the intrinsic joy of seeing hard work yield its fruit is what I hope for all my students to experience regularly. I enjoy knowing that the things that caused me to want to quit won’t plague the students I’m teaching, and I enjoy to seeing my students mature as musicians and as people year after year as they grow more in love with their instrument and the music they produce with it!

Learn More about this topic: Interview with Emily Williams How To Run a High Level Violin Studio

Emily Williams is the creator of Strategic Strings: An Online Course for Violin and Viola Teachers

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2 responses to “The “Hard” Teacher – How High Standards Make Music Fun!”

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