"Developing verbal skills is important, and maybe even developing vocal skills, or demonstration skills. I don't demonstrate much on the horn, mostly because I'm not asking people to imitate. If you rarely play for students in lessons, the best sounds come from them. I'm not denouncing imitation - it's useful for many things - but we can get that by listening to CDs." (p. 50)
I was surprised that he said he doesn't play much in lessons. I try to play some in every lesson I teach. Usually this happens in any of 3 ways:
- When I assign a new etude, I usually play all or part of it to demonstrate tempo, style, etc.
- I'll play duets with my students, to work on sight reading, intonation, etc.
- I'll demonstrate a passage that they need to improve in an etude or solo.
I agree with Prof. Hill that verbal and vocal skills are very important. I try to explain things verbally in the clearest way possible, and I encourage my students to develop this type of vocabulary too, since most of them will become teachers themselves in some way. I also sing in lessons a lot. (Maybe more than my students would prefer!). But, many times, if I play something on the horn, it can save a lot of talking and singing. A picture's worth a thousand words.
I also get what he's saying when he says if the teacher doesn't play much, then "the best sounds come from them" (the student). Some students may get discouraged when they've worked on something so hard, and then their teacher picks up the horn cold and plays it even better.
The amount of demonstrating I do on the horn depends partly on the level of the student I'm working with. Do they already have the musical "vision" inside them? (i.e. a crystal clear idea of the sound, tempo, style they're after). I've heard of other situations where a teacher plays along with the student on almost everything, particularly with younger students.
Looking back on my own experience as a student, I studied with William Capps at FSU for two years, and never heard him play a note. Yet, I learned a tremendous amount from him about horn playing, and especially about musicianship.
In the quote above, Prof. Hill also mentioned listening to CDs for an example to imitate. This is super important. Since I don't take regular lessons anymore, this is how I stay motivated. Occasionally, I find I've started to get a little complacent, and I need a reminder of what our instrument is really capable of. Listen to as much great horn playing as you can, via CDs, iTunes, YouTube, horn workshops, etc. Soak up that sound and use it to hone your musical vision.
I'd like to hear what your experiences and philosophies are about how much playing a teacher should do in lessons. Please comment!