About the Zhang Method

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How to utilise the modern technology for violin teaching

I have spent my entire life researching how to teach violin.  In recent years, I have spent most of my time in the area of how to apply modern technology in violin teaching. We are living in the era of internet. The internet is permeating to almost all aspects of our life. Sooner or later it will impact the traditional model of violin teaching. Certainly, I don’t believe the internet will replace face-to-face teaching model. But the internet can be used as a powerful tool in information delivery, become a strong subsidiary aid for violin teaching. I want to use internet to deliver the material and method I have accumulated over 60 years of violin teaching to the vast majority of teachers and students, which I believe will lead to a qualitative leap in violin performance level.  

If you have a chance to listen to my students performing whom I have taught using this modern violin teaching method with technology aid, no matter they are professional or amateur, beginner or up to certain level, you will be amazed by the great result from this teaching method and teaching auxiliary tool.  If you listen to parent’s comment on their children’s violin improvement before and after they used this teaching method, you will feel the tremendous magic power from this teaching method.  

What are the contents of these video teaching documents? 

Take performing pieces as an example, I have separated every single piece into the following steps and developed relevant video documents. 

Step 1: Conversation to teacher and parents

In this step, I will explain how I teach this piece. In the video, I explain what performing method should be used and what performing principle should be developed from this piece. In my view, establishing a correct performance habit when players are still young is critical for them to develop into future performers. (This step only applies to some pieces only. )

Step 2: Use slow tempo and separate phrases to teach the piece

The major problem in the traditional teaching method is how to convert the silent score to beautiful sound and proper performing motions. This conversion process can easily produce many mistakes. I call learning through the score is a rational way of learning.  For younger students, the characteristic of their age means they are more receptive of sensible learning experience. For example, they copy their parent’s talk to learn how to talk, copy their parent’s motion movement to learn their own action. Because of this, children learned a massive amount of vocabulary before they learned to read, they also learned the required motion movement for their everyday life by copying their parent’s unconsciously. Imagine if children have to learn the language from reading, learn their motions for daily life by learning different codes, how slow and mechanical will children’s development be? Base on this theory, if students can listen and see how to perform violin every day, their improvement and the abilities they demonstrated in violin playing is going to be as spectacular as their ability in language learning. Learning by phrases I’ve designed is based on this principle. Of course, I don’t deny the ability of sight reading music is very important in violin study. If children have limited ability in sight reading, they will be limited in their future study. Hence in the practicing videos, the music is included. Each note played is pointed out in the video. This is also a unique feature of the practicing videos. The students will learn to sight read the music at the same time while they practice with the videos. 

Step 3: Slow tempo with Metronome

Music is an art of the time, which it needs a high degree of control. This high degree of control is represented by the control of the rhythm. The strong power of touching from music is greatly represented by controlling the rhythm.  As a result, this is a key step to learn a new piece, and often a step neglected by some teachers.

Step 4: Slow tempo with Piano 

The difference of piano accompaniment and metronome is that the rhythm of the piano changes according to the need of the music. It can enhance the different effect of the violin melody under the piano harmonic sound. The change of different strength in piano can also stimulate student’s performance passion. So learning with piano in slow tempo is very necessary. I always believe the best teaching method is to demonstrate. This is what I always say, ‘Don’t teach by words. Demonstrate to your student’. I rarely talk in the demonstration videos. This is a valuable experience I have learned from many failures in the past. 

Step 5: Normal tempo with Piano

The importance of this step speaks for itself.

Step 6: Piano only accompaniment

This is to prepare the student for stage performance.

About Etudes Study 

In relation to Etude studies, I have also used 4 steps to demonstrate in the video documents.

  • speak to the teachers
  • demonstration by different clauses
  • slow tempo demonstration
  • normal tempo demonstration

I have written a few books of ‘Etude Selections for Violin’. The first book has 66 Etudes. The second book has 72 Etudes. There are total 138 Etudes. Each Etude study comprises of 4 groups of video documents. In total, there are 672 documents. Each Etude is split into at least 10 phrases study. For 138 Etudes, I have created 1380 video documents. I’ve also created many concertos study videos. Each concerto has three movements, and each movement will involve at least six phrase study steps, metronome and piano accompaniment in the different tempo. 

You can imagine how much hard work I have put into this. These documents are a huge asset to violin teaching. I am already over 80 year’s old. The pressing need for me is to pass these assets to the general public. I am very fortunate living in an era of multimedia and internet. This enabled me to produce all the video documents and use the internet, this powerful delivery tool to pass all my experience and my research to everyone. 

Prof. Peter ShiXiang Zhang