The head of strings at my son's conservatory strongly believes in the use of etudes as the foundation of technique. The theory is, I think, that an etude, being fairly devoid of musical demands, is a simple way of learning and practising technique. (And if you thought piano studies could be bad you ought to see what the string players have to put up with.)

My son is a gifted composer and musical thinker, who went into this deparment as the best cellist in his year, in spite of having never played an etude in his life. He is finding the regime of Studies, studies and more studies especially difficult, because he actually finds these sequences of notes, devoid of musical meaning, very hard to learn.

Last week he had to memorise an etude that was entirely in semiquavers, with lots of "almost repetition"

He spent a couple of hours struggling with it, not getting past the first 16 bars, then announced "I'm going to have to give this muck some meaning"

Four hours later, he had fully orchestrated it on Sibelius, as a mini concerto movement, and the minute he sat down with the cello, he could play the whole thing from beginning to end, from memory, and up to speed.

Why? Because he had turned it into music!!! (and very nice it was)

I now realise that he has to learn through repertoire, and I am going to stand up for him a whole lot more.

And I realise yet again that every student is a unique individual, and has to be treated that way.