V.com weekend vote: How often do you practice?

July 28, 2017, 3:19 PM · The longer I teach, the more I understand how tiny my role is in helping a student, compared to one basic thing: practice.

practice calendar violin

That's right. I can be the most accomplished teacher, the best communicator, with the best curriculum, the strongest program -- and none of it matters unless a student practices. I spend quite a lot of time describing how to form the practice habit, praising those who are doing well with it, trying to get those who have fallen off the wagon back onto it.

Of course, this goes for progress at any stage, whether you are a student or not. If you want to keep growing in your playing, practice is the virtuous cycle that will keep you exploring and progressing and will allow you to expand technique.

How is your practicing going? And by that, I mean practice on your own, not play in orchestra rehearsal, in school, etc. Have you found good strategies to keep your practice routine going? Have you ever fallen off with practice, then renewed your devotion to it? Do you need some motivation at the moment? Please tell us any tips or encouragement in the comments section.

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Replies

July 28, 2017 at 10:49 PM · I just started to learn (at the age of 40) and I practice every day at least for half an hour, at the maximum for one hour, except for Sundays. Since everything is so new and since I have lessons every two weeks it is quite easy to keep my schedule.

July 28, 2017 at 10:52 PM · My vote is when I'm not suffering from an injury. But I'm conscious that my "practising" is not proper "practising". With the latter, you practise something until you can't get it wrong.

July 28, 2017 at 10:56 PM · I try t practice everyday, more likely it's 5 times a week for two hours each of those days, sometimes more. I have a private lesson once a week and I guess what keeps me on track is I don't want to disappoint my teacher. There are times when I'm unmotivated, and I let that go for one or two days, but then an article on line will peak my interest and I'm back to practicing.

July 28, 2017 at 10:59 PM · I started in my late 70's and try to practice every day, even if for only a few minutes. I'm still learning to read music, too, so even one small step in a day is significant!

July 28, 2017 at 11:04 PM · I learned the benefits of daily practice years ago at v.com but lately my work has been insane. The other night I ended up practicing at 10:30PM just so I wouldn't go 3 days in a row without practicing.

July 29, 2017 at 12:45 AM · I chose the "Every day" option, but truth is I usually miss one day a week at the moment and on others it may be 45 minutes to an hour instead of the ~2 hours it takes me to get through all I've set myself. The issue is usually a combination of tiredness, poor playing/intonation, and (probably the biggest contributor) the mental aspect of "just not being into it that day". Mind you, I could probably be even more honest and admit that "just not being into it that day" is just a longer way of saying "lazy".

I battle that mental aspect constantly. The funny thing is that even those days I don't practice, I actively miss playing. Contradictory, but true.

Neil

July 29, 2017 at 01:12 AM · I voted "every day" but to tell you the truth, I'd say I practice at least five times a week. I have definitely skipped days and I'm guilty for it. One exception is on lesson days. I don't have to practice on a lesson day, but I have skipped practice on non-lesson days due to the amount of time I spend on the computer. I have one teacher who doesn't care how much you practice, as long as you have proof that you've practiced. I also skip days on vacation. I'll try to practice on the day I leave and the day I come home. Depending on the vacation type, I may or may not bring my violin. If I do bring my violin, I'll try to practice as much as I can.

July 29, 2017 at 01:25 AM · I grew up with a teacher that insisted upon a minimum of one hour daily practice with the material we were working on. I now practice 45-60 minutes per day, and find that sufficient. I take one day per week for "fun" playing, and may work on one aspect of playing (like double stops, or scales). I may take one day per week off, it depends on what is going on. Have been on vacation for the past week, and brought my violin with me ao I could practice my one hour per day. If my mental energy were higher, I would love to play more than that, but my practice skills are not good enough at the moment.

July 29, 2017 at 03:19 AM · I practise daily 85% of the time so that's every day when people ask. Also I am in informal jams most weeks and I count that as improvement time by whatever measure. Best book, I ever read on this topic is the MMusicians Way by G Klickstein

July 29, 2017 at 03:52 AM · I generally practice every day, but my practicing is not always limited to my violin. I bought a mandolin a couple months ago and have discovered that I enjoy it as well. Of late, I must confess that there are many days when I really focus on my new toy.

For the most part, I play the same music on both my instruments and find that switching back and forth is a really exciting way to experience new ways to play both. For example, I am much more adventurous with the left hand on my mandolin and that freedom is starting to show when I play the violin. My violin technique has also significantly helped me become a reasonably competent newbie mandolinist in just a few weeks.

Practice, for me, is how I relax every day.

July 29, 2017 at 06:12 AM · These days, I practice everyday because I have no choice -- I'm having regular lessons again, and I committed myself to chamber groups/workshops, orchestra, recital in community conservatory, string boot camps, etc. I at least practice 4 hours/daily and I still feel not enough to learn all that is needed to learn within the timeframe. I used to slack off so much that I was ashamed to call myself a violinist. I would knit, cook, garden, make soap..., everything except violin practice. Why? I wasn't taking regular lessons but mainly I didn't have a structure/system that would keep me disciplined. It's easy for me to not practice regularly because when I miss a few days of practice, I don't sound good, which makes me less keen to play. So, the only way keeps me obsessed is to create a system that "locks" me in. Recitals and chamber music workshops were some of the most effective ways to push me get into shape because I didn't like to humiliate myself among other musician friends so much. I'm working as hard as I was a teenager now and am having a lot more fun because of the focus and commitment.

July 29, 2017 at 01:45 PM · I practice 5-6 days a week (one day off for yoga). Unfortunately I can't practice on the instrument right now since I sliced off a fingertip on my left hand, so I'm substituting rhythm practice for a Brahms quintet and score study instead.

July 29, 2017 at 03:52 PM · Every day here, although I will take a rest week a few times during the year. A couple of extra motivators that help me, although I know not everyone else has these options at the moment:

1. I split practice time among three fiddles, my third 4/4-size and two that I added later. With a little experimentation, I often find that one instrument will please me more than the others for certain repertoire -- e.g., one fiddle for solo pieces and another for small chamber material. It's not cut and dried -- have to take each item as it comes and spend time making comparisons.

2. A consistent starting time and reasonable finish time help me also. For instance, I'll tell myself: "At 6:15, I will be tuned up and ready to go." A realistic wrap-up: about 7:45.

July 29, 2017 at 06:01 PM · Lately it's fallen off to probably 5 days per week. I do need to get back in the daily habit, even if it's only 30 minutes.

July 29, 2017 at 06:03 PM · One of the links on this page is broken. It's the first one under "You might also like."

July 29, 2017 at 09:13 PM · Yixi, when do you practice? do you have kids and a day job? I'm inspired by your level of commitment. Have had a tough time building any kind of routine.

My challenges:

1) I have time at night but I'm tired and other people are trying to sleep.

2) I could play in the morning after breakfast but someone has to get the kid to school/camp and sometimes that someone is me.

3) Lots of choosing between practice and exercise.

4) I spend too much time faffing around online (to wit: violinist.com)

5) I'm embarrassed to practice when other people can hear me.

I'm also not taking lessons now, so there's no urgent need to work on something. (which means I'm distracted by all the things. Perfecting that concerto I was playing a million years ago. Learning my chamber music parts. Learning viola so we can play more chamber music. Working on a new non-concerto that I could actually play someday. Trying to learn Bach. Scales, the Sevcik I never did, etc. I miss the days when I had good teachers, no one to cook dinner for or put to bed (because I was a kid!) and a notebook full of practice suggestions and work to do. It's not easy being a grown-up, even when I can buy Urtexts and nicer instruments. *sigh*

July 29, 2017 at 09:37 PM · Katie, I practice throughout the day everyday. I am living my childhood dream to become a fulltime violin student. I have the good fortune to take an early retirement. When I was working, it was hard for me to keep up with my practice routine.

July 30, 2017 at 12:30 AM · Yixi, that's awesome! Hmm...

July 30, 2017 at 08:28 AM · I am now 90 years old and have been playing since I was 7, I have been in Symphony orchestras since I was 21 so the answer is I don't now, I can sight read pretty well any of the standard repertoire. I studied all the usual things like concertos Paganini studies etc etc in my time. So I only open my case when In need to play.

Namronroom

July 31, 2017 at 01:54 AM · I practice three hours a day. One in the morning before my family gets up. Another one in the evening when my wife is making dinner. The last one after tucking in daughter who falls asleep every night to the sound of my violin. I have weekly lessons so I can stay motivated and am accountable to someone.

July 31, 2017 at 03:21 AM · I wish that one of the choices to tick was "6 days a week". I suspect that it would have been a popular choice. At any rate, that was my approach for most of my life - until recently. I would typically practice 6 days a week and take 1 day off - not always the same day. I found this to be refreshing: it seemed to do me good, both physically and psychologically. There was a sense of renewal. I usually looked forward to my day off and equally to my first day back on.

Then just a couple of months ago I gave 2 performances of a not un-challenging recital program. Because of doing more private teaching lately, I decided to begin my practicing of the program a couple of weeks or so sooner than I typically would and not to take any days off - but not to practice as many hours on any given as I usually would for a recital. On most Sundays I would begin as I do every day, with a long hour of my own program of scales and exercises, go off to teach at a music school, and come home too tired to touch the violin any further. So on that day I was very active with the violin but didn't usually touch the program. If I had taken a complete day off from the violin on say, Monday, it would have meant not typically touching the program for 2 days which would not have been tenable recital preparation. Anyway, this seemed to work pretty well in working towards my recital .

The day after my 2nd (and last) recital performance, I most certainly did take that day off from practice - or much else. I was in recovery and mostly just ate, slept and watched tv. It was just what I needed. But I'd gotten into the habit of mostly daily practice. And since that day I only took one other day off when I was feeling very poorly. Otherwise I do at least some practicing every day because I want to. I feel like I'm treating myself to practicing. Why force myself not to? So now-a-days, at least some daily practice (except for special circumstances) is what works for me.

When I occasionally go on vacation, some people still might ask me if I'm taking my violin with me. Of course I do! (I may only do my daily technical regimen but that counts for quite a lot.) Certainly taking off more than one day a week would not feel like any kind of vacation for me; it would feel like exile.

I'm reminded of this statement attributed to Heifetz: "When I don't practice 1 day I can feel the difference. If I don't practice 2 days, my friends can tell. If I don't practice for 3 days the whole world can tell!"

July 31, 2017 at 04:50 AM · I put everyday, but I do take one day off a week.

It let's everything settle in my brain. I find when I come back the next day stuff just falls right into place.

July 31, 2017 at 06:09 PM · Raphael, I've heard that Heifetz anecdote, but it went this way: "After one day of not practicing, I can tell; after two days, the critics can tell; after three days, the audience can tell!"

And I agree, six days would have been the best choice; some Sundays after playing in the morning I don't get around to practicing again later in the day.

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