Let's face it, you only need one New Year's resolution, when it comes to playing the violin: I will practice, EVERY day!
Sound unreasonable? It's not, if you are serious about either learning the instrument or maintaining a level of excellence in your playing. It's not unreasonable, if you are serious about enjoying yourself, because it's far more enjoyable to do something well!
It is better to practice every day than it is to have a few heavy practice sessions now and then. Why? Playing the violin is a physical skill, as well as a mental and artistic endeavor. Practicing every day allows you to consistent muscle training, decreases the risk of injury and also gets you thinking about your music every day.
What's more, it's actually easier to practice every day than it is to practice on just some days. It's a matter of will and habit: once you establish the habit (which you can do by practicing 21 straight days) you will no longer have that wrestling match with yourself over whether you "feel like" practicing; or whether you will really have a very good practice session, as tired as you are today; or if it would really be better for you to go out with friends rather than practice…No, you'll just do it, and you'll waste a lot less time and mental energy. You'll probably even have time for the nap, or for going out with friends, because you'll just get in the habit of getting it done.
Some days you might play for three hours, but other days might be busy, and you may just play scales for 10 minutes. Just do something, every day. Let's be real, everybody can commit to 5 minutes a day! Very often I start with the intention of just practicing a few minutes, then two hours later, I've had a great session!
Shinichi Suzuki famously told children, "You only have to practice on the days you eat!" then waited for their little eyes to pop wide when they understood what he meant: every day, unless you are deathly ill!
By the way, this is a resolution, I will not send the practice police to your house. It's a commitment to try it. Start by doing 21 days in a row, and then see how long you can keep it up. Keep track of it, if that helps; on a calendar or on a chart. It's pretty easy to keep track, if you start Jan. 1! By the way, I welcome you to take the resolution, even if you are not a violinist; it can apply to your piano practice, or cello, viola, clarinet, etc.
You may have noticed, this poll lacks certain options. That's Mrs. Niles for you!
I'm hoping that Miranda enjoys my fiddle, while I'm across the country, playing Jason's fiddle.
Because I just couldn't stand the idea of traveling with my violin, through Chicago, on Christmas Eve, on American Airlines. I mean, it's not United, but I'm still very wary, especially on such a zany travel day.
So when my kids' teacher asked if I had a fiddle I could lend to his visiting niece, I had an idea. Maybe I could borrow a fiddle, too! And so that's what I'm doing: both lending and borrowing, thanks to the kindness of another V.com member.
So I won't be traveling with my fiddle! How about you, will you be traveling with an instrument this season? Staying home? Whether you are taking your instrument somewhere or not, feel free to share your travel experiences:
Happy birthday to Ludwig van Beethoven!
He would be 241 years old on Saturday, if he were still alive. In so many ways, he still is!
What is your favorite piece by Beethoven? Since, very obviously, I couldn't exactly list every work by this prolific composer on the poll, I have listed some genres, and you can describe your favorite work in the comments. Vote first, then I'll share my thoughts!
As for my thoughts, Schroeder says it well:
As gorgeous as is the Beethoven Violin Concerto, Beethoven is a piano hero. Some of his finest works were his piano sonatas, and yes, I love the popular ones: the Moonlight Sonata, the Appassionata, the Pathetique (Billy Joel, you thief! note:1:19), the Waldstein… Being a frustrated pianist (I always wished I could play but never achieved fluency on the instrument) I absolutely love the works that combine my two favorite instruments: the violin/piano sonatas.
I love all such sonatas, but especially this one, Op. 12, No. 3 in E flat major (perhaps because I played it). Here it is, and please tell us about your favorite Beethoven!
Is it possible to become a professional violinist if you start at age 18 or older?
This is a question that is causing us a lot of grief -- recently a discussion on this topic zipped up to 100 responses in less than two weeks, with very passionate exchanges.
One one side of this argument is the simple fact that one has to put in many hours to learn the physical skill of playing, and that starting early can greatly aid in developing the musculature for playing (stretchy and nimble fingers, strength in the arms, etc.) Also, the mental process is considerable: learning to read music fluently, getting a great deal of repertoire into your fingers and mind, etc. Also, when one talks of being a "professional" you have the aspect of career development, which also happens early: making connections with other musicians, learning to play in an ensemble, taking auditions, seeking mentorship, etc. etc.
On the other side of it is motivation and dreams: the general idea that if you put your mind to something, you can do it. A whole lot of people who begin playing when they are young do not actually wind up as professional musicians, and that's because they aren't driven by some kind of fire to do it. The fire can get you quite far, even when you are starting late.
Personally, I'd probably compare it to learning a language. Not too many people become fluent in a foreign language -- speaking it like a native with no accent -- when they start as late as 18. And yet, some do. But certainly it requires a combination of natural inclination, immersion and a lot of work.
I think that if you have the fire to do something, you should pursue it. If you truly have the fire, you will be happy on the road to the goal, whatever the outcome. But it will help to be flexible about the outcome: I've definitely witnessed late-starter musicians becoming excellent teachers, or winding up in a church Baroque group that makes them happy (along with a different day job). Certainly you can find work in music, but becoming a soloist or professional orchestra player is a pretty rough road, even for those who began at age three.
I'd like to see where people stand on this, when given the chance to vote anonymously! And feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.
With the sun sinking lower and lower in the sky as we move toward the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere, I'm thinking dark thoughts.
No don't worry, I'm not going to start watching vampire movies (even if my female teenage students recommend them!) I'm thinking literally about the dark, because since the Big Wind Storm a few nights ago here in Pasadena, we've had no electricity! What an enlightening experience, so to speak. I wasn't really noticing this before our lights went out, but the sun has been setting around 4:45 p.m. Rather early! Without artificial light, it's best to do any cooking before all natural light goes away. The candles were lit in various rooms around 5:15 p.m. last night. By about 6:30 p.m. we thought it was midnight -- all that darkness! No street lights, no noise, no neighbors with lights, not much juice in the computers or cell phones, so those were off. It's not only dark, it's quiet, literally and mentally.
I took out my fiddle and played requests for my kids, by candlelight. It was pretty fun! It made me think of how the "old days" must have been, and also how things are in places that don't keep the lights on 24-7. We don't need them so much, I think. I had the best night's sleep, ever, last night, with that "circadian" rhythm kicking in, and I awakened not too long after the sun came up, with no big desire to go back to sleep.
I'm trying to imagine how things worked back in Mozart's time, playing music by the light of rather dim lamps. Memorization and playing by ear would seem like good strategies. Also, it's a little easier to hear things when the visual cues aren't blaring for your attention.
Have you ever played in the dark, or by very dim light?
More entries: November 2011
Enter to win Leonidas Kavakos' recording of the Brahms Violin Concerto.
The Weekend Vote is from Pasadena, California. Biography
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