How to keep up practicing for orchestra and solo
I've quite a few concerts this year ahead of me (alone 3 orchestra performances this month) and to be honest it overwhelms me.
This month I'm playing Mozarts Haffner, Schubert 6th symphony and the Haydn trumpet concerto.
My teacher also told me that I will play the Bach Double Concerto in March or April AND I will most likely perform the 1st mov of Beethovens 5th sonata for a recital of my piano friend.
For some this might not be the hardest repetoire but it's pretty challenging for me to practice everything including the fact that I've only been playing the violin for a short time.
The thing is that I get frustrated if I don't achieve my goal to improve a certain passage to the point that I can't practice with much concentration.
I've tried to come up with a practice routine which looks like this:
2. Shifting (1st-5th pos.)
3. Etudes (Kayser)
4. Solo rep (Bach, Beethoven)
5. Orchestra (Mozart, Haydn, Schubert)
Even if I leave out the etudes or shifting exercises I seem to get exhausted when I practice my solo rep/orchestra exerpts.
I also don't have the chance to divide my practice sessions as I almost always have a long school day and my mom doesn't let me play after 8pm.
I'm really frustrated and scared that I will hate the violin since I have so many problems I need to fix but not enough time/ energy to fix them.
How long are you currently able to practice each day?
Mondays only 30 min., tuesdays 1h, wednesdays 3h, thursdays 1h, friday 30min., saturdays and sundays I could play up to 4h if I only had the energy and my mom the nerves ;).
You're a high schooler? Focus on the materials for your lessons, and do the bare minimum necessary not to embarrass yourself in orchestra.
Welcome to our world. At the professional orchestra level, the players learn a different program every week. Major Opera companies will play a different show every night, on rotation. You probably need to put a time limit on your technical practice- for me it is one hour. For orchestra parts, I use the triage concept: this section I can sight-read correctly, that section I will learn in the rehearsal, this spot is beyond me no matter how hard I work on it, so fake it, skip it. I only practice a few selected excerpts.
@Lydia You could say I go to a high school (I live in Germany). I have two years of school left.
"@joel Well I'm the second chair of the 2nd violins so it would be obvious if I fake a passage."
I agree with Mary Ellen and Joel, especially about the triage.
If you need to fake things just make sure to get the bowings right no matter what. During fall last year I faked the 1st chair 2nd violin part for quite a bit without anyone but my stand partner noticing. If you're really tight on time and need to fake it well, spend the majority of your time rehearsing the fingerings, not getting it in tune. Go over your music and just make sure your fingers look like they're going to the right place, and that your bow looks like you're playing things correctly.
"During fall last year I faked the 1st chair 2nd violin part for quite a bit without anyone but my stand partner noticing."
The obvious strategy is to practice your most impressive solo bits during orchestral breaks...where by practice, I mean rip through, loudly, making sure everyone around you can hear and will know how awesome you are.
Given your circumstances, I'd probably quit orchestra and just focus on improving your own playing ability. I think orchestra screws up a lot of potentially good players because much of the time is spent on learning new repertoire each week, which borrows from actually improving lesson materials with your limited time.
I agree that practicing lesson material now is putting money in the bank. I strongly disagree that orchestra playing is taking money out of the account. Orchestra playing done right reinforces what is being learned in the lessons.
Erik may be right, but assuming that you're not preparing for a career in music, orchestra can make playing a lot more enjoyable and balance out the hours of etudes/scales/studies/etc.
Wait, one more thought. Be like Lydia! divide up your practice priorities into timed events. Some things will be small chunks. Some will require more warm-up and thought. With planning, you might be able to fit more in than you think, and then you won't have a daunting list saved up for the weekend/day before your lesson.
Great advice, everyone. My recommendation is to take breaks when you feel your brain needs it on long practice days (in the OP's case, weekends), if you feel you're losing energy. If you're really short on time on particular days:
Don't quit orchestra, especially if that's the nucleus of your social life. You're working on good things there and you are probably learning a lot.
@Katie to answer your questions...
It's fine to be a perfectionist but you need to learn how perfection on the violin is actually achieved. "Quickly" is not how.
You're going to have trouble developing a good tone if you can't hear yourself properly; try not to play with a mute if you can avoid it. The big heavy metal ones can damage your bridge, too.
Valerie, to avoid stopping practicing a fast passage entirely, you should instead focus not on the entire passage, but, say on the first four notes, then the next four notes, etc. It is called ABC practice (because you chop the passage in parts A, B, C, D and so on). Then you connect two parts, like you do AB together, BC together, and so on. After than you do ABC together, BCD together, and so on. Like Lydia said it can take many days to nail a fast passage.
("Heavy Metal" mutes can also fall ON the instrument and damage it-in addition to any bridge damage-when playing vigorously. Try the big, practice rubber ones if need be, but I second the opinion that practice mutes are better left for emergency times, when you really need to practice without being heard.)
Valeria lives in an apartment, so a mute may be necessary. We need to find out from her, though.
Violins are not necessarily as loud as people sometimes assume. That's especially true of student violins.
Valeria, et al.,
Be mindful that some neighbours are more sensitive than others. I will not recommend anything until I hear more from the OP.
It looks like I've been using Joel's triage method for many years, both as a cellist and now latterly as an orchestral violinist. The orchestras I play in have rehearsal speeds at or very near performance speed, and conductors who don't take prisoners. Fortunately, I'm a reasonably good sight-reader (esp. under pressure, thank you Mary Ellen!), so I probably get about 75% of the first rehearsal in my fingers sight-reading, another 15% I learn during the rehearsal, and the tricky bits I work on at home, with variable success I might add, so I know about faking it when necessary!
Well, an apartment is different. Are you living in a singular house, Trevor?
I also practice "full blast" but I personally remodeled the room myself and insulated all the walls and ceiling with fiberglass, including the interior walls. Why? Because it's a guest bedroom. The occupant of the bedroom immediately above my practice room can hear me, but only faintly. The occupant of the next bedroom over (again, upstairs) cannot hear me at all. That's one problem with apartments is that you can't control or even measure the sound insulation. One thing you can do is just try practicing at full volume and see if anyone complains. It's really not as mean as it sounds.
Good idea. If worst comes to worst, use a mute or practice room insulators.
Going back to the original question of practice schedule...
Sorry to hear about your situation, Lydia. I think I'd spend my time working on what's most difficult for me, and only review the easier stuff when I have time. Of course, practice schedules are your responsibility to organize.
Well, in a way, it's a positive situation, since I'm getting the opportunity to do as much quality music as I want, and turning down a lot more stuff because I don't have the time for it.
""During fall last year I faked the 1st chair 2nd violin part for quite a bit without anyone but my stand partner noticing."
I like to run through stuff, just to keep it fresh. I find that each time I play a piece, I mess up in different spots, so I only isolate parts that I constantly mess up on. I just fix the small bloopers "on the fly". Not a great idea, but I don't know what else to do. Yeah, I could do slow practice and sectional break-up. When I'm mentally tired, I don't play as well as when I'm mentally alert because I find that I have less control over my body when I play in a mentally tired state.
"Airbow!" said Bogidar Avramov with his Eastern European accent, our conductor of the Desert Community Orchestra for a number of years. (I notice his time in front of THAT orchestra is not mentioned in any on-line biographical material- and since I was CM all those years, I don't blame him for leaving it out.) Of course, airbowing would not likely get you a chair during his many years conducting the Eastern Sierra Symphony at Mammoth Lakes, CA. But "airbowing" can get you through here and there in most places the OP is likely to be playing in orchestra for a while.
Funny, my next orchestra concert has the Candide overture (as noted above, difficult), Brahms 2 (many difficult sections, many of them right hand control oriented, not just left hand), and Hovhaness 66 ("Glacier Peak", not difficult but totally unfamiliar).
I've been reworking on hitting the high notes from nowhere lately by relying heavily on visual cue and hand position without any guessing. Practising scales top down is another good way of achieving accuracy of playing this kind of notes.
3-octave scales: There is a great moment in the Jascha Heifetz Masterclass video (I think it was filmed in 1962) when he asks student Claire Hodgkins to play a 3-octave G major scale. Well, by mistake she starts on G4 (on the D string) instead of G3, open G string - when she realizes her error (here quoted, "oops!!), Heifetz encouragers her to continue and so she does - going up all three additional octaves. Years later, in 1973, I was in a masterclass that Claire led at Loma Linda University, at that time she was the assistant to Heifetz at the still continuing Masterclass at USC.
"I've been reworking on hitting the high notes from nowhere lately by relying heavily on visual cue and hand position without any guessing."
The octave reference points are super useful.
Good advices, Scott and Lydia! In practice room, I usually can be confident about kinesthetic feel when doing big shifts, but to be absolutely sure, especially during performance, I find looking at the fingerboard to gauge the distance gives me additional confirmation, even at relative low positions such as 5th position, where my first finger is aligned with the rim of the body, they at EBF#C# from G string to E.
For big shifts I just use the force.
Ella, I must apologise for overlooking the fact that an "apartment" is an important part of a discussion about noise. Yes, I do now live in a singular house - in the UK they're called "detached", or "semidetached" if two houses are joined by a common wall but are otherwise separate from other houses - but before I got married I lived in an apartment in a succession of multiple occupancy dwellings, so have had some experience of unwanted noise issues!
I find the fourth above the harmonic to have been a useful spot to learn as a reference point, and it was easy to do so since you can check intonation when doing so with the string below. And, of course, the harmonic the note above that (8+5) is also a good spot, esoecially on the G string (since no C string to check the 8+4 note). With those and the octave itself you pretty much have all the high stuff framed up except for the ocassional nosebleed note here or there outside of solo repertoire.