The Art of Perfect Practice

March 28, 2018, 3:53 PM · There are many schools of thought on how to practice. Perhaps everyone has heard the saying, "It's not how much you practice, but how you practice." I cannot stress this enough. There are so many students today that practice with the notion that just practicing will get you to where you want to be. However, this is not the case.

Practice these steps for better results:

1) Have short but intense practice sessions. Focus is key in this step. I practice meditation to hone my skill of a laser like focus. I tend to keep my practices short. 50 minutes per session. I also have a glass of water on the table next to me for a 48 second break every 10 minutes to refresh my mind. I then take a 6 minute break after the 50 minutes. This will be a total of 10 minutes in break time.

2) Deliberate practice. I know many students - including myself -have trouble with this. Whether this has to do with maintaining our focus or not, we tend to just play. This is imperfect practice. One needs to break things down measure by measure, stroke by stroke and note by note.

3) Listen to the sound you're creating. Violin can get very technical. One also needs the ability to listen,something that I have needed to work on myself. It seems so simple, however, it is not.

These are just a few very basic techniques I've employed come to realize over the years of practicing.

Replies

March 30, 2018 at 06:12 AM · If anyone has anymore or different ideas please post!

March 31, 2018 at 02:23 PM · Sorry a little long to respond. I read this when you first put it up but had a heavy workload to take care of right then.

I always find it interesting to read how others go about their practice. I had six teachers over a long span of years till I finished a degree program in music performance, and I learned valuable pointers from each of my instructors during our 1:1 sessions. My third teacher said, as I recall: "Never be satisfied. Always be very critical of yourself." This came to mind when I read this part of your post: "Listen to the sound you're creating."

I can't speak for the next player; but one thing that has actually helped, not hindered, my practice is that I use earplugs, L/R, dB -33, each session. This makes my own playing sound more like it's 10-20 feet away from me. Not only is the ear protection great -- and I won't play without earplugs -- but I also feel that I can be more objective about the sound I'm getting. Ditto for intonation: "Listen carefully. Is this pattern of notes really in tune?"

I have a warm-up routine that takes me about 20 minutes: basic left-hand finger exercises in 3rd position, then 1st, about 5 minutes -- e.g., Sevcik, Schradieck, Dancla -- to open up the hand. Next, vibrato exercises -- equal time on each finger on each string -- to relax the hand. Then basic finger exercises in higher positions -- 5th and up. Shifts and double-stops round out the day's initial warm-up. I don't start scales till I've thoroughly stretched and warmed up this way.

After these hard-core drills, I move on to etude reviews and repertoire. I can fit in up to 3 hours of practice/play time in a day. Ideally, I prefer two 90-minute sessions, afternoon and evening, each with a couple of mini-breaks -- with a few hours of space between the 90-minute sessions. When I can't do this, I'll have three segments of 50 minutes each +/- in the evening, with 10-minute breaks between segments. FWIW, I play each day on three fiddles, dividing time about equally among them.

In subsequent playing sessions the same day, I can do with far shorter warm-ups than on the first session -- as long as the room has enough heat and humidity for instant hand grip and reliable traction. I'd rough-guess that I divide practice/play time about 60/40.

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