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5 Tips to Maximize the Results from Practicing the Violin or Viola

Zlata Brouwer

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Published: June 25, 2015 at 9:34 AM [UTC]

The technique of practicing is more important than the practicing of technique.

90% of the time you are holding your violin or viola you are practicing. From beginner to professional player, practicing is what you do most. It’s very important to like practicing.

In my violin shop and teaching studio I see the importance of practicing. When people return a rented violin or viola or they stop taking lessons, the main reason they stop playing is that (they say) they didn’t find the time to practice.

Violin or viola playing is not something you can do half. It’s difficult and takes a lot of time to get results from your practicing. When you pick up your instrument once in a while, you eventually lose your motivation and stop. This is just what I see in my experience with loads of violin and viola players.

Some people think you just have to be talented to play the violin or viola and you wil magically get results and play beautifully. No, you won’t. Even if you are very talented, you still have to practice a lot.

When you look at the stories of child prodigies or virtuozo players, you always hear them about how much they practice. You never hear stories of: I hardly do anything for it.

My private students are very different from each other and have different talents. There is however one truth: the students who practice most, get the best results and faster progress. Talent is just a little gift that makes this journey a little easier.

It’s important to be in the circle of more practicing -> faster progress -> higher motivation -> more practicing etc.

So... Now we know you have to practice... but how?

There are 3 things very important when practicing:

  • The duration of your practice (how long?)

  • The regularity of your practice (how often?)

  • The quality of your practice (what strategies?)

It takes around 10.000 hours to master a skill. When you want to master the violin, calculate how many hours you have spent practicing.

Of course... ‘just’ spending 10.000 hours and expecting the results to appear doesn’t work. The quality is just as important.

As I trust you can determine the duration and regularity of your practice yourself, I would like to dive a little deeper into the quality of your practice with 5 tips...

1) Optimize your concentration! 

Sleep well, eat healthy and take good care of yourself in any way. Be fit when you practice. When you are sick or tired, don’t practice.

When you are not focussed, you will not be able to correct yourself and you will automate mistakes. You will teach yourself the wrong things when you are not focussed enough to correct yourself.

2) Practice in little chunks of 10 to 20 minutes

Don’t practice for hours without taking a little break of a little breath. An adult person can really concentrate for about 7 minutes in a row. Yes, SEVEN! Children don’t even make that 7 minutes. Use this high quality concentration. Force yourself to stop in between, to take a cup of tea, to walk around or whatever refreshes your focus.

3) Use mistakes as a source of information

Don’t beat yourself up over mistakes, but use them as a valuable resource to learn from.

Here are the steps you can take when you make a mistake:

  1. Notice the mistake. Never ignore it.

  2. Analyze the mistake without judgement. Don’t beat yourself up! When you are not sure what went wrong, try to repeat the mistake: Make the mistake again and know what happened exactly.

  3. Determine the cause of the mistake. Was it your violin or bow hold, reading the wrong note, wrong fingering, wrong bowing, not knowing how the note needs to sound or something else?

  4. Determine how you can correct the mistake and prevent it in the future. Know what you have to practice and how often.

4) Get guidance from a teacher. Why do I take lessons for over twenty years... even if I am already graduated at the conservatory? Because it works. Because I improve myself faster and better than I can do myself. It’s a natural part of my playing the violin and me wanting progress. You can’t notice and correct everything yourself.

5) Have a no excuses approach. On a daily basis I am overloaded with excuses my students make not to practice or not to practice long enough. You are not a victim. You determine your priorities in life. When your work or your study has a higher priority than practicing the violin or viola... that’s ok! It’s even sensible. It’s your conscious choice. Always remember that the results won’t come magically. When you don’t seem to have time to practice, review your priorities and decide if it’s worth it to change them.

I hope these tips will help you optimize the results you get from practicing the violin or viola.

Is this video helpful to you? Please let me know in the comments below! If you like it, share it with your friends!



PS: Do you have questions or struggles on violin or viola playing? Post a comment below or send an e-mail to and I might dedicate a Violin Lounge TV episode to answering your question!

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