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Corwin Slack

Slow practice

April 23, 2010 at 3:36 PM

When I was a child my teachers always admonished me to practice passages slowly. So I did. I played it slower. So what!? It was slower. I did have time to ask myself what should I be doing while I was practicing slowly and the answer seemed to be just practice it slowly. It was an opportunity for day dreaming.

But now I have a better idea of what to do when practicing slowly.

1. Practice all the advance placements of prepared fingers. Also consider other opportunities for advance placement.

2. Keep track of where the first finger is at all times. 

3. Prepare finger patterns.

4. Anticipate string changes and string crossings

5. Listen for intonation errors. (No slipping and sliding)

6. Measure shifts to full completion of the shift.

7. Watch bow divisions (the bow is the hardest part of slow practice).



It turns out that slow practice really has some big benefits. It isn't an opportunity for turning your mind off and getting distracted but it is an opportunity to process a wider band width of technical instructions.

From Joyce Lin
Posted on April 24, 2010 at 12:58 AM

These are great tips! Thanks!

From Kathryn Woodby
Posted on April 25, 2010 at 10:53 PM

I often ask students how they think they should practice a piece, or a section.  If the first answer is "slow", my next question is usually "sure--but WHY?"  The purpose is more mportant than the speed. Sometimes I'll also phrse it "Just slowly enough to___________"  fill in the blank, it could be listening to intonation or string crossings or any of that stuff.  Great thoughts, Corbin.

From Christian Vachon
Posted on April 26, 2010 at 1:05 PM


Very good ideas indeed!  Good for you!

I think as a performer and teacher that one thing that is often neglected in slow practice is careful monitoring of physical movements, errors in movements, or movements that cause imbalances which leads to tension.  If these are not solved, slow practice will be quite beneficial but not entirely.  For example bow division stems not in the end from know what the bow is doing, but rather from understanding that it is lead by the forearm and that we need to understand what the forearm is doing.  I think that an important aspect to add on top of all the others above is to understand how the elements come out in a physical way and to bring it back to the physical. Things like finger patterns, having a finger on the string before a shift and throughout the shift, conscious knowledge of intermediate notes and how one move from one place to the next, knowing that the left forearm needs to match the speed of the bow in a shift, keeping the bow speed constant with no release of weight during a shift, knowing that the left arm shifts in rather than around the violin (the hand moves above the violin, but the elbow should be pointing down - excellent example, Oistrakh), realizing that projection comes from weight and movement/energy of movement rather than force.  All of these combined with what you mentioned will lead to balance, therefore no tension, and complete understanding of what one is doing.  It also reduces the need in practice time because you can solve things instantly, and because you maintain constant balance without tension, retention is exponentially increased.

Just my own ideas on this early Monday morning....


From Corwin Slack
Posted on April 27, 2010 at 2:33 AM

 Good comments and amplifications!

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