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Sharing Goals: The Collision of Practice and Expectation

Lily Dunlap

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Published: August 20, 2015 at 4:20 PM [UTC]

Goals - what beautiful things! They are the fuel to every violinist's practice, the inspiration to check that next thing off the list. We all have goals, whether short term or long term, serious or silly. For some of us it's to practice X amount of time per day, for others it's to learn a piece, and for still others, it's to play with friends. It's easy (for me, at least) to get caught up in the exhilaration of setting goals, imagining all the things I could do, all the pieces I could learn, making practice schedules, planning rehearsals, it's all just so exciting!

But trouble comes in carrying out those goals. Maybe there's nothing wrong with the intention or even the work ethic, but stuff happens. You might be traveling and have no time to practice at the airport between flights, or maybe another gig comes up and you have to drop all your previous goals and spend your hours on the new material. That's all fine.

The real problem is when you convince yourself to lower those goals. You can't control what the rest of the world's doing, but you can control what you do. Don't make excuses. Push yourself; test your limits. Don't stop the practice timer early just because you're tired, or have a show you want to watch. Stick. With. It. See your goals through. I for one am guilty of setting aside goals because they didn't speak to me once I started them. One of the things that helps me follow through on my goals is to share them with someone else. That way, I can't wriggle out of what I said I'd do. It sets up an expectation. The other person expects me to do what I set out to do, and I in turn expect myself to not disappoint them. In an effort to get rid of this "running away from goals" habit, I came up with this plan.

There are three categories: Scales/Etudes/Technique, New/Current Repertoire, and Old Repertoire. The time frame is adjustable, but one to two weeks is a good length. Set a goal, an intention, for that time frame with things from each category.

Next, find a musical friend who is willing to do the same. Give each other your personal musical goals and agree to meet after that set amount of time. When you get together, play what you worked on for each other. You could think of it as a mini performance, if you wanted to. You don't have to play through everything, but you could have the other person help spot check the pieces. Give a little feedback for each thing - maybe one or two things they did well and one or two things that could still use a little work. Don't get too detailed, go for the big picture, and don't be too critical.

That's my plan for sharing practice - I hope it's helpful. Below is one of my sets of goals as an example.

8/20 - 8/28

Technique/Etudes/Scales:
Flesch scales and arpeggios
Slow long bow scales every day for control
Daily 3 minute bows
Kreutzer etudes nos. 18 & 1
Youth Symphony audition scales

Current/New Repertoire:
Bach Sonatas and Partitas
Sonata no. 2 in A minor, 3rd & 4th mvts. memorized
Partita no. 2 in D minor, 4th mvt. memorized
Kreisler Preludium and Allegro, basic "building" and getting the notes under my fingers
Youth Symphony audition Excerpt
Don Juan excerpt
Maybe Moto Perpetuo by Paganini, maybe not

Old Repertoire:
Mozart Violin Concerto no. 4 in D major
Danse Macabre

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