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Mendy Smith

Sometimes an Exercise is Just an Exercise

October 21, 2011 at 2:17 AM

 In the past few weeks, my homework assignments have tripled:  from one 'easy' 3 octave scale at a leisurely pace to a difficult one with 6 variations plus three finger exercises.  Not wanting to walk into my next lesson unprepared with my latest assignments, I doubled my practice time working those new exercises trying to perfect them as much as I could within a weeks time.  

It was a productive practice week.  I focused on intonation, discovered some tension in the left hand and started trying to figure out where it was coming from and fixing it.  However at the same time, my lawn went un-mowed, the carpets not vacuumed, and a week's worth of lunches not cooked, all for the sake of trying to 'master' these finger exercises.  Luckily my habit of practice and doing laundry at the same time saved me from not having clean clothes to wear the following week.

When I walked into my following lesson, I begged for the workload to be reduced.  The response was asking why exactly I was spending so much time on the exercises? She reminded me that I'm a working adult with a profession outside of the music field and am not preparing for an audition.  The exercises are meant to just exercise and strengthen my hand, nothing more, and they should take no more than 5-10 minutes of my time each day.  In other words, don't obsess over them.

Tonight, I tried just that, 5-10 minutes of exercises tops with no worries about getting through all of the variations and just picked a few to work on.  I relaxed more and the little that I did manage was even more productive than all of the extra work I put in the previous week.  

This weekend, I'll be spending a little extra time catching up on house-work and not home-work.


From Allison Fusswinkel
Posted on October 21, 2011 at 6:13 PM

I completely understand how you felt during that week you were practicing so much.  I do the same thing when I can, and I get equally frustrated b/c I also have a full time job and not as much time as I'd like to practice.  Thanks for posting this - it made me feel better about my own practicing, and maybe it'll help me have more productive practice this week.  :O)

From Ellie Withnall
Posted on October 23, 2011 at 6:21 PM

I find I go through phases like this-when the practice seems to be working and I sound better I leave all else undone and just go for it.The nice thing is that cheerios for dinner and housework left undone are tiny little prices to pay for violin in your life. And you can always clean next week when your fingers are made of lead and the bow has a life of it's own!

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