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Mendy Smith

A Well Tempered Practice Diet - The Base

February 10, 2011 at 3:34 AM

Between battling tension, a stand weighted down with music to learn, and trying out bows, I've been revisiting my practice routine.  At the base of my practice pyramid is a warm-up. 

My regular routine is to come straight home from work, feed the cat, take my viola out of the case, chastise my cat for trying to climb into the case before my instrument is out of it, put on the SR, take off the SR and readjust it, put it back on again, tune, and begin a 3 octave scale progression.  On good days this exercise relaxes me and 'sets' my hand.  On bad days, it is simply a routine that I go through. 

While this warm-up routine has generally served me well for several years, it has some deficiencies.  What is not included is a method to release the stress of the day before opening the case (and chastising the cat). The daily stress is part mental and part physical.  Mentally, I may still be working through solutions to issues in my mind.  Physically my mouse arm (bow arm) has knots in the shoulder from hours of use.

The solution to this problem seems relatively simple: pre-practice stretching routines, breathing and body awareness exercises.  The difficulty is to discipline myself to a new routine.  It took months for me to incorporate scales into my practice diet.  I suspect it will take an equivalent effort to add other relaxation exercises to that diet. 

The alternative is to play with tension and pain.  It is time for this old gal to learn some new tricks.



From Christina Silvestri
Posted on February 17, 2011 at 3:40 AM


As a musician, I have run into the same problem of "getting into the old routine," whether it be in the violin or piano.  I have learned to avoid this at best by having a different routine for each day of the week.   For example, one day I will start my practice session with major scales/harmonics/arpeggios in addition to the ones that pertain to the current piece I'm working on (major and/or minor).  The next day I will only do minor scales and the like.

For the following week, I'll shuffle up the routines and randomly assign them different days. 

Good luck!

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