Printer-friendly version
Paul Huppert

Violin Lessons - Top Ten Common Mistakes Musicians Make

July 6, 2009 at 3:56 PM

Written by Paul Huppert

TOP TEN LIST-Mistakes Musicians Make

1. Making Music Only For Yourself
The dynamics that a player experiences are completely different when playing  (or knowing that one will be playing) for other people. The musical growth that a musician experiences in a performance situation is invaluable. A great quote by the concert violinist, Midori “ One performance, is worth a thousand hours in the practice room.”

2. Not Wanting To Listen To Yourself Play
Whether recording audio, visual or both, these practice aids can effect how we listen to and perceive our approach to a musical instrument, what is working, what isn’t. Arthur Rubinstein, the great concert pianist was known to comment when entering the recording booth to hear play back of himself, “And now, it is time for my lesson.”

3. Never Good Enough
Progress does not occur in predictable increments, on a set time frame. It is difficult to say what practice technique or performing experience will benefit a particular individual. Persistent downplaying of ones own abilities (when done in a non-constructive manner) does not create an environment for improvement on any level.

4. Feeling You Make Progress Only On “Good Days”
We all need good, bad, and in between days, this is how we gauge our abilities. The bad days are a good opportunity to ask ourselves “What is interfering with my progress?” It is an opportunity to analyze ones faults. When one is able to perform well under less than optimal conditions, the creative palette is better able to take flight under ideal conditions.

5. Avoiding Criticism
Truth hurts sometimes, but the insight of a measured and positive observer, can illuminate a path toward a better understanding of ones potential. It is important to be challenged on occasion, in order to embolden our capacity to discriminate what we are really attempting to accomplish by our musical endeavors.

6. Learning From Only One Source Of Information
It seems that part of our nature is to gravitate toward a single opinion, and ignore opposite or conflicting information. A “balanced diet” of input can often lead to enhanced problem solving skills, and greater confidence in the end result.

7. Ignoring Technical Application
Repetition does have it’s place, but one can also run the risk of repeating the same mistake over and over again, creating a kind of battle within ones own playing experience. Playing the violin is an enormously complex and subtle endeavor. The information available at our immediate disposal is infinite, and ever growing. Internet, easier travel, better understanding of technical application are all a part of the times we live in. Learning to discriminate as to what is or isn’t a good fit for you, is a necessary part of the relationship you create between you and your instrument.

8. Not Portioning Out Practice Time
Very easy to fall into. For a violinist, there are uniquely complex and challenging interactions between left hand technique and bow arm technique. Also, there are demands placed on players in terms of music related endeavors, pieces of music that it may be necessary to practice, as opposed to wanting “to just play”. Making a habit of structuring ones practice time can reap great benefits.

9. Using Tapes On The Fingerboard
Like a lot of practice aids, moderation is an important concept. Using tapes on the fingerboard of a violin year after year, with no variation in terms of position or context, tends to nullify pitch recognition and other subtle cognitive functions. For very early beginners, and to learn shifting, they can serve a purpose. Using tapes on the violin bow can be very useful, provided there are clear goals set, and the tapes are reflective of bow stroke vocabulary.

10. Practicing Too Fast
As a child, we may have asked the question, “Are we there yet?” Practicing a musical instrument does require a degree of patience, the more confident the musician is in the method of practice, the less inclined he or she will be to rush toward a perceived result.

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on July 6, 2009 at 10:28 PM

So true!!!


From Anthony Barletta
Posted on July 7, 2009 at 2:06 AM

Sound and useful advice - thanks!

From Terez Mertes
Posted on July 12, 2009 at 4:35 PM

 Great comments! Especially enjoyed #4. (Feeling You Make Progress Only On “Good Days”)

From Yixi Zhang
Posted on July 13, 2009 at 3:21 AM

Wonderful advices! With the exception of #9, I think I committed to all of these mistakes for a long time and I’m still trying to undo some bad habits these days.  A most recent example is related to the mistake #10.  The problem for me is, aside from the general tendency of wanting to play in tempo, I don’t always know which part is really hard that I simply should slow down a lot more to completely nail it before speeding up.  Finally, my teacher made me for two weeks play the 1st movement of Mozart concert No. 5 at MM60, the movement I had worked on for a few months, had learned every note by heart and played in tempo but it just didn't sound right. After two weeks slow practice, I became a different player: better sound, better intonation, and I learned to practice less with faster result. 

This entry has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music: Check out our selection of Celtic music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Philharmonic
Los Angeles Philharmonic

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Thomastik-Infeld's Dynamo Strings
Thomastik-Infeld's Dynamo Strings

National Symphony Orchestra
National Symphony Orchestra

Violins of Hope
Violins of Hope Summer Music Programs Directory
Find a Summer Music Program Shopping Guide Shopping Guide

ARIA International Summer Academy

Borromeo Music Festival

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop


Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine