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The Weekend Vote

Weekend vote: The New Year's practice pledge

December 31, 2011 at 2:53 AM

Let's face it, you only need one New Year's resolution, when it comes to playing the violin: I will practice, EVERY day!

Sound unreasonable? It's not, if you are serious about either learning the instrument or maintaining a level of excellence in your playing. It's not unreasonable, if you are serious about enjoying yourself, because it's far more enjoyable to do something well!

It is better to practice every day than it is to have a few heavy practice sessions now and then. Why? Playing the violin is a physical skill, as well as a mental and artistic endeavor. Practicing every day allows you to consistent muscle training, decreases the risk of injury and also gets you thinking about your music every day.

What's more, it's actually easier to practice every day than it is to practice on just some days. It's a matter of will and habit: once you establish the habit (which you can do by practicing 21 straight days) you will no longer have that wrestling match with yourself over whether you "feel like" practicing; or whether you will really have a very good practice session, as tired as you are today; or if it would really be better for you to go out with friends rather than practice…No, you'll just do it, and you'll waste a lot less time and mental energy. You'll probably even have time for the nap, or for going out with friends, because you'll just get in the habit of getting it done.

Some days you might play for three hours, but other days might be busy, and you may just play scales for 10 minutes. Just do something, every day. Let's be real, everybody can commit to 5 minutes a day! Very often I start with the intention of just practicing a few minutes, then two hours later, I've had a great session!

Shinichi Suzuki famously told children, "You only have to practice on the days you eat!" then waited for their little eyes to pop wide when they understood what he meant: every day, unless you are deathly ill!

By the way, this is a resolution, I will not send the practice police to your house. It's a commitment to try it. Start by doing 21 days in a row, and then see how long you can keep it up. Keep track of it, if that helps; on a calendar or on a chart. It's pretty easy to keep track, if you start Jan. 1! By the way, I welcome you to take the resolution, even if you are not a violinist; it can apply to your piano practice, or cello, viola, clarinet, etc.

You may have noticed, this poll lacks certain options. That's Mrs. Niles for you!

From Jim Hastings
Posted on December 31, 2011 at 3:38 AM
I have a similar approach. On the rare days when I don't feel like practicing, I just remember what one speaker said some years back: "Then do it anyway, and keep at it -- until you do feel like it." It works. I also set a time each day to begin practice and then stick to it the best I can -- like keeping an appointment. It doesn't have to be the exact same start time every day, but it's not all over the dial, either, from one day to the next.

Hmmm -- 21 days? That's not enough for me. Well, yes, it's enough to form a habit, but not enough to satisfy my musical appetite. I've been a practice addict ever since the first lessons. Now and then, when I was a kid, as the hours wore on, my parents would remind me that bedtime was coming up soon and it was time to wrap up for the evening.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Not sure, but I believe it was pianist Arthur Rubenstein who said something like: "If I don't practice for one day, I can tell the difference. If I don't practice for two days, my family can tell. If I don't practice for three days, my audience can tell."

From Dottie Case
Posted on December 31, 2011 at 4:38 AM
Well, since you didn't include an option that says "I Never make New Years Resolutions but you certainly have me thinking about trying this one" I can't really vote. Thanks for this.

From Anne Horvath
Posted on December 31, 2011 at 2:02 PM
I cut myself some slack for:

--Driving day, six hours one way, to The Aged P's house.

--Illness, which fortunately doesn't happen very often!

--When Guido is in the shop, also not very often.

Happy New Year, Laurie. May your year be as smooth and wonderful and rich as Graeter's ice cream!

From Mark Roberts
Posted on December 31, 2011 at 2:11 PM
60%+30%+11%=101%, which is hard to interpret, does it mean that on average players will practice more than once a day?
From Andrei Pricope
Posted on December 31, 2011 at 4:01 PM
15 minutes = 1.04% of the day. Enough said... Happy New Year!
From elise stanley
Posted on January 1, 2012 at 1:52 AM
I already practice every day. Not once but twice - once and I feel something missing if I miss twice its like I left my newborn somewhere!

But I made the resolution anyway, why not commit to an easy one? :)

Happy new Year everyone!!

From Yixi Zhang
Posted on January 1, 2012 at 1:51 AM
I vote the 3rd choice based on my broadly construed notion of "practice". There are days I'll be away from home without my violin and some days I might be injured, but will try to do some kind of mind-practicing (including yoga practice) during those days.

Happy New Year!

From Bart Meijer
Posted on January 1, 2012 at 6:58 AM
Happy New Year!
From Haley Schricker
Posted on January 1, 2012 at 8:30 AM
First of all, Happy New Year everyone!
Secondly, I think the quote posted by Jim Hastings has generally been attributed Heifetz, ja?
From Patty Wiegelman
Posted on January 1, 2012 at 1:26 PM
This is a great one that I am signing up for! I am going to make my practice a priority. I tend to do other things and then realize that I missed a practice...When I do practice, I get that excited feeling in my stomach and absolutely love it, so I am not sure why I put it off. Great suggestion, and happy year year to all!

From Paul Deck
Posted on January 2, 2012 at 3:23 AM
Sometimes it's out of your control. You get stuck in an airport or something, or your kids are sick, or something completely whacked happens at work and you're on that until 3 AM. But other than that, yes, every day. Oh and not just every day but at least an hour. Tuning your violin and playing Kreutzer No. 2 and then dusting it off and putting it away is not practicing.
From Laurie Niles
Posted on January 2, 2012 at 5:25 AM
Paul, I think that the Kreutzer practice does count, actually. Obviously, the aim is to practice more than 5-10 minutes a day, and an hour is a good goal. But on those days when everything is crazy and you "can't practice," do 10 minutes of scales.
From Dr. J.Rand Certain
Posted on January 2, 2012 at 2:42 PM
This is defintely the *BEST* article & advice to foward to all Music Students!!!
Mrs. Niles, "Thank you!!! & Happy New Year!!!"
Dr. Certain
From Kim Vawter
Posted on January 2, 2012 at 2:55 PM
The idea of practicing every day strikes a chord with me from back in the day I was studying painting. My art instructor told me that to become a better artist one must paint everyday and not just when you were "inspired" to do so. I am pretty sure that he used saltier language than this to get his point across. He grew up in "Hells Kitchen" back in Brooklyn, NYC. He became one of the WPA artists and a very good one although I didn't know this at the time. I thought he was the Devil himself! This turned out to be very good advice and applicable to my new art, the violin. I try to practice every day. Today especially as the Rose Bowl Parade will soon to be on TV and then the string of football
games--Happy New Year, Violinists!
From Joseph Giancarlo
Posted on January 3, 2012 at 3:10 AM
I think this idea, combined with the blog on how to practice effectively, is the best advice I've seen in a while. Also everyone gets one day extra day of music this year! Happy Leap Year!
From Charlie Gibbs
Posted on January 5, 2012 at 8:29 PM
I've been pretty good at stealing enough time for at least a bit of daily practice. But after getting in a longer session last night I realized that my resolution should be to find more than just enough time to struggle through my technical exercises. I need to spend additional time playing melodic pieces. That way I can develop a more expressive style instead of just mechanically working through etudes. I got a brief flash last night of just how much more fun it is when I reach that level.

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