Silent Practicing

August 19, 2007 at 05:49 PM · I live in a building where my practice hours are restricted to 10 am - 8 pm, with a Mittagspause between 1 and 3 pm. Unfortunately, this is exactly when I tend to have time and energy to practice! What are some different silent (physical) practice techniques to use when you can't make any noise?

I've thought of:

Flesch Urstudien

Simon Fischer's click exercise

The first Daily Dozen exercise

Practicing without the bow

Keep them coming!

Replies (20)

August 19, 2007 at 07:07 PM · Mid-day pause? Is it a German thing? Might be best to start at 3:01. Those heavy steel mutes really kill the volume to nothing. With me, there was a big difference going back to no mute after a bit of that. Would be interesting as an adult now to figure out what that difference is and how real it is. Might be something there to take advantage of.

August 19, 2007 at 07:25 PM · Yeah, people here traditionally eat their main meal at midday, so it's like an after-lunch nap. Siesta German-style. It's required by law that you're quiet during this time so that early-risers and shift workers can have some peace.

Practice mutes bother me - I always end up playing out of tune and with a nasty sound after I've used one for any length of time. I save them for emergencies.

August 19, 2007 at 07:47 PM · The out of tune nasty sound was the difference I was referring to. Not sure if it's real or a change in perception. Maybe sharpened perception. If I was doing it now, I'd investigate :)

August 19, 2007 at 07:53 PM · Probably a combination of both. You can't hear when you're stifling the sound, so you use too much pressure, and the violin can't resonate freely anyway, so it starts to sound like it's got a head cold.

August 19, 2007 at 08:10 PM · Try a practice violin with an open back. To compensate for the lack of sound, you can use a bridge with a pickup and plug it into an amplifier and listen through earphones or headphones. The louder you crank up the amp, the softer you'll want to play. Unfortunately, even with such a set up, you won't be completely silent.

August 19, 2007 at 08:22 PM · Just reading the score, or violin part, and hearing it in your head, is a really important part of learning a piece.

You can also listen to recordings during the quiet times with headphones. Just be careful about the volume...

August 19, 2007 at 08:29 PM · Thanks, Anne - good advice, though in my situation, it does often come down to getting in the hours on the fiddle. (Preparing auditions, learning excerpts in a short amount of time, modern opera premieres, trying to stay in top shape while running around doing hundreds of other things...)

August 19, 2007 at 08:53 PM · Um, if it's a nice day...go take your violin to the park and play there? Of course there are the pidgeons.....

There might be a church or school near by which would allow you to practice there also somewhere where it wouldn't bother people. Is there a music school with practice rooms somewhere?

August 19, 2007 at 09:21 PM · I went through this on banjo--exactly. And I routinely jump through more hoops than I wish on violin, but things are much more stable. And I don't see any answers other than 'flexibility'.

Combining all the advice you received, look at it as a chance to jump through hoops--the ones you will encounter as a musician anyway.

This hoop factor, is why I simplified my life a little to make room for violin. I do not intend on becoming a "musician" in the traditional sense, but I do intend on playing violin. I think I actually simplified a little more than 'a little'.

I published a reprint from Reader's Digest over at if you can find it that describes study habits for a college student. They apply to your situation it seems. I'll see if I can ferret it out for you, but try looking yourself too.

Disregard, here it is:

Success in Studies

One may alter them for violin. For instance learning to read might be seen as learning to

practice and etc...

Best wishes.

p.s. On a personal note: Though I've 'always' been a book-worm, I find the article as actually a roadmap for continuing excellence in many areas for trads, non-trads, as well as adults in general.

It's the intensity of the avocation that creates the guiding perspective I think.

August 19, 2007 at 10:08 PM · My Students do this all the time. We call it the silent rehearsal method. We use it to isolate certain discreet movements in the right or left elbow and hand.

Many of these moments happen between the notes (when the bow moves). ie target practice for fingers, elbow motions for left hand or string crossing, finger preparations,

Its the things we do unconsciously during the unheard moments of the music that are usually causing us problems.

I would love it if my students were challenged with a practice situation like this. They would practice with so much more care and awareness of what their bodies are doing to make sound.

August 19, 2007 at 11:56 PM · Thanks for the info. I will check out that article.

My husband is a teacher, so he is home for the summer. Unfortunately, we are both deaf in one ear and my husband's hearing ear is extremely sensitive.

I get resentful because when he is around, all sounds have to stop - mute on the violin - low tv ..... Finally we agreed that he would go to the library for 2 hrs. a day so I can hear myself play.

I thought of making a soundproof room, but don't want to go through the expense.

Funny, my optimal energy time for violin is between 9 and midnight. BUT I have to play when I can.

Thanks, Alex

August 20, 2007 at 01:14 AM · Alex said: "Funny, my optimal energy time for violin is between 9 and midnight. BUT I have to play when I can."

The article will definitely help you with this.

1. Note the advice on being organized.

2. Note the advice on studying anytime and everywhere.

3. And on taking good notes--approach it with a little administrative overhead I think.

Wishing you good productive solutions.


August 20, 2007 at 04:09 AM · Has anyone tried the electric silent violins? Basically it seems like you wear headphones to hear what you're doing and otherwise play the electric violin just like you would any other. I haven't tried it, but it looks like it could be a good solution. Shar sells them.

August 20, 2007 at 06:30 PM · Hi Albert, I'm definitely jumping through hoops, though they're not really self-imposed. The article was useful, but wasn't that new - I also managed to avoid studying and float by with top marks for most of my academic life - by using a lot of these tricks intuitively. I'm now a freelancer and teach English to keep my visa. Between rehearsal and lessons (scheduled all over town at all sorts of hours), maintaining a technical routine on top of learning new repertoire and preparing auditions isn't particularly easy - hence the idea of silent techniques for when I get home at 10 pm and feel the need to practice something.

Any more ideas about what can be practiced without making any sound?

August 20, 2007 at 07:08 PM · My solution to this problem was a rubber practice mute--the sound is much less ugly and it feels as though you are playing an instrument.

August 20, 2007 at 08:53 PM · I've got one of those too, but the walls are thin...

August 20, 2007 at 10:42 PM · left hand articulation.

August 21, 2007 at 04:39 AM · Some people in your situation use an electric violin. Have all the audio output go to your ears via headphones.

August 21, 2007 at 05:00 AM · Mentioning Simon, Flesch and the daily dozen - the Schmidtner double thrill studies are quite good without bow for left hand power and suppleness, esp. if you speed it up with metronome. Just a few sheets, if you don't have them, I can send you a scan to try them.

August 21, 2007 at 05:59 AM · Hi Mischa,

That would be great! This sounds just like what I'm looking for, meganchapelas [at] yahoo [dot] ca. Thanks!

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