Time management and practice.

February 2, 2010 at 11:29 PM ·

I am wondering if there are any others out there like me. Sort of, would-be professional violinists who sadly discovered their love of the instrument, after a point where it would have been feasible to study violin through a college, and/or intensely with a private instructor. I've always loved to play my instrument, but I guess I only fell "in-love" with it when I was around 22. After I'd already graduated college, after I'd already taken a load of student loans, after I'd already taken a full-time job as well as a second part-time job to pay them off. Could I go back in time, I would in a heartbeat. But that not-being-the-case I do as much as I can with a wonderfully understanding instructor, and manage about an hour of practice a weekday, 2-3 on weekend-days... but I can't shake that constant, nagging feeling of "not-enough-time, not-enough-time," and I wonder, sometimes, if it is actually hindering my focus a bit. Could be a long shot, but does anyone else deal with this sort of thing? Have you found any effective ways to manage your time to the utmost efficiency? If so, please share with me; I will be most appreciative.   

Replies (33)

February 3, 2010 at 08:28 PM ·

Hi Alison, it's just amazing how well I can relate to your situation/feelings. As I read your post I had this feeling as if I am the one who wrote it (shivers down my spine)

I began violin studies when I was just shy of turning 6 years old, my teacher was one of the best in the country (Armenia, root country of Galamian ;) ) and many students would be lucky to have studied with him (I know this now, but when I was a kid I could not have appreciated the fact that I have the privilege to study with him) Anyhow, when I was auditioning to be accepted to study in the music school, my parents wanted me to play the piano, and so, after the solfege examinations were done, the school council had strongly advised my parents that I should pursue violin studies with A. Seiranyan (the pedagogue I had mentioned earlier) due to the fact that I have perfect pitch and outstanding musical memory, and so it began. I was a lazy, yet talented kid. I remember how much I hated practicing, and how all my attention was focused on the voices of my friends cheering and playing soccer outside. The only way to get me to practice was for my mother to be there with me to keep me focused on practice and encourage me. Needless to say, I was progressing very rapidly, eventhough I was probably the laziest student mr Seiranyan had, I was one of his favorite students not because I had green eyes, but because he saw and valued the talent I had (I had no idea back then, as I was a silly little kid) and saw a future as a violinist. All along, (I will never forget these words) my parents kept telling me how bad I will be regretting this (not practicing enough) when I grow up, and how I will be blaming them for not making me practice hard. At around age 11, my parents had given up on "making" me practice and take violin lessons and so I laid down the violin for the next 9 years. (we moved to Israel when I was 11 as my father had a great job opportunity there as an architect) I didn't touch violin until my 20th birthday. Somewhere around the year 2000 (I was 20) one day, something hit me and I "woke up", and realized how much I love the violin and classical music, and how stupid I was when I was a kid and had all the time in the world to practice and make a musical career for myself. I am still shocked at HOW could I be so dormant when all this time (As far as I can remember) I KNEW deep inside I am a musician, I KNEW deep inside I love the violin and music so much , how could this be that I've spend 9 years without it. Well, I did go out and bought myself a full size violin and a fine old German bow and I have been playing and practicing almost every day since (I'm 29 now). I can't describe in words how sorry and miserable I felt (and still do fall into a deep depression every now and then when I realize that, it's a bit too late to pursue a professional career now that I have a wife and responsibilities, student loans that I had to pay, a good stable job in a big firm that I have now, a mortgage on my shoulders,  and a big family to take care of (I am the IT and emergency guy for my entire family of immigrants). The part that hurts me the most is the fact that I am so positive that I could have been so much better than I am now (I can't really explain how I can be so certain, but you probably know what I mean).

So here I am, 29 years old, married, with responsibilities, a wife, a job and a big family to take care of, trying to find 2-3 hours a day to practice (Sometimes I manage to get 4-5, sometimes I don't even have 10 minutes ) and there are days that I get so frustrated and feel so hopeless (the days that I simply don't have the time to practice). I keep repeating to myself that it's not the end of the world, and that sometimes, things are just the way they are, and we can't turn back time (I would give everything up to be that little boy again ) All I can do now is work hard and keep on playing, and work towards becoming the best I can be. I have picked up a lot in the past 9 years, but I have recently lost my teacher (who returned back to her home country) and am anxiously awaiting my new teacher (a good family friend who also teaches and performs back in Armenia, who's about to immigrate to Canada) I have been playing for a little over a year without a teacher and hope I didn't develop bad habits (I use a big mirror to monitor my bow arm, posture, etc.. when I play which I find very helpful and efficient)

Sorry for the life story, I hope I didn't bore everyone too much ( I know I probably have) and Just wanted to assure you that you're not alone, and I feel your pain and frustrations and wish you strength and patience. I strongly believe that if you have the talent, the discipline, the love for music and the violin, with time and hard practice, anything is possible, and even if we don't make a professional career as musicians, we can be home musicians :)

Music heals, it gives me strength, hope and I can see the beauty of the whole world when I pickup the violin, which makes it all worth it. So what if I can't participate in a competition or become famous, to me, music making is not about who is better, we musicians all share the same joy, the joy of music.

To your question on how to manage time more efficiently I'd like to add that, when you do have the time to practice, be it 10 minutes or 3 hours, try to be as "into it" as possible when practicing, I find that I can accomplish more in 10 minutes when I'm fully focused, than I could in 3 hours being not so focused on what I'm doing. When you pickup the violin, try to forget about everything and everyone and just "be in the zone" and give it all you have, start and end each practice session as if it were your last time playing the violin (this helps me a lot)


I could go on forever as this is my second post I believe, I read almost every thread on this great forum, and I thank everyone for their continued support of this place, I have learned a lot by being here.


All the best to you



February 4, 2010 at 01:30 AM ·


I feel your pain.  Life got in the way of my viola studies and I didn't pick it back up again until I was well into my 30's.  I'm pushing 40 now and it is the love of my life, though it will most likely never be a profession. 

First and foremost is to keep a regular practice schedule and practice mindfully during that time.  Divide your time between technical studies and repetoire.  The right mix is up to you with the advice of your instructor.  Have clear goals and work towards them.  Make sure the goals are realistic in all aspects (technique, repetoire, time, etc..) otherwise you run the risk of having frustration setting in which can set you back. 

If you can, try to find time to either play in an orchestra or small ensemble that has performance opportunities.  This helps with keeping the practice focus.

February 4, 2010 at 02:27 AM ·

I understand as well... I was forced by my context to go study in something else than violin (no, no one put a gun on my head to avoid me going in music but life showed me it would be impossible to do the jobs I would have liked to do in music: conservatory teacher or good orchestra player. ) I was of course, devasted, revolted, sad etc but in the other hand, I'll maybe be able to have my own house to practice all I want when not at job ( not a castle of course. I plan as if I will be alone to pay it since I believe people must be able to live by themselves first not waiting for a rich partner to arrive miracoulusly and pay everything lol  I will know in spring if I'll be accepted as an OT and my grades fit in what they require so I hope it will work!!!  Had I decide to go in music, I would still be progressing to pass auditions one day in a college at age 22 or 23...   Mom and dad are kind to help but I must not abuse from them by going in an "impossible" field. They do such sarcifices to help me.   I don't want to exploit them by having them pay fees that will not get me anywhere!  

So, sorry for the life story too but I understand how it feels to have sort of "walls"... Berlin wall as I call it (no insult to anyone) between me and my violin...

Best of luck! and courage! You'll find something nice out of it one day!


February 4, 2010 at 03:32 AM ·

Thanks, all of you, for such wonderful responses. Sometimes it's nice to feel a little less alone in this. I'm constantly nagging at myself with the if-only's (if only I realized how in love I am with my violin when I was a kid, if only i could quit my second job and have 3-4 hours to practice each weeknight instead of just 1, if only i had a time-machine...etc.) and it's hard not to look at all these brilliant musicians here and be always thinking "i could have been that" --- it's physically painful sometimes. But, you all are right, the best thing to do is to be grateful for being so passionate, and to make the most out of the time we do have <3

February 4, 2010 at 02:11 PM · alison, i definitely can relate to you! as an adult beginner of violin, one of my biggest questions to myself is always if i'm practicing enough. i am 26 and just started playing in the last year. i have a full-time job that is very physically exhausting at times, and in the fall i will be going back to school to finish my degree in english education...which means my full-time job, school, eventually student teaching, and keeping up with violin and my violin lessons. i love playing so much, so i never will give it up, but i often wonder how much more quickly i could progress if i had giant chunks of time in my day. however, i have found that many times, it's much easier for me to divide my practice time into 15 minute chunks. sure, i may not have a consecutive 2-3 hours per day to play. but i've found that by playing several times throughout the day between my daily routine and activities, it makes practice time much easier to come by (ex. make breakfast, shower, play for 10 mins. tidy the room, make a phone calls, play for 10 more minutes. go to work, play a few more minutes when getting home. open a book, play for a few minutes between chapters). this does a few things for me....it definitely keeps me from being as lazy as id like...when i could be staring at the wall for 15 minutes, instead i use that couple minutes to practice. also, by the end of the day (well, most days) i come to find that ive practiced for hours when you add up the few minutes here and there, it just doesnt seem as strenuous as a full two hours of playing with no breaks. and finally, i tend to play better/more productively this way, especially if im working on a more difficult piece or scale. with me, the longer i sit and try to perfect something, the more frustrated i sometimes become. i start focusing on every tiny technical detail and sometimes mess up basics due to my frustration level. at that point, its healthier for me and more beneficial to my progress when i take a step back, spend some time reading, listening to the radio, watching tv, whatever....then coming back to whatever was challenging me with a fresh mindframe. this obviously isnt a practice technique that necessarily works for everyone (maybe its just me haha!), but definitely w/ my particular lifestyle and learning style, i have found that breaking my practice time into chunks can work wonders! my hope/plan is to use this when i am both working AND going to school full-time. ive never done both simultaneously, but figure by using my "15 minute rule" when needed, i can still fit practicing in and keep up w/ my violin studies throughout. my teacher has always said she'd rather her students practice every day for only 5 minutes a day rather than practicing all in one or two days, trying to squeeze in 4 and 5 hr practice sessions to make up for lost days!

February 4, 2010 at 03:31 PM ·

This and to try to bring your violin at the same physical area you study. Ex if there is a possiblility to study in a music faculty or at a place where you can play music, you save the transportation time to get at a place to practice (that can be quite impressing sometimes!)


February 4, 2010 at 03:33 PM ·

Well, to all of us, I say, "If wishes were horses" :)  Wish I'd practiced violin as a kid. Wish my PS hadn't had a new string teacher at least 4 times while I was there, that any of 'em after the 1st one had told me to work, or had worked as hard as I did in my PS career. // BUT I'm forever grateful that a world-traveler concert organist passed through my  village in a 3rd or 4th career as a priest, and taught me piano. (I preferred that & voice then.) That when I thought maybe I'd play clarinet in school, since we had a nasty ol' one at home, the school teacher suggested violin. I'm grateful for the "Seashore test", which I must have aced, even though it tests what doesn't have much to do with violin success. That a lively & enthusiastic woman took on our HS chorus my senior yr., gave 4 of us a solid grounding in theory, and opened our eyes to music college.  But looking back doesn't do a lot of good. I've had a long & happy career as a musician/teacher, and teach & play for fun & stimulation now. I never aspired to be a career performer, and I'm still content w/that. The downside of playing for a living is that someone else usually ordains what you have to play, unless you are the tiptop of "star"  soloist, and even those folks need to find someone to program what they want to learn. Enjoy what you have, do your best & try not to waste emotional energy, keep your eyes & ears open for avenues :) Sue  

February 4, 2010 at 04:20 PM ·

I can relate easily to this situation also. Between the community orchestra, a small chamber group, and what I personally want to learn from the solo literature this "hobby" is taking a lot of time (In fact I have spent the last three nights in rehearsals allowing the mess in my apartment to get worse). I have found it hard to balance ensemble music, solo literature, and technique stuides when I have a max of 90 minutes a day to practice. A teacher would be helpful, but the local university has a monopoly on private teachers in this area and charge insane prices to non-university students ($60 for a 30 minute lesson and four months worth must be paid at once). Sometimes I almost want to quit playing for another 13 years.

February 4, 2010 at 05:27 PM ·


I second Anne Marie's suggestion to bring your violin w/you to school. I work at a university that has a music program AND soundproof practice booths (thank God for that! ;-)), and I bring my violin w/me every day and practice during lunch and one evening a week b/f my lesson.

If this is available to you at your university and there are no restrictions as to who may use the rooms, DEFINITELY take advantage of it. It's not only practical but you'll feel terrific knowing you were able to fit that practice time into your day!



February 4, 2010 at 06:00 PM ·

Jessica, I agree with the other comments to you here :) It sounds like you have a good system going, but you can probably get some practice time in between classes too. Most colleges have small "practice rooms" somewhere, that are usually accessible to all students. I used to use these while attending school, granted they were kind of a hole, and the acoustics weren't great since they were always jammed up with junk (i.e. stands, books, broken instruments... even found a rolled up carpet and drama costumes in one once) but it's definately worth looking into! Any chance we can get, right?  

February 4, 2010 at 09:24 PM ·

Wayne, I am surprised to hear you say private lessons are at a premium because of university teachers. I live near Rochester, NY, home of the prestigious Eastman School. There are also solid music programs at nearby Nazareth College, SUNY Geneseo, etc., etc., with highly educated teacher/performers on staff. There are more qualified folks teaching hereabouts than you can shake the proverbial stick at, including grad students, PS teachers, & freelance teacher/players. Certainly those w/the big reps at Eastman command a good fee, but there are others who will teach well asking way less. Sue

February 4, 2010 at 10:19 PM ·

Sue, there are several non-university violin teachers (not to mention grad students) in my area; however, they all teach through the university's Community School where the university sets the price. If you want a high quality teacher it is quite expensive (especially when one is trying to pay off student loans and they only accept payment for four months of lessons at a time). I've asked around and no one knows of a teacher in my town who isn't affiliated with the university's program. Its almost like people are afraid to teach free lance around here (or they know they can make more money through the university). The next "best bet" would be Chicago, but everything in the city is high priced - especially after you factor in travel expenses and parking.

February 5, 2010 at 03:41 PM ·

It is not clear at what level you are now playing and what your goals are. In my opinion these factors, combined with the time you have available to practice, should influence the approach you take.

I would propose that you spend the the first 30 minutes of each practice session on scale exercises and etudes targeting the level to which you aspire. "Finger training" is important to ease of playing and sight reading, and for most of us it requires time in training as it becomes second nature. You probably need a professional teacher or coach to set you on to the proper etudes for your current weakness.

You can probably spend the last 30 - 60 minutes of each practice session on the musical pieces you are working on. But this depends on the difficulty of what you are working on.

Be sure to play everything no faster than you can actually do it, don't "fudge" your way through. Speed will come with practice.


February 5, 2010 at 05:01 PM ·

 I find this feeling of "not enough time" ebbs and flows.  It probably won't feel like this forever.

Laurie's oft-repeated point that it takes 21 days to establish a habit is useful on a number of levels.  As an adult, think about establishing habits of thought as well as behavior, and realize that those will also take ~21 days.  This is a long time, in my experience, when you are trying to establish a new habit of thinking.  (I do a lot of backsliding--it's a lot easier for me to get myself to do something 21 days in a row than to think a certain way 21 days in a row).  Andy's point about knowing what your goals are is a good one.  Direct your habits of thought towards those goals.  

Keep a practice log:  it helps you focus, analyze problems, and be efficient with your lesson and practice time.  It also helps you track your progress more quantitatively than relying on memory and can help guard against the discouraging and unhelpful thoughts that can come up, such as, "I've been spending so much time on this and I'm still not getting any better!"  

Commit music to memory actively rather than passively.  There's nothing like trying to play a piece from memory to highlight and focus your attention on trouble spots, bad fingerings, intervals you aren't hearing right, or passages that don't have musical shape.

Use in-between time (commuting, waiting in the doctor's office, etc.) to listen to the music you are learning.  If you can (i.e. if you are not driving), follow along with the music either in your part or in your memory, and practice it in your head.  When you get back to the real instrument in your hands, you may find that your subconscious has done some work for you.

Some people do manage to go through life never coming up against their limits--and if you're one of them, bless your heart.  But I also think that such situations are rare enough that they really don't have much to teach the rest of us.  Nowadays I actually think I'm fortunate that I had to be realistic about career choices early and I have quite modest talent, so I have no illusions about what "could have been."  It becomes more about what I can do given the limits that I have now.  

February 5, 2010 at 06:07 PM ·

Andrew and Karen, thanks so much for the advice---although you both pretty much described what I already do, so maybe I am not so-far off base as I thought? I do like the idea of setting specific goals for myself rather than simply "get better." And I do take weekly lessons, so I am aware of what these are, so perhaps my thinking was just too broad. Maybe breaking things down a bit more to focus on certain particulars or passages will help me feel a little less overwhelmed. 

Andrew, I'm not really sure what level I am, exactly, though I guess it'd be more or less accurate to call me an intermediate player. Right now I am working on some Kreutzer etudes and the Beethoven Romance in F. I've been playing the violin since I was young, though I only began to take it seriously about 4 years ago (and this after not having played at all for 3 years). I don't know if that changes anything you said... I'd assume not much :)   

February 5, 2010 at 07:35 PM ·

 Hi Alison. I have many adult students who love to play but have a life outside the violin. If you want to make the most of your practice time, I would suggest examining your warm-up routine. To me, it's like the breakfast ("most important meal") of practicing. Repertoire comes and goes, but building and strengthening the muscle memory of finger placement, shifting, and bow control are essential for any piece you play. I use Hrimaly's scale book and Wohlfahrt Op. 45. I prefer them over Flesch and Kreutzer for warm-up due to their simplicity and brevity (Flesch and Kreutzer are more "work out" material, vs. "warm-up" material). 10-20 minutes of good warm-up will boost your practice efficiency in the remaining 40-50.

I am a little confused about your violin goals, however. You say you "fell in love" with the violin, but your comments after that sound like you have some unfinished business with the violin. Trying to attain to what you "could have been" (I think we all face that temptation to varying degrees) will drain your love for the violin. An hour a day and a couple more on weekends is plenty of time to improve and get enjoyment out of playing. If you have certain ambitions, like going into the profession, then that takes more planning, networking, and more intense training. But the warm-up idea would still apply.

Hope that helps!


February 5, 2010 at 08:14 PM ·

Justin, thanks for the advice. I do own the Hrimaly book, I used that one all the time last year, so maybe yeah, it'd be a good one for warming up. Rather than launching right into the "harder" stuff. Also I think maybe I came off wrong when I wrote the "could have been" comment above. Yes, I do wish that I could have had more passion as a child in order to have jumped started my musical education when it was possible to do so. But I missed that opportunity a long time ago, so for right now, I have to be realistic. My goal, in the broadest sense possible, is simply to be able to pick up my instrument with genuine confidence. I want to be able to play in front of people and know that it's not obvious I am a student. I want the love I feel for the instrument to actually come out in my playing. And that last part, that's the main thing. I'm not bitter, or a "wannabe"---just a little... to nostaglic for my own good :)

February 6, 2010 at 10:34 AM ·

The violinmasterclass.com approach is probably the ultimate in practice time management: they divide practice time in three minutes' chunks, and for every chunk, or Virtuous Moment, they are expected to know what the focus of practice is. It's worth taking a look, even if you don't intend to go quite so far.

March 11, 2010 at 03:48 AM ·

On using practice logs. Do people write out their practice session before they start, or do they record it as they go along?

March 11, 2010 at 07:23 AM ·

I commiserate with you! Or rather, your story (of being 22 and falling in love with the violin enough to make you want to take it up) inspires me. I'm 23 this year and last year I was madly in love with the instrument, enough to want to take it up. Got myself one earlier this year and will be starting lessons this week, but I am really afraid if I fall into the trap of not having enough time to practice. For some reason I just feel like learning the violin is something I have to do and desperately want to do well, so it frustrates me that I barely have time for myself now.

Though I've devised a little initiative of mine (of whether I follow it through or otherwise, we'll see) -- I decide that I should have at least 20mins of practice every day upon waking up, so I won't have the excuse of being 'too tired' by the end of the day to practice. (I work long hours as a consultant, often returning home very late.)

Good luck with your endeavours, and let us know if you've stumbled upon any time-management magic along the way ;)

March 11, 2010 at 10:15 AM ·

Hi Alison

do I know what you're talking about? ABSOLUTELY!

I started violin at the 'tender age' of 37, not having played an instrument at all in my life, coming from a non-musical family, never exposed to music apart from the odd radio in the background that is.....

I have fallen in love slowly with this instrument, at first I loved it, now  I am totally out of control with passion for it!!!

I am now 40 years old, am a single mother to a 14yr old boy, I work 6 days a week and commute to work so from 6am to 5pm I am out at work, from 5pm to 7pm I cook for myself and my son and have dinner with him, 'catch up' with friends on the internet, from 7pm to 9 or 10pm I practice, then I am also learning the double bass so from 10pm to 10:40 I play bass, then shower then bed.

I do this on mondays/wednesdays/thursdays, on tuesdays and fridays  I attend 2 orchestras so I will play 30 minutes between 6:30 and 7pm then when I get back from orchestra at 11pm I will practice 2 hours until 1am.

On a Saturday I practice 3 hours, on the sunday I work a 13 hour shift at the hospital (I am a midwife) so will only practice 1 hour when I get back from work at 10:30pm.

Apart from work and violin practice I do not have a life, I never go and see my friends, I never go out, this may seem extreme to MANY, BUT it is what I want as my biggest wish is to become very good as quickly as I can...when I get to beyond grade 8 I might 'turn down' the practice a little to allow me to go out once or twice a month and see my friends and will still progress.....

But yes, the above is just to say that you have to find a balance which is 'right for you', nothing is right for 2 people consecutively! it all boils down to your physical energy, your desires/wishes, your practical day to day life, your emotional attachments and your responsibilities (caring for a relative or child), then only after looking at your personal circumstance you can come up with what you can and want to do. 

For me it was: so absolutely nothing else but practice violin and I am happy with that and will carry on doing so for as long as I am happy with it.  My friends are remaining my friends, they love me and understand this is making me happy, we keep in touch via 'facebook' etc ;)

Even though I manage to practice 2 hours a day 7 days a week (if you average it out) I STILL would like MORE! but I have huge debts and have to work the many hours I do! oh well.....

I keep a practice diary, I fill in in advance what I want to cover over a 10 day period and I tick each thing as I do it.  I spend half of my practice on technique, half on playing/learning music.

I have a great teacher who himself studied with great/famous violinists, I am blessed to have him teaching me! I have lessons every week with him for an hour.

Wish you many happy hours with your violin :)

Jo (UK)

March 11, 2010 at 01:54 PM ·

Heinrich, when you said  "I just feel like learning the violin is something I have to do and desperately want to do well, so it frustrates me that I barely have time for myself now" --- you could have taken the words right from my own mouth :) I think we just have to make sure we keep putting the violin before other things that just don't matter as much. Maybe we get a little less sleep in order to practice an extra hour, or we spend a little less time at social events, but it's all worth it for the music. Nothing is better or more fun than that :) And best of luck to you, too!

March 11, 2010 at 02:17 PM ·

There are some good ideas about this in Barry Green's The Inner Game of Music.  Alternatively, Galamian talks about this, as well (of course):  I believe his prescription is to practice at 20 minute intervals.  I encourage my students to practice not more than 20 minutes at a time, but during those 20 minute to really focus.  20 minute of focused practice is worth hours and hours of "oh geeze, I've got a lesson, I've got to practice."  You have to avoid practicing mistakes, but I'm sure you know all that.

Of course if you're preparing a major work, you're probably going to practice longer than that at a stretch, but I have found that if I have a lot of works to learn, if I do practice for 20 minute intervals (I even set a timer in the next room), and do six to ten such intervals in a day, I can get the work done without being overtired, and get other things done, as well. 

It also helps to specifically plan what you wish to accomplish, and have some division of "practice time" versus "performance time."  (80/20)  Practicing issues are extremely important, of course.  I've collected every book on the subject I could, and have found the following to be helpful, especially Burton Kaplan's materials:

Madeline Bruser, The Art of Practicing: A Guide

to Making Music from the Heart

Burton Kaplan, Musician's Practice Log**
Burton Kaplan, A Rhythm Sight-Reader: Bk 1, Bk 2
Burton Kaplan, Practicing for Artistic Success:
The Musician's Guide to Self-Empowerment

Stuart Edward Dunkel, The Audition Process: Anxiety
Management and Coping Strategies
(Juilliard Performance Guides, No 3)

Margret Elson, Passionate Practice: The Musician's Guide
to Learning, Memorizing, and Performing

Jack Grassel, Power Practicing**
Don Greene, Audition Success (A Theatre Arts Book)
Don Greene, Performance Success: Performing Your Best
Under Pressure (Theatre Arts)


** These two in tandem are recommended for preparing for auditions.

March 11, 2010 at 05:53 PM ·

In response to several posters who suggest practicing in segments: While very good advice, most of us posting here struggling with this time management can't possibly do this, as we are only home for a few hours (if that) a day. Using myself as example, Monday through Friday I leave the house at approximately 5am, and do not return home until somewhere between 8 and 9pm. Logically, I ought to be in bed by 11 if I expect to function during the day, leaving me with 2-3 free hours a day. To practice in twenty minute incriments (breaking inbetween) would leave me practicing bearly an hour a day... or less : /

March 12, 2010 at 02:00 AM ·

Hi Alison,

Seems to me you have no trouble managing your time. Your ability to practice on top of your 70+ hour work week is amazing!

With such dedication to music, perhaps you need to reassess your work. I don't know what you do for your second job, but perhaps you should consider teaching instead. Besides performing, teaching is the most effective way to learn, provided that you teach from the imagination and not just 'by the book'. In particular, you need to be able to convey what it feels like to make such and such a sound, or move the arms or bow in such and such a way. The process of putting the kinaesthetics of violin playing into words or demonstration will greatly increase your awareness of your own playing. Showing a student how to practice efficiently and effectively will make you all the more able to do the same. Moreover, as far as your brain is concerned, thinking playing is playing - you'll notice a difference in no time.

The best way to learn is to perform - find every opportunity to put what you've learned to the test. Nursing homes are a great place to start. Once you've gained some confidence consider doing some gigs: weddings, bands, amateur theatre groups, community orchestras.

Maybe you need time prioritization more than management...

Check out:

Tim Ferriss

The 80/20 Principle

Good luck!



March 12, 2010 at 12:53 PM ·

Alison, I've just seen what you wrote above re: your schedule... good god, and I thought I was busy, but you're really full-on and yet manage time for practice! That is nothing short of inspiring, and it actually says much about your time management skills. You're right, there's always ways to trade in some time for practice; I think it's all about the willpower and determination, and not to give oneself excuse to skip practice.

Best of luck to you too! :)

March 12, 2010 at 01:55 PM ·

Jeewon, prioritization definately sounds more accurate :) I've considered teaching before, but the thing is that really I am still a student myself; according to the graded repertoire I play at about a level 6 (I started late). I've heard from other teachers that a lot of students end up having to re-learn a lot of the basics when they go on to an advanced teacher because of inexperienced "beginner" teachers. I do sometimes help a young cousin practice on weekends, and enjoy it a lot---but I don't want to end up holding back a student that would do really well with an "experienced" teacher : / 

March 12, 2010 at 02:20 PM ·

Hi, I really agree with you Alison about teaching!  I am sometimes told I should teach on summers but, as someone who is doing a collegial 2 level in violin, I definitivly do not consider myself good ennough to teach. I know that in music schools not that far from where I live, teachers with such levels teach... There is a common view that you can, at least, start kids... But I strongly disagree since the teachers you have when you are beginner should be the most important and the most skilled since the student has 0 skills of his own then.   A good teacher should have a master's degree and nice professionnal experience!  (if not, be able to do the same job as if...)   And also innate pedagogical skills.  In France, it takes higher grades to teach in schools than to go in med (I read this somewhere).  This illustrates how an important responsability it is to give knowledge to the futur generations...  

Good luck!


March 13, 2010 at 08:31 AM ·

Hi Anne-Marie,

In a perfect world I might agree... but on the one hand no amount of schooling can replace relevant experience, on the other everybody's gotta start somewhere. 

I'm not sure what kind of professional experience and degrees you have in mind, but I'd argue that, except for Early Childhood Ed., there really are no degree programs that teach the necessary skills to start kids on the violin. I would also bet that Suzuki teacher training or something like Paul Rolland's course (don't know if that's still available) would be more useful to a would-be first time teacher with a focus on beginner kids. Even then, more than the program, it's mentoring and supervised experience that would be most valuable if you're starting from scratch. But why start from scratch?

Bottom line, you don't know whether you have those 'innate pedagogical skills' until you give it a try. If you wait until you 'get qualified', it might never happen - or worse, you spend 3+ years and a lot of money and find out it's not for you after all. The fact is, as you've mentioned, there are already many people who really shouldn't be teaching young kids and/or beginners, or teaching at all for that matter - and it's not for a lack of degrees or playing ability. I'd rather see you and Alison teaching than some teachers I've met simply based on your passion for the instrument and on your integrity - that you're actually more concerned for the hypothetical welfare of the student more than the pay check.


Hi Alison,

I expected no less of a response from one with such a work ethic :)

The truth of it is that 'teaching' is not such a monolithic thing as is being implied by those 'other teachers'. There are many facets to it, from (let's face it) high priced baby sitting, to (perhaps most importantly for young beginners) work/study ethic, note reading/rhythm and ear training, setup, technique, kinaesthetic training, musicality, being an arm-chair psychologist, performance training, career management, and I'm sure a slew of things I'm not thinking of at the moment. And even if you were highly knowledgeable in every aspect of becoming a violinist, whatever that might be to you, it's very rare for anyone to be all that to all students, or even one.

Of all the teachers I know there are less than a handful who can consistently build students from scratch to an advanced level, and that's mostly because they themselves are consistent, persistent, and demanding (of both students and parents). Most fall into a much smaller niche - some are great starters, others great fixers, and yet others just take their students through a pile of material and repertoire; most are simply making a living or padding their income; most don't know or don't want to face their own limitations. Some of the most successful teachers get that way by simply being very selective. But to be fair to most of those teachers, most students who start violin are not the kind you'd be able to 'hold back' for lack of experience. If you're lucky enough to come across kids with a knack, you'll know right away, and if you feel inadequate you can refer them to your teacher or someone else. For the rest, there is no guarantee that even the most effective teacher can lay a solid foundation, much less in a way that the next teacher won’t want to ‘fix’.

I'm not suggesting you jump in with both eyes closed, but it seems to me, even if it's not your calling, you'd do better for yourself and perhaps a bunch of kids who might not otherwise be introduced to the violin and music. And by the way, helping your cousin counts - you've already started teaching! Why not take the next step?


Getting back to the original topic, mental training in and of itself will take your practicing and playing to another level.




March 13, 2010 at 01:08 PM ·

Alison, take a look at Eric Johnson's "Practice Management Tools" discussion on this website. Lots of good links. He was kind enough to include my article (http://mypages.iit.edu/~marcus, click on "Music Practice Tips").

March 14, 2010 at 12:14 AM ·

Time to practice...we just have to make it.  I started playing at the age of 3, stopped playing at the age of 18 (long story, it was to spite my parents more than anything, a decision I sorely regret) and picked it back up at the age of 33.  I have to find 3 hours a day to practice...and with my work schedule (I work a 24 hour shift twice a week, plus I substitute teach at the local school on my off day) it can be difficult.  Prioritizing is great, believe me.  There are times when my friends call, and yet I'm practicing, so I don't answer...and I miss out on a few things.  I do make time to enjoy life also...it's important, so that playing my violin doesn't become a chore.  I am also in 2 symphonies (I think I'm crazy)...take private lessons...and am  hoping to find my way back to where I was when I stopped playing.  I wish you the best of luck.  All I can say is find the time, and do it.  I don't have any great words of wisdom...but do not let it become something you dread...play because you love to play, not because you have to play.

March 14, 2010 at 12:43 AM ·


Oh, I understand your point of view too of course! 

In fact I have often been told by my teacher and accompagnists that I would be much better teacher than player since I'm mentally more "advanced" and "musically mature" than physically (coordination)!  I gave one lesson and the woman was super happy with it!  So was I!  But, I still wouldn't be comfortable with teaching without a master's degree or so!  But I don't condamn those who do and I know that not everyone can afford to get into a conservatory or such either...  Maybe I tell this because I personnally only unblocked when I entered at the conservatory...

Have a nice day,



March 14, 2010 at 05:43 AM ·

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