Looking for practicing advice

March 7, 2012 at 07:18 PM · I have been teaching myself the violin for the past 8 months- about an hour each day. I'm 23 years old, and I'm just looking for advice for practicing.

I've read the forum topics posted for this subject, but I was looking more toward practicing specifics. Maybe something you did that helped you profoundly in your playing abilities, that you remember greatly over the years.

As of right now, I've been using youtube, and I've finished 'essential elements- book 2'- about to begin book 3. I'm happy with my performance so far. I know all the major chords and a few minors. I've been working on playing 16th notes, but found that it's tough to play at a high tempo.

Replies (26)

March 7, 2012 at 08:11 PM · One of my more helpful 'ah ha' moments was when I realized exactly how much pressure it takes to stop a string. I was using far too much (unneeded) energy in pressing down with my fingers, when in reality it takes almost nothing. Practicing using only the amount of pressure I needed solved most of my issues in select fast passages.

March 7, 2012 at 10:01 PM · schradieck basic exercises first page. play everything with metronom in quarters/eighth.. and so on. drop finger accurate and in time, lift them fast and light. Keep them close to the string.. use whole bow and keep it straght.

Your left hand will feel different after some days. Not speaking of the difference to months. Made me able to play fast!

March 8, 2012 at 03:07 AM · hahah! interesting, I always thought 'practise' was the english version of the same word, could be wrong though! Thanks for the advice regarding the strength needed for fingering. I've found that this was indeed very helpful. I'm also looking into the books you recommended, $2 on amazon! nice!

edit: you're from england! which makes perfect sense. In America we use the word 'practice' for both types of meanings! however, you are right about the noun and verb usage, so I will pass on your language artifact and attempt to relinquish the misnomer. thanks john!

March 8, 2012 at 05:41 AM · presumably when you are injured by practise `practice makes perfect` or is it the other one....?


March 8, 2012 at 01:36 PM · I think you will have a lot of "ah ha" moments if you can spend the money for a few private lessons.

One of the biggest for me was learning about the internal resonances that are audible when a note is played in tune. You want to practic(s)e very slowly your pieces so that you can hear always these "ring tones."

March 8, 2012 at 03:39 PM · Nick - I had a huge jolt in my playing when I mapped out the entire violin with the different finger patterns.

Finger numbers close together are half steps:

1 2 34

1 23 4

12 3 4

1 2 3 4

I would play these, say the name of the note out loud, imagine it on the staff, and did them on every spot on the violin!

Now that I teach I made a set of workbooks that map out the violin. The Fingerboard Workbook Series Map the Violin for Good.

Smiles! Diane

March 8, 2012 at 05:07 PM · Practice can be used as both a noun and a verb, depending on the context of use. Practise is indeed the British form of the word. Just thought I'd clear that up :)

March 8, 2012 at 05:33 PM · Practise in front a full length mirror. Watch your left hand to keep the wrist straight. Keep an eye on your bowing when practising full bow strokes. You will be surprised what mistakes you can pick up when you watch yourself in the mirror.

NOTE : I was taught at school in Australia 45 years ago that practise was the verb (remember 'is' which is a verb). Practice is the noun (remember 'ice' which is a noun). They were not interchangeable and doing so would lose you marks in exams.

March 8, 2012 at 09:23 PM · Realising that a straight bow is not always a good thing, correctleft hand position, tone production from the bow, lifting head off chin rest most of the time.

AND NOT practising mindlessly for 5 hours a day. Do 3 hours and make it good.

March 8, 2012 at 09:44 PM · OK, I'm going to clear this up regarding "practice" vs. "practise". I'm not trying to get off-topic, I'm just resolving this so the discussion will go back to the topic.

In Britain and Australia: "practice" is a noun, and "practise" is a verb.

In USA (and in Canada some of the time): "practice" is a noun AND a verb.

Some people will say that the British way is the official way, since British English is the purest form of English that we have today. Personally, I agree with that. However, in the USA it is not considered wrong to use "practice" as a verb and you will not be marked down points for using it in an academic setting. In Canada they tend to prefer the official English rule of "practice" vs. "practise" but it's very common to do it the way they do in the USA.

P.S. I play until I make a mistake, then I correct it and try to get it correct 5 times in a row. If I can't get it right 5 times in a row then I simplify it and reevaluate my goals until I can achieve the original goal 5 times consecutively. It's not a very exciting strategy but to me it seems effective.

March 9, 2012 at 01:32 AM · wow, thank you to all- and to those who provided an english lesson too! diane, the half steps and mapping the violin is an interesting idea, and I will have to have a go at that. Also, playing in the mirror was a great suggestion, as well as finding an error and playing it until you get it correct firve times!

thanks to all who commented! I didn't realize this would be so helpful! have a great weekend, all!

March 9, 2012 at 01:37 AM · Peter, what do you mean by a straight bow not always being a good thing?

March 9, 2012 at 04:34 AM · Peter : Yes, I would like clarification on that point too. Why is a straight bow not always a good thing ? Perhaps my bowing is not as bad as I thought !

March 9, 2012 at 01:46 PM · Re: realizing that a straight bow is not always a good thing, check out this video of Heifetz playing Estrellita


March 9, 2012 at 02:57 PM · Regarding the straight bow, and the not straight bow, check out Milstein playing Pag caprices (No5 I think).

I had some pretty bad teaching and somewhere along the line it was emphasised about the straight bow. So for a long time I pushed my right hand out towards the scroll so that my bow was dead straight at the point. This is very bad and fatal.

It also depends on where you position the fiddle on your shoulder. If it comes more to the right you will possibly have a non straight bow the WRONG way. It also depends on arm lenth too, if your arms are too long you migh have trouble. In which case cut the uneccessary extra length off ... (Use a sharp knife!)

It's impossible to make statements because everyone is different, but the bow change at the point will fail to be legato if you insist on a straight bow. Usually the bow point will be at an angle with the point looking a bit more towards the scroll. The amount may vary but shouldn't be too extreme. It's also all to do with the bow making a bit of an arc when you change, even in the middle of the bow.

March 9, 2012 at 03:03 PM · Roy - thanks for that clip of Heifetz. What a wonderful example of legato playing with perfect bow contact and control.

I think you and Heifetz have made the case for me!

March 9, 2012 at 10:34 PM · After learning about technical aspects and then beginning the excersises and then repeating them over and over so that become imbedded in the subconcious....I would not have thought that these were 'ah ha moments' ...

My 'Ah Ha Moment' was when I stuck an ear plug in my left ear! I enjoy my practise much more with out hearing those annoying bow noises, which used to intimidate me. And when I accompany my singer freinds I don't use a mute anymore for fear of being heard too loud. I just plug my ear...and it sounds fine.

March 10, 2012 at 12:40 AM · haha interesting technique Henry! thanks for sharing! does anyone know what to do about moving fingers too high when playing? is this just something that comes with time and practice?

Edit for clarification: playing G on the D string, then lift up to play E...my pinky and ring finger go very high.

March 10, 2012 at 03:22 AM · That's precisely what I meant.....once you discover a technique you need to learn, one needs keep it in mind at every practise session. In this case one would focus on keeping the fingers relaxed, and the mirror could be put to good use here. If the tendancy to lift the fingers too high disappears after one practise session, then one could call that an 'Ah Ha Moment' . But I think it would take quit a few sessions to irradicate the old habits from the subconcious.

March 30, 2012 at 04:59 PM · Hey Nick, I'm a beginner too, it's been about 11 months since I started and I spent some of that time teaching myself but the majority of the time I have taken private lessons. My biggest ah-ha moments are usually during or after a lesson or while practicing at home and I realize how much of a difference each lesson makes in my ability to make progress. And I think of the time I spent on my own and it makes me glad to have a teacher who is really the source of so many ah-ha moments that I could not ever hope to find on my own. So, I think if you are happy with your progress on your own you must have some some ability and/or determination and that using a teacher will add an enormous amount of technique and enjoyment to your playing. I was out of town on business for the last four weeks and didnt have any lessons in that time. We had a lesson this week and seeing how limited my progress was, I know I couldn't be playing Sevcik, Kayser, and Flesch without my teacher.

March 30, 2012 at 05:13 PM · I think the private lessons are definitely the way to go. But there are also some nice online resources too. I tried ViolinLab and she definitely gives some good tips; well worth the $40 for 6 months. Lots of good stuff on training the left hand and of course the bow.

I guess the thing I'm hearing the most is practice slow. Slow practice = faster learning. And always try to get the best intonation while your doing it.

March 30, 2012 at 05:39 PM · yes, absolutely, practice slowly. use a metronome even if you hate it, to slow yourself down. then circle the more difficult parts and work on them over and over. realize it is a very slow process, as you are working on intonation and physical position as well, left elbow under violin, right elbow and wrist moving, shoulder relaxed. RELAX RELAX RELAX it's all worth it. pays dividends.

March 30, 2012 at 06:25 PM · Regarding practice vs. practise, John Cadd is correct--in the UK. In the US, "practice" is the only spelling and works for both the noun and the verb.

March 31, 2012 at 06:23 PM · Where as "advice" and "advise" have different pronunciations, "practice" and "practise" don't. This may be why American English differentiates in the first case and not the second. The next question would be why you British English speakers have such an odd pronunciation of "aluminium" along with the extra vowel added. All of which, of course, is what makes Italian and Spanish speakers rip out their hair when trying to learn English.

April 2, 2012 at 01:29 PM · @Lisa, "aluminium" is not an odd pronunciation. That is the official name of the chemical element (the metal) according to the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry. Then they first adopted this rule in 1990, there was an uproar, mostly from Americans worried about the cost and inconvenience of rewriting all of their textbooks that they relented and allowed "aluminum" to be an "accepted variant."

In like manner we refused to adopt the metric system and I just read an article in the paper the other day to the effect that furniture manufacturers and other skilled trades are having trouble finding workers who can read a tape measure.

April 2, 2012 at 04:30 PM · Paul, the business I work for does, among other things, picture framing. I've had customers on the phone try to order glass, saying that the width is "three little lines past 14 inches." 1/8ths, 1/16ths, 1/32nds? Maybe even 1/4ths, if they have a bad enough ruler. I'm not sure they would fare any better with the metric system, though.

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