What have you learned today?

February 16, 2017 at 08:59 PM · I think this can be fun and motivating discussion. If you love to practice, please tell us what you’ve learned from today’s practice. If you don’t love it, please also tell us what you've learned today, if anything.

Replies (99)

February 16, 2017 at 09:02 PM · I've learned I'm very useless as a violinist :D

February 16, 2017 at 09:35 PM · I've learned not to squeeze the muscle between thumb and index (left hand).

February 16, 2017 at 09:38 PM · That v.com is very good company when you're trying to practice differentiating a 1/4 sul ponticelli from 1/2 s.p. from 3/4 s.p. from s.p. from molto s.p. from ord., in rapidly, randomly changing dynamic contexts: p, ppp, mf, ppp, pp, mpmf, mf, pp, mp, mf, mf, mf, pp, mf, mf, ppp, mf, ppp, pppp, mf, ppp, pppp, mf, ppp, mf, mf, mf, ppp, pppp, mf (group of 5 thirtyseconds over duple sixteenths arco + l.h. pizz, starting on & of beat 1) pppp, cresc to f, pp, ppp, descres. to niente, and that some composers need to get over themselves and learn how a string instrument really works. Not feelin' the love this week x-(

February 16, 2017 at 09:45 PM · I've learned to lower my left shoulder, and when in doubt, squeeze a bit my shoulder blades.

I've learned to practice succeeding; i.e., what Nate Cole advised: "The best players spend almost all their practice time succeeding because they define success appropriately and constantly change its definition to meet the circumstances at hand" (for more, sign on to his natesviolin.com to get his practice guide).

I've learned that every sound I make during practice has to be the best I can make.

I've learned that I really love practice because time flies by way too fast when I practice.

edit: awww, Jeewon! Hey, I've got an idea, how about you improvise?

Edit 2: I've also learned that, for today, realistically I cannot play these two pages I'm working perfectly the way I want. I must move on to the next two pages and come back tomorrow to see how it goes.

February 16, 2017 at 09:49 PM · I'm sure no one could tell the difference, not even the composer! Can I trade weeks with you :)

Cool thing about your left shoulder! That was fast :D

P.S. I've found that when I get very nervous, a retracted shoulder is very very bad for my bow arm in soft, sustained playing for down bows, but interestingly helps for a change to up bow. Good for 'bashing' out loud chords though!

February 16, 2017 at 10:29 PM · I learned how to make the e string ring truly when playing 4 note chords (harder than you would think).

February 16, 2017 at 10:32 PM · The value of playing scales in thirds. Seems to be a fast way to warm up and get the intonation down. I especially like playing Sevcik op 1, part I, no 13

February 16, 2017 at 10:50 PM · I already knew this but it really struck me in my lesson: no two notes should be the exact same. Maybe same volume but then it needs to be a different color or sound.

My teacher told me a story about how you could bring in a famous pianist and a random person who's never touched a piano, and if you ask them to play a note you'll have no idea who's who. But then if you ask them to play two notes, you'll know immediately.

For violin it's different but the idea is the same.

Similarly in the same lesson I played the movement of solo Bach I was working on, and he wanted it to be more musical. So after talking about it a bit he had me play it a second time focusing on musicality and expression, and it sounded like a different piece. So I learned that while I have ideas in terms of musicality and expression, I'm not always totally convinced myself or confident enough to really go all out in the music rather than dull it down a little.

February 17, 2017 at 12:31 AM · I have been working on Beethoven G Major Romance Op. 40. I performed it back in November but I didn't play very well. I was too nervous and I was having neck problems then. Yesterday I think I learned a little bit about why I tend to creep sharp when going from 3rd to 5th position, say.

February 17, 2017 at 11:22 AM · Nices story, Miles. Yeah, for violin is different, and quicker: you just need to see who can hold the violin without dying trying it. Or you could ask them to play a single note.

February 17, 2017 at 04:11 PM · By playing, does it include pizz?

February 17, 2017 at 04:26 PM · I learned my fingers don't naturally move independently, but by concentrating on finger exercises, I can greatly improve on independent finger movement. Biggest problem is 3, which wants to bring along 2 or 4! It takes a lot of focus to move 3 and leave 2 and 4 still.

February 17, 2017 at 06:01 PM · I worked a little on shifting a whole tone with the same finger. We often shift a half tone with the same finger, it is a useful technique for crawling shifts. But sometimes it is really handy to shift a whole tone with the same finger and that is surprisingly difficult to get perfect. It is good to practice it from time to time on different parts of the fingerboard because the distances is quite large in 1st position and of course very small in high positions. I think we are most accustomed to the distance in 3rd position. I was playing a fragment of a piece that involves shifting from C on A in 1st position to B on A (half position). Nice thread! Curious if it will last, i.e., stay on top for many weeks/months!

EDIT: I meant C# otherwise it would not be a whole tone :-)

February 17, 2017 at 06:24 PM · Jean, when you learn this type of shift, to play in tune, try to play double stop with an open string next to it; i.e., when shift from C to B on the A string, you play it together with the E open string to check your intonation. Do it slowly, listen very carefully. Once you get it right, lightened the finger and listen again. Happy practice!

February 17, 2017 at 07:19 PM · I am trying to dramatically increase my practice time from about an average of 20 minutes a day, to an hour a day without exception, and 2 hours if viable, through the end of March.

I have learned that I only have so much mental energy in a day, and if I really focus on this practice time, it detracts from being able to do other things with peak concentration.

February 17, 2017 at 07:59 PM · I didn't learn this today, but I'm familiar with that draining feeling. I've learnt that it helps to alternate days, one day just work on tuning and say shifting and soft, sloooooow practice. The next work more on expression and interpretation. Next day work on clean sound and sloooooow stuff. I think if you try to do too much at once you can burn out real quick. Instead have only one main focus per day. Learn to accept and bracket other details (write it down if it bothers you) to be studied another day. If you're at that stage, spend one day a week performing either sections, or running the whole piece. To build stamina perform the whole piece back to back, with just a quick breather in between. By extension you can add a periodicity to the whole year, like athletes do, spending phases working more on technical aspects (way more total time) then tapering, working more on performance aspects and mental practice, which requires less total time. Such a cycle naturally happens for most pro-oriented students from fall term to spring term to summer (festival season.)

February 18, 2017 at 02:10 AM · I'm taking notes here. Jeewon, when are you going to write a book or two about your teaching? I am serious. All these good stuff! Maybe some of us should just compile all the things you wrote on v.com, that'll be quite something.

Lydia, I know the feeling. Now that I've retired for 1 1/2 months, I can tell you that while I have the extra hours to play violin, I can't do it all day because practice requires a lot of mental stamina that will take some time for me to build. Three hours/day including many breaks is my maximum right now. After that, I'm not sure I am still making progress. I remember I did a summer boot camp a few years ago where we had private lesson, play with piano accompanist, masterclass, mini-orchestra and private practice everyday for a whole week. In the end I didn't become a better player but a stressed out and frightened player. The final public performance I gave was Beethoven's Spring Sonata, which I had better performed a few times prior to that summer camp. I love summer camp, but that was a hard lesson to learn that putting more hours/work doesn't mean I'd do better in the end.

One other thing I lately noticed is that I would fall asleep dreaming something I've been working on. It wasn't all that comprehensive but it's an indication that I'm still learning (rather, my brain is processing what I was practicing) even if I'm not playing.

Last but not least, thanks you Jeewon, I'm going to create a schedule in my calendar. I bet there're apps for that.

February 18, 2017 at 05:07 PM · Yixi, I am sure the brain is processing after I practice, because I see the biggest improvement the next day at the start of practice,, more than at the end of my last practice!

February 18, 2017 at 09:53 PM · Focusing on the RH today and pondering over what the relationship of LH and RH. As it were, the LH is my heart and the RH my thought, as violinist/philosopher Jan Zwicky puts it in her poem "String Practice": "The fingers of the left hand are the chambers of the heart. The thumb is character. The heart alone is voiceless. By itself, it knows but cannot think, and so it cannot close the door to fear.Thought is the right arm and it moves like breath. ..."

Jeewon wrote above: "it helps to alternate days, one day just work on tuning and say shifting and soft, sloooooow practice. The next work more on expression and interpretation. Next day work on clean sound and sloooooow stuff." Taking his advice, my focus today is on RH, which means I give RH a preferential treatment: spend more time doing son file, check the LH first and last whenever problematic spot appears; play open strings a lot to make fast notes cleaner and melodic passages sing better. Like this very much! We have to deal with so many issues in each practice session, it really helps to set a priority each day this way to better distribute resources and have more realistic expectation.

February 19, 2017 at 12:15 AM · Thinking about phrases today and how I want them to sound and what to add technically to get there.

February 19, 2017 at 08:54 AM · Kinda feels like I'm writing a book on Smiley's thread :) Apologies to him for all the loooong posts, but there's so much info to gather together. But I don't think I have anything original to say... Just trying to answer the question... in my usual convoluted, long winded, verbose way.

"The heart alone is voiceless. ...Thought is the right arm and it moves like breath..." So concise, so full. Didn't it take me several posts and thousands of words to say the same thing?

February 20, 2017 at 04:03 AM · Jeewon, why apologies? We are so lucky to have someone like you who has so much expertise and such willing hands to help people out. You also have a lot of unique and effective ways of explaining things that might be explored by others in the past. As we used to hear all the time in philosophy that "There's nothing new under the sun". But we still need people to keep telling us the old truth in millions different ways or the most of them will get unnoticed and buried.

I've learned today that practice son file and check my posture and breathing go with hand in hand.

Tuning by rolling the finger on the same note to hear sharp/flat pitch needs to be done on a daily basis.

Writing down the details ("upbow, 1st finger, B on D string, 5th position,...) of complex and confusing passages is a good way to sort things out (e.g. m239-m383 of the 1st mvt of Mendelssohn VC), but I also need a clear melodic line to remember the passage. Will melodic memory be unreliable? We'll see.

February 20, 2017 at 04:34 AM · Thanks Yixi! Too kind.

February 20, 2017 at 04:43 AM · I learned that sounding beautiful at an agonizingly slow tempo is significantly more motivational and satisfying than scratching along faster.

February 21, 2017 at 08:42 PM · I've just learned that I play a lot more musically (or at least I think I do) when I force myself to play from memory. (I usually memorize automatically, but I very rarely practice from memory, and I have not performed anything from memory since childhood.)

I think this may have to do with the fact that, when I am playing from memory, the unit in my head is the entire phrase unit, and therefore everything automatically has more direction. And that I am more conscious of color, and shaping the sound, because now I've freed up a portion of my brain to pay attention to something other than the notes.

(This discovery was precipitated by the fact that I really need my music-stand set lower for playing solo with orchestra -- as low as possible, really, to avoid blocking the violin's sound -- and at a certain point, this basically becomes "music to rescue you if you have a memory lapse" more so than "music you are constantly watching". So I am trying to practice from memory, with lowered stand, and it's... interesting.)

February 21, 2017 at 09:04 PM · Lydia, I feel the same way. When I learn a new piece, I work on chunks so that as soon as I've learned the notes, I can play by memory, eyes closed. Play like a blind person, as Jeewon talked about. The real listen starts.

The problem I have is that since I get the parts memorized by the time of my lesson, then I can't quickly transfer what's in my head to what's on the score, when my teacher points out something on the music for me to fix. This probably is not a huge issue down the road. Nor do I believe playing from my head necessarily increases the chance of miss-reading the music. Most of us just can't take in everything all at once. That's why often we don't notice the details even the music is right in front of us. I find describe and write down what I read from the score helps me to really pay attention to obvious details that I would otherwise missed.

February 21, 2017 at 10:46 PM · Let's see, today I learned (again) how important the rhythm of a shift is for intonation. I resolved to do more shift practice without the bow, for what I call the "choreography".

February 23, 2017 at 03:38 AM · Today I experienced what it feels like to play violin with a left hand that is, oh, so relaxed and free!

... And then I quickly learned how hard it is to return to that state of complete relaxation once your palm has tensed up.

But at least I know what it should be like and what it should NOT be like.

February 23, 2017 at 04:57 AM · Today I discovered that if you record yourself play than listen to it with Tuner of some kind out you pick up on all those little intonation issues that are close enough to pass by the ear

February 23, 2017 at 07:18 AM · Today I start to accept my short-term expectation realistically. As Jeewon said, "After the first performance, or a few, that's when the polishing really starts." I'm in discovery phase of learning this piece so it won't be as polished for a while. I've noticed a lot of issues, almost too many. But during today's lesson, my teacher emphasized that I should keep it simple and don't over-analyze.

February 24, 2017 at 06:48 PM · "As a musician, you need to know this: nothing you've learned is wasted."

Last night our guest conductor Maestro Timothy Vernon came to work with the conservatory orchestra. After a short break, we were told that the last movement of Suk's Serenade, which we've been working on really hard for the past two months, will not be performed this week as original planned. A little disappointed, but it's good to see that under his baton we are not only learn the music but also learn how to be honest and to keep a long-term perspective; i.e., good musicianship.

February 25, 2017 at 02:10 AM · I had a violin lesson today. I learned a better fingering in a passage from a schubert quintet and also C major three octave scale in the Carl flesch style. I really like the turn arounds in those scales. My shifting is becoming much smoother with theses scales.

Jessy

February 25, 2017 at 11:32 PM · When play Beethoven, "p" is not negative, but it has to be full of positive emotional quality. "f" vs. "ff" is the difference between $1M vs. $2M.

March 1, 2017 at 02:09 AM · Fingers are moved by the muscles of the forearm. Lightening the LH fingers to the point that I can feel with my fingertips the vibration of the string on almost every note is the best way to relax the left arm and even the left shoulder. It is more doable than I thought. It's a wonderful feeling that I can change my playing just like that.

March 1, 2017 at 04:04 AM · Helen Smit, I would love to know how you do that. I have a very strong E string and it still sounds muffled during chords.

I've been working on enunciating the worse sounding notes to create a homogeneous sound when those D's and G's come up to loosen the drywall. Chopin is good for that. He didn't seem to care much about how violins work haha

While we're on the subject, does anyone have any recommendations for pieces with a prevalence of generally bad sounding notes alongside the typical knockouts?

March 1, 2017 at 08:36 AM · I have learned that it can be fun to practice with a metronome. I learned that, by buying a metronome i like. A mechanical Wittner in nice design:

http://www.wittner-gmbh.de/metronome_holz_e.html

I got model 811.

March 1, 2017 at 05:05 PM · From my other question of How to become more familiar with the fingerboard, I learned that 3 octave scales is a great way to start.

I found a great formula that simplifies it:

G: A+2, E+2, pinky+ ; pinky-, E-2, A-2

Ab, A: A+2, E+3, pinky+ ; pinky-, E-3, A-2

Bb to F#: A+2, E+2, E+2, pinky+ ; pinky-, E-3, E-3

Check it out here: Violin 3 octave scales by Sean Lee

March 1, 2017 at 09:13 PM · Kevin, do these things:

1. Expect you will get a good sound from the e string (positive mindset is important).

2. Use at most only the lowest 1/3 of bow at most.

3. When you are bowing g and d, your bow should be closer to the bridge.

4. When you bow a and e, your bow should be closer to the fingerboard.

5. Bow fast but not too fast and sink into the string.

6. Practice this skill often.

March 7, 2017 at 11:27 PM · The left hand is not that important. It's all about the bow! My tendency is to focusing too much on the LH. In order to correct this, I have to think this way: Once the notes are learned, the left hand doesn't need my attention. Instead of notes, notes, notes.., it should be sound, sound, sound... The LH simply doesn't exist.

March 8, 2017 at 01:40 AM · " it should be sound, sound, sound... The LH simply doesn't exist. "

I agree.

My guilty pleasure today was spending an inordinate amount of time on a single note of a piece, trying to get it to sound just right (I did not quite succeed, but it was fun).

March 14, 2017 at 10:34 PM · I am coping with a bout of mysterious joint pain in both hands, but which is particularly bad in the 1st and 4th fingers of my left hand; for better or for worse, it does not appear to be violin-related. Over the last week, I have been very focused on trying to balance my hand forward, so the 4th finger is better supported, which means moving the thumb closer to the 2nd finger. (This is the way that I played as a teenager, but my earlier-childhood teaching was thumb-across-from-1st-finger and when I returned to the violin a few years ago, the earliest childhood habits tended to be what I re-acquired.) Pain as a feedback mechanism is super-effective, since it makes you instantly aware when you've failed to do as you intended.

As an unexpected bonus, I woke up in the morning and was suddenly able to play a scale in thirds in tune again, which has been a massive struggle ever since I picked up the violin again 4 years ago. In fact, I was able to actually pick up Paganini No. 1 and get pretty close to in-tune on the constant barrages of thirds (i.e., within the margin of error of "a bit of practice will fix this" as opposed to "I give up, I suck"), which I'd basically given up on weeks ago. Apparently my hand position in the lower positions really needed serious fixing.

March 14, 2017 at 11:03 PM · Speaking of pain, I also noticed that my left arm and shoulder fatigue has noticeably reduced the last a couple of weeks. My increased practice from a 15-20min/day to 3hr/day practice + weekly orchestra rehearsal since January was the major cause of this fatigue. Taking regular breaks during practice, lightening the LH fingers (thinking about “lift, lift,..” motion)together with daily stretching seem to have led to right direction of recovery and building stamina.

March 15, 2017 at 08:24 AM · Good recovery on the pain, Lydia! Forgot about this thread which I think is great if everyone just reports what they have been practicing. Yesterday I practiced an orchestral passage in half position. I'll probably end up playing it in concert in a combination between first and half position, but you can also play the entire passage in half position, and it is a good exercise to do that. I noticed that the space of a whole tone between fourth and third finger is really huge in half position, and I have been working on placing the fourth finger together with or even slightly before the third finger (it is a passage best thought of as successive chords) so as to manage this large space. It also helps easing the wrist just slightly inwards. You can often make up little technical exercises from real music! (The music is the Benoit flute concerto.)

March 15, 2017 at 12:01 PM · What have I learned in the last few days?

That in my mind I've been thinking everything above 5th position on the E string is sharper than it is. This insight first came about a month or so ago from my quartet noticing that we were out of tune in the slow movement of Haydn's Emperor Quartet, and narrowed it down to me on 1st violin pulling everyone else sharp. So to get to grips with that I've been working on three-octave scales and then Kreutzer 12 with the aid of a chromatic tuning app. Turns out I was going consistently high at the end of each phrase in the study, though not in the scales, even when I thought I was in tune. Then I got my keyboard out to check the tuning against something else. And the problem was definitely in me "thinking out of tune", i.e. having the wrong expectation of what those notes should sound like.

An interesting example of how digging deep into the causes of a problem shows a fundamental cause.... and also how you get to a point where you think you're fairly good at the violin and then start to notice EVERYTHING YOU HAVE BEEN DOING WRONG FOREVER WITHOUT NOTICING IT. ;)

March 15, 2017 at 01:44 PM · Sympathy! My brain wants to tune to A = 442 these days. I'm finding that I need a couple of minutes of careful playing of something that uses the open strings to force my brain back to A = 440 at the start of a practice session.

March 16, 2017 at 05:03 AM · I recorded myself before but usually in long sessions. Now I recording my playing in small segments (2-5 min/each), review and correct the problems. Very humbling experience but effective for self-correction. I wish I had done this earlier. Intonation problems in quick notes easily overlooked when playing show up quite clear in recordings. Also I tend to play sharp, especially on E string at 4th position and above.

March 16, 2017 at 02:57 PM · I sympathize with being too sharp high on the E-string! Yesterday I was practicing the last page of the first violins part of "West Side Story, Selection for Orchestra". On the last page is the song "America" and we play the well-known theme in A flat major, so think flats on the B, E, A and D notes in what follows. This is the high E (flat) on the E-string: EEEAAA F D A EEEAAA B G E so far so good but then it continues GbGbGbCbCbCb B Gb D CbCbCbFFF E C A. I always end up sharp there!

March 16, 2017 at 11:53 PM · I know it might sound childish, but when I struggle to play 5pos+ notes on the e string I like to put a little sticker/dot for tactile reference then remove it after I can consistently play the note in tune

March 17, 2017 at 01:34 AM · I've learned to be more careful with bridges. I broke a bridge on a violin because I messed with it. I didn't want it to break. Now I'm mad at myself.

March 17, 2017 at 06:34 PM · "What have you learned today?"

That I don't know everything after all. It was a terrible shock!

March 22, 2017 at 03:36 AM · Today I learned that wrist vibrato is initiated by the wrist, and the fingers go along for the ride, so to speak. The fingers have to be flexible so they can stay on whatever note but still let the wrist and hand move, but the fingers don't start the the vibrato or keep it going. That would be like the tail wagging the dog.

Why do I say I learned this today, when it's only what every teacher + every article + every book + every video + Simon Fischer and Nate Cole and all the rest of the stringplaying world have been telling me for like 8 years? I really hate my vibrato lately, so I've been focusing on vibrato for the past several weeks, going back to basic drills and trying some new ones. After all this time, I finally have enough coordination to actually watch what's happening while I listen, and not get distracted by other things. So after all these years I finally put two and two together and learned what I already knew.

March 22, 2017 at 01:51 PM · I would like to share a small tip on how to adsjust the pegs, in particular the E string peg, so that it doesnt get in the way when playing f and f# in 1st position on the e string. Its actually quite a difference i think, maybe specially if you have some issues with your first finger like i do.

I saw the video few month ago but first tried it out yesterday. Its really a big difference!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z75ByNldv5Q

March 23, 2017 at 07:53 AM ·

March 23, 2017 at 12:16 PM · Hey Karen, good to see you're still going strong!

March 23, 2017 at 12:37 PM · For those with finger/hand/wrist pains and joint problems maybe it would be helpfull to look into eating some supplements of ginger, turmeric and fish oil. I know its been mentioned before, but sustaining the abilities of a body getting older and more fragile must be a goal for all of us and i think food and exercise is very important.

March 23, 2017 at 01:23 PM · Psychologically I've developed a love/ hate relationship with the instrument.

I don't see practice as that wonderful thing I do every day. Right now I look at it more as a responsibility. Being responsible to myself in achieving the goal of becoming a good player.

The love part of it comes in when I can play something I like which sounds good. It feels good to sound good! I'm seldom there right now.

I look for the gold lining. My practice situation is such that I get to it as the last thing of the day when it's late after being up since 5am. Much like the diver who trains himself to hold his breath for extended periods of time, I intend to play well while I'm tired. If I can do that I should be able to ace it when I'm rested!

March 23, 2017 at 03:38 PM · Timothy Smith's post reminded me about this. I've recently learned that I can enjoy my practice time, on the most unexpected days.

After a very stressful day at work two days ago, I came home at 8 (!) , had supper and forced myself to go practice. I wasn't in the mood. But after I began, I felt so much calmer and relaxed, finally.

But of course, on other days, it's very hard to want to practice. And then it's definitely about being responsible.

March 24, 2017 at 04:50 PM · G.A. Conratulations on embarking this amazing journey! Everyone please feel free to call me Tim.

G.A. I think playing sometimes releases those nice endorphins. Helps us catch that second wind!

Glad you found the time to practice and enjoyed it!

March 24, 2017 at 06:06 PM · I'm not someone who really enjoys practicing on a consistent basis, and it makes me procrastinate. Once I really get into a practice session, I can hit the zone and that's awesome, but it doesn't happen all the time, and when I'm not feeling energized and clear-headed about what I'm trying to achieve, it feels like a drag.

So it really is one of those things where I have to force myself to get started.

March 24, 2017 at 06:28 PM · Lydia, I know the feeling. For me right now it's to start working on my income tax. I keep putting it off, but this morning I'm putting it on my computer calendar with a 1-day reminder. Hopefully, it'll help me to just get started. Sometimes I can get a lot done by chipping away a little each time and not to think too much about it.

I'm pretty obsessed with practice these days, especially after I bombed out the performance last week. I've decided to be more structured in my practice. I started a practice log on OneNote to plan and track what exactly I've worked on, what's the focus and how long. Some improvements each day may be so small that is hard to put in words right away, but others are quick, such as, Kreutzer No9 with lightness of the LH fingers taught by Nathan Cole, SF's warm-up and intonation exercises in his "The Violin Lesson" gave quick results on clarity of where the notes should be on the fingerboard and less hesitation with long distance or multiple shifting in one phrase.

Practice like a pro: smart and efficient. Also must go back to the basics and practice like a beginner: slow, check, check and check...

March 27, 2017 at 04:26 AM · Interleaved practice is pretty intense. This is my first try with violin, although I have done HIIT at gym before, same idea behind but a much more sweaty experience. Results will take some time to show.

March 27, 2017 at 08:04 AM · Yesterday I practiced a short violin solo fragment I am going to play in our orchestra (Music from "Frozen"), I had played it on rehearsal before and that went OK, except for a short run of 8 sixteenth notes where the conductor pointed out I was not taking enough time. These are two groups of four sixteenth notes, each group to be played in one bow. So, to work on this issue, I set the metronome on the (quite relaxed) tempo of that part, and played Kreutzer no.2 with the same kind of bowing, so four notes per bow. That was all it took, because subsequently I played the solo again and the run was magically under control. So, yay to etudes! I also practiced a bit of spiccato just for maintenance. This time I used no.15 of Sevcik op.2 for that, starting upbow to add to the challenge! Happy practicing to everyone.

March 27, 2017 at 11:35 AM · I learned that I can nearly eliminate the nausea that accompanies my performance nerves by taking a Alka-Seltzer chewable tablet about two hours before. An immense, surprising relief.

March 27, 2017 at 06:57 PM · I learned that beginning well is important.

If I can get started the rest isn't really so bad. I have determined to work more on beginning well.

I sometimes get off to a bumpy start especially if I haven't played in a few hours.

If I start off on playing say, a G on the D string I might be a few cents flat.Those initial adjustments can be tricky for me.

March 27, 2017 at 08:18 PM · (possibly viola-specific) I learned that there is really something to the idea of basing the handframe on 2 and 3 and reaching back for 1, as opposed to basing on 1 and reaching forward for 2, 3, and 4.

March 27, 2017 at 09:33 PM · I learned that it's nearly impossible for me to come up with a consistent interpretation of solo Bach... lol

March 28, 2017 at 08:38 AM · hi Karen, it is also important on the violin, but I guess simply crucial on the viola! not long ago there was a blog post or an interview with violist Scott Slapin and he insisted that viola technique is the same as violin technique.

March 29, 2017 at 05:21 PM · I missed practice last evening and I thought to myself, we either get better or we get worse one day at a time.

One day could turn into two days and on it goes.I won't let that happen, but I can see how easy it would be.

I could use the excuse I had another project. That wouldn't be incorrect.

Somewhere along the way I made the unconscious decision to push things too late into the evening on the other project. I took it too far and was almost too tired to get ready for bed.

Lessons learned. Multiple important tasks demand that you let one suffer.Either do one well or two mediocre.

Lesson- Make a window to practice and stand by it.

April 2, 2017 at 12:25 AM · Today I've learned that I played better, instead of focusing on every little detail, when I was simultaneously playing and watching my two cats playing with each other. I've learned the piece by memory by now. I'm constantly thinking and analyzing about everything and I keep making mistakes here and there. While watching the cats, I played in tune and in tempo without mistakes. I think this tells me that I'm over-thinking and the thinking mind has to be redirected to something pleasant beyond notes.

April 2, 2017 at 12:39 AM · Yixi, that's funny. I will try watching my dogs and see if I have the same experience :-)

April 2, 2017 at 01:28 AM · Karen, only if you are overthinking like me :D I also performed a little better when I was a bit under the weather. It somehow took the edge off me and I didn't think too much and just did my best to complete the task in hand. This may be why my teacher keeps telling me to "keep it simple".

April 2, 2017 at 06:55 PM · I learned that much more progress than we think goes unnoticed. Sometimes we don't see improvement from day 1 to day 2, but if we keep practicing regularly and mindfully we see a huge amount of progress on day 50.

April 2, 2017 at 07:42 PM · Today I've again been practicing a passage from the Benoit flute concerto, here you have to play a very fast sequence of chord-like groups of notes, let's denote it by A B C D A B C D. Playing each group in itself is not a problem. It is playing them fast in sequence that is difficult. So I used a well-known technique where you play A B fast, then B C fast, then C D fast, finally D A fast. Then go A B C, B C D, C D A, and D A B. After that you can do the following: A B C D (pause) A B C D (pause) and so on. Then put the pause somewhere else: A (pause) B C D A (pause) B C D A and so on. Next, A B (pause) C D A B (pause) and so on. Can't say yet I can now play it perfectly but practicing sure helps!

April 3, 2017 at 04:50 AM · Another recital day and another big lesson learned: any part of a piece, no matter how consistently in tune and in tempo I played in my study, if it is off during a performance, I haven't learned it. I also have learned that even when I shake like a leaf, no one can see (I video taped myself), only that everyone can hear the sound and accuracy are greatly compromised.

April 3, 2017 at 08:34 PM · I learned that my thumb doesn't always travel with my hand and begun a nice correction on that issue. Thank you sevcik op8.

April 7, 2017 at 01:51 AM · Left hand: finger pressure must be as light as possible, but this varies depending on the speed of the passage, color and vibrato you use.

Bow hand: I know all the right answers for producing a good sound, but I don't do it consistently. I must not let myself get away with it whenever and for whatever reason I break the rules.

April 7, 2017 at 01:56 PM · Two things.

I learned that putting a rubber band on the bow about 1/4 the way down helps to train me to play the bow in only that place.

I learned I play much better when my teacher isn't watching.

April 8, 2017 at 03:38 PM · There are a gazillion bowing styles out there.

April 9, 2017 at 04:16 AM · Sometimes it's beneficial to take a break from practicing.

I didn't pick up my violin for two full days, and when I practiced just now, some techniques that I was working on for a few weeks were so suddenly simple and easy to do.

Incredible what it can do, time.

April 9, 2017 at 04:28 PM · That's true for me to some degree, except I only rest for a few minutes to a few hours.

April 9, 2017 at 08:44 PM · G.A., I'm afraid it's not the time but our brain does incredible thing. When we practice intensely during the day, the brain is still processing what we've learned within certain period of time after the practice is done. I also believe that practice is limited to playing the violin in a quiet room alone. Listening or watching with full attention the great performance, particularly the piece you are working on, is also practice. I'm not suggesting the later can replace the former kind of practice though.

Case in point, a couple of weeks ago when I was preparing for another short informal performance, at one point I felt stuck and not much progress was made at the opening. I put down the violin and spent a hour or so listening to recordings of the piece. I was mostly taken by Midori's playing so when I picked up my violin again, I tried to hear her sound in my mind before drawing the first note. Instantly I sounded a lot better, not like Midori, of course, but it was a break through for me.

April 9, 2017 at 09:09 PM · Yixi,

I'm a big Midori fan. She talked a bit about having all the aspects of the sound in your head as you play in a master class of hers I attended. If you ever get a chance, check her master class out.

April 10, 2017 at 11:13 AM · Yesterday I learned that it can be important to bring your left hand up when doing double stops. I was practicing a finger independence exercises where you leave the third finger on the D-string and then play with the remaining fingers some simple patterns on the A-string.To be able to play well with the pinky I had to bring my left hand up so that the base knuckles get higher. I think a general lesson is that one should not be afraid to adapt one's hand position to the particular technicities of a certain passage. Of course that does NOT mean your hand should be moving all the time. It should mostly remain still, with the fingers coming down from the base knuckles, during any passage. So I am more talking about adapting the hand position between different passages of a different technical nature.

April 20, 2017 at 01:58 AM · My teacher told me in the end of today's lesson: "You've played better than I've ever heard. I'm so happy for you!" What did I do differently the past week to achieve such praise from a very strict teacher? Pretty much the same but with the focus on the following:

1)Spent 2/3 of my daily practice on the basics (Simon Fischer's Scales, Double Stops, Warming Up, Kreutzer, etc), and 1/3 on repertoire. Listen to myself like crazy.

2)At least 3 practice sessions daily and took a break every 20-30 min of intense practice.

3)Have a power nap (15 - 20 min) in the afternoon.

It's funny that I didn't feel I've been making that much progress and working on the basics a lot doesn't feel virtuosic. This is how progress sometimes seems -- subjective feeling isn't reliable.

April 20, 2017 at 04:43 AM · Yixi Zhang - congratulations! That must be a great feeling :-)

April 20, 2017 at 04:34 PM · Thanks Karen! Oddly enough, I feel more responsibility now that I know it's entirely up to me to get to the next level. There's no blocker other than my own laziness :-)

April 20, 2017 at 06:51 PM · I've been figuring out that I need to spend more time tuning passage-work in pieces, and tuning and building an intonation framework in pieces than I have. It's been resulting in better sound, and I think it's sensitizing my ear more. Playing on open strings has also been good for my listening. I bought a few books of the Auer Method, and book one on open strings has been good for establishing a sound, and for practicing contrasting articulations, and then adding string crossings and layers of complexity.

April 20, 2017 at 07:34 PM · Today I have learned that making your own Sevcik-style analytical studies is both fun and helpful. (Working on Viotti 22, working out the motions you need to make in each passage, practicing the motions independently, combining them step by step....)

Also I learned that my upbow martele was far crunchy than I had realised, but that I now have the awareness of my bow alignment to make it completely non-crunchy with some practice.

April 20, 2017 at 08:24 PM · Today I learned my Neighbors want me to stop practising.

April 20, 2017 at 08:39 PM · Ha ha Marc,

I have one neighbor who complains of my practice in the summertime when the windows are open. Her house is about six foot away from mine.

April 21, 2017 at 02:28 AM · My next door neighbor told me she bought the house partly because the sound of my violin playing, and that was 10 years ago :) These days, the complaints I've heard are the song birds outside the windows. They must consider me to be their fierce competitor.

April 21, 2017 at 10:58 PM · Today I learnt I maybe CAN play in tune .

After years and years of playing out of tune.

Discoveries include finding out that when relaxed in left shoulder and left hand and fingers , my playing needs little attention to get it "in tune" quite naturally.

So it seems tension is one thing pulling my intonation off . Also i tend to go sharp on the e string. I don't have my first finger far enough back on the e .

I have been trying to reduce tension in my LH and thumb by playing as lightly as possible . Only thing is I spent 6 months discovering if I have more pressure on 3rd, and 4th finger , my very short 4th finger goes less out of tune relative to 1st and 2nd. Light pressure is good for fast passages but not good if I want to express a more Russian passion.

I watched Kremer do solo Bach. One can see his LH is very light mostly . But I don't like this lack of Russian passion. Where are we without Russian passion?

I play Bach completely differently to Kremer - more aspiring Russian passion. One day I will manage in tune .

I discovered I must have a "set" of LH for each small passage .

Why is my LH affording me more in tune notes playing Beethoven than Bach? Probably because there are LONG staying points in the Beethoven usually : Bach can be constantly shifting finger-twisters.

Now when I feel the violin is NOT falling to the ground, my left shoulder is NOT tense and my LH is all loose even if a bit Russian - I can even start to play the impossible Bach in tune!!!!! I also must have the "set" to my hand, where often the 1st finger anchors the fingers and sometimes it must be another finger - even 3rd or 4th anchors the fingers. Then also I must anchor the tonality on these staying point notes - and orientate other notes around that - tonality shifts anyway if you are not just in equal temperament - this gets very sexy when you get the tonality really to sing expressively without being just "out of tune" . - So I have that to look forward to .

These 2 things : anchor the hand on finger,

and find staying points to sing out a good tonality

are MORE important to me playing in tune than just going for very light fingers .

April 24, 2017 at 07:50 PM · Well I have to say - feels like along time after my last post - but only 3 days later , things are working out.

It is good to be able to write here . It has helped me to crystallise out some vague thoughts into something solid. I am really making progress by going by pointers I put down in my last post. Worried that it might be a bit pretentious twaddle I was posting, but no , my playing is really taking off now after that rumination.

I really am very close to playing wonderfully in tune (and this is very new). I have identified accurately where the pull to bad intonation was coming from.

I am also noticing even on the a string my hand tends to be oriented slightly sharp , with the first finger on the b on the sharp side - this varies according to tonality.

One thing I am finding is that playing "in tune"- far from being restrictive - is exactly the opposite !! I have a strong feeling of things opening up. The violin seems to sing more, as an earlier commentator said, and I have the feeling that the things I vaguely was saying - with a particular phrase or group of notes I am now saying with incomparably greater force.

Also there is a going out tune which is sort of acceptable - going a bit sharp briefly on the e string in a romantic passage say then anchoring everything on a perfectly nail-on-the-head in tune long , maybe cadential note say. Also the notes between more important notes - a kind of passing note (but not really) :_ all these CAN be "out of tune" a bit and it is not going to matter .

Also there are staying points where I sing out the tonality - which set the tonality for a short passage - these orient the passage and are important. To some extent they can alter - we are not in equal temperament - and this itself has wonderful and very instinctive in the moment- expressive possibilities .

So as I said - definitely - an opening out!!!

I even dare to think , perhaps, possibly- it will be by finding _in the moment-, some inspired choice of tonality (non equal temperament)

could be the very thing to suddenly inject a holy hush into the music making - whose provenance might be rather hard to pin down if you are not in the know.

April 24, 2017 at 08:03 PM · thanks for sharing Sylvan, very interesting! learning to play in tune also helps very much in improving your sound, as the in-tune note encourages you to improve your bowing as well. for me this was a big step when I discovered how the violin resonates on the in-tune notes. for some reason my teacher in the old days never pointed that out to me, perhaps I felt it instinctively back then, since as a youth you play much more instinctively than as an adult.

April 27, 2017 at 12:38 PM · Today (rather, yesterday) I learned that scales, etudes, and solo-repertoire practice are not sufficient to perform well in orchestra. You have to actually practice the orchestra pieces :-)

April 27, 2017 at 12:40 PM · Yesterday I learned that my daughter's cello is ready for pickup at the luthier in Roanoke, Toole Studios. I'm bringing my two best violins along for Patrick to do seasonal adjustments.

LOL @ Karen. I resemble that remark!

April 27, 2017 at 06:26 PM · I always intuitively knew this to be the case, but it's more crystalized in practice for me lately that I should learn/practice more than I need to play so as to it becomes much easier when comes to do what I need. Don't ever want to be a soloist? Learn solo pieces anyway so the orchestra or chamber works are easier to handle. I'm not crazy about playing in any community orchestra, but I'm working on Gingold's Orchestral Excerpts in addition to the basics and solo works. I love how these little gems help me to put together technical stuff in music context without having to considering the overall structure, required by larger pieces such as a concerto or sonata.

April 29, 2017 at 09:42 AM · Today I learned that when you change strings from the A-D or D-A you actually do not need to move your upper arm. Just moving your wrist is enough to cover it. Kind of obvious but I notice a lot beginner books make you move your upper arm every-time you change strings like an elevator. I've probably been doing it most of the time but today I actually brought it into awareness.

May 7, 2017 at 10:17 PM · Last week my teacher suggested that my quartet try an exercise to solidify our group sense of pulse, and it worked so well that I'm posting it here because I suspect other people will find it useful.

As an exercise, as a group (for a piece in 4/4), play beat 1 strongly and beat 3 weakly -- and don't play beats 2 and 4 at all (just finger them silently). It'll let you really discover the degree to which you are all keeping the same sense of pulse, as well as what is happening on the downbeats and third beats. It rapidly lets you identify where people aren't keeping a steady beat or where there's an inadequate feeling of the pulse in the way the music is being played.

When we then played the movement normally, everything solidified a lot, in terms of the steadiness and clarity of the pulse.

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