Practice Routines.

October 10, 2006 at 03:34 AM · Hello all,

I think it would be interesting to know everyone's general practice routines. Also what are the main changes you make when you prepare for concerts, juries, competitions, etc?

::MOST IMPORTANTLY::, let's hear from the really successful soloists/orchestral musicians that post here :)

Replies (21)

October 10, 2006 at 03:46 AM · I find that the less I practice, the better I am prepared, and more fresh the performances. :) :)

October 10, 2006 at 10:56 PM · Greetings,

I also find the less practice I do the better Andrew plays.

This is one of my favorite questions which I suppose is why noone else likes it...

I try to work arond certain generla guidelines within which the sky is the limit.

For me these are:

1) Bowing shloud be practice everyday- not as recommeded by Flesch (with scales) but using exercise sand etudes. For me , it is better to practic ebowing first.

2) Scales should be practice everyday if possible but they are not necessarily the ultimate exercise in the form they are usually presented IE Take a 3 octave, add a few rythms and bowings, get it faste rand faster with the metronome etc. If time is short the most importnat scale is in thirds (up the same two strings)

3) As important as sclaes are exercises up one string involving progressively larger leaps with various finger combinations. ((Rather like the Dounis double stop exercises for exampel)If I absolutely couldn`t do sclaes I would do these kind of exercises instead.

4) Vibrato exercise should be practice evryday for a few minutes. As many people on this board get older they will discover why;)

5)Son file should be practice everyday for a minimum of ten minutes. This is a real boon to orchestral players. confronted with a sudden long note and a conducter rienutoeing to the nth degree you may be the only player around who is still producing a decent sound and has half a bow left to spare. Also give one huge reserves of power.

I basically use material from three books books. Agopian- No Time to Practice (a very brutal work out)

Turkanowski- Staying in shape (or soemthing like that-haven`t looked ta the cover for three years)

This one is less manic than the former and has very well condensed versions of Dounis et al Hypoer efficient and one can detect the scientific mind of his teahcer Bronstein behind the material.

Kreutzer- I alternate Kreutzer 13 with Dont 17 doing exercises at the heel for fifteen minutes a day.

So a typical routine might be:

15 minutes sonfile.

5 minutes colle switchign rapidly from heel to point and back- this wakes up the muscles put to slepe by sonfile.

Vibrato exercises to mm. Really warms the lh up

Turkanowsky big shift exercises, double stops and scales.

Finish with a movbement of unacompanied Bach. I always fisnih any technical pracitce sesison with either Bach or sometime the Glazunov Meditation to remind myself why I actually do all this work.



October 11, 2006 at 02:52 AM · I'm not a "soloist" in the classical sense, but I do constantly play the virtuoso violin repertoire in gigs.

Basically, I have two programs going. I have my maintenance work in which I'm running stuff that isn't on a deadline. Then I have my immediate needs, which depends directly on the gig immediately in front of me. The former is static, the latter varies.

Just this week, I gave a short recital from memory as part of a church gig with a local pianist. I did Massenet "Meditation from Thais", Elgar "Salut D'Amore", Schubert "The Bee", Sarasate Habanera, Wieniawski Scherzo Tarantelle, Hubay Hejre Kati, Glazunov Meditation, and Ponchielli Dance of the Hours last movement. We had one 2 hour rehearsal and a week later we were doing this stuff in performance.

I have an audition next week in which the guy asked for movements from the Sibelius, Brahms, Tchaikovsky Concertos, Paganini Caprice #24, Sarasate Zigeunerweisen, and the Ravel Tzigane (certain spots in this work are hard for me to remember - haven't seen the sheet music since 1992). I don't have sheet music to the Tchaikovsky either, nor to Zigeunerweisen. However, I won't need any sheet music because this stuff is ingrained into me from years of study.

Everything I listed here is standard repertoire done by soloists every day. There is nothing unusual or extraordinary about the things I've been asked to do. The only difference is that I'm not playing "classical" concerts all the time like many of our members do and so it's more challenging for me to do recitals like these than it is on them.

My point here is that soloists have tons of repertoire already committed to memory. That's what they spent all those hard years working for. Thus it doesn't take long for them to prepare it for performance, particularly if they're playing this stuff in concert day in and out.

October 11, 2006 at 04:00 AM · My practice routine is generally determined by what I'm playing soon, but I admit that this is because I have a job and family... When I was in school things were different.

As you know, your teacher will know what's best for you at a particular time. But in general, this is what I return to each time I have a major concert or audition:

Single-note scales and arpeggios in separate bows, thirds, then the "odd three": vibrato with metronome, left-hand pizz, and up-down bow staccato. Then whatever repertoire is coming up. BTW the "odd three" come up because they help many techniques without directly appearing in every piece. Horizontal/vertical finger motion for LH, horizontal/vertical RH.

I like to make up my etudes based on the pieces I'm working on. There is always something that gives me trouble, and the more I embrace it the less scary it is.

October 12, 2006 at 01:14 AM · I have a systematic routine for staying in shape, which takes a little over an hour. It includes many excersises, one and two finger scales up the fingerboard, shifting, 3 octave scales in many permutations, scales in double stops, many bowing excersises in conjunction with scales and more. I've taken things from some books and teachers, and have also made up wholly original excersises. But the sequence is very important. It's like a balanced workout. I call it "Quintessential Violin Technique", and may publish it one day. Of course, one person's "quintessential" is another person's "not so much". But I find that this serves me very well for any further practice on repertoire, or gigs, etc.

Not everyone feels this need. Some just dive into repertory. I forgot the name of the Indie winner, but I believe he said he does the latter in the interview here. I can't argue with success - with someone who's been playing the Bartok solo sonata since he was 13! Different strokes. But as far as having a technical warmup routine, my models include Heifetz, Elman, Rosand and Silverstein. Stern, in his aotobiography, "My First 79 Years" said he regretted not doing that.

October 12, 2006 at 12:19 PM · Hi,

In my situation, it is sort of special. It is hard to have a routine. I have a full-time teaching position in a Conservatory. Plus, I am performing all the time.

For me, the routine changes depending on the amount of time. These days though, I rely a lot on the Urstudien by Flesch, with the addition of a couple of exercises for my own needs, mainly one for intonation. This keeps my playing mechanism and ear in shape. When I don't have time to do it, I feel it. The rest, I spend on slow practice of repertoire, similar to what Hilary Hahn as I have discovered suggests on her website.

I think that practice is personal. I have friends that are soloists. All of them devote time to technique and to slow practice of repertoire. That seems pretty universal.

Good practice should be consistent. Like Mr. Zukerman once said, "it is important to practice well. You shouldn't change your practice for competitions or anything else. You should practice well just like any other day." With concerts - orchestral, recital or chamber music - almost every week, you just practice so can get what you have to do done and keep on improving.


October 12, 2006 at 05:09 PM · I'd like to add my two cents after these great responses. There are so many different techniques that focus on the left hand that are very practical. One ideal that the Brodsky school is huge on is the idea of practicing colle strokes. Son file is great as Buri mentioned but this type practice focuses on the "electric" part of bow technique. CJ Chang, one Mr. Brodsky's assistants had me practicing colle and multiple variations on Kreutzer No.8 for at a least an hour a day. I'd keep still keep this (though not as much, maybe 10 minutes a day) in my routine and it keeps my spiccato and the muscles in shape.

Early Kreutzer etudes are great especially the famous Gingold etude No.1 where he had students play the etude at 40 a quarter note. Works wonders with your bow arm and is a great tranquilizer before a performance.

October 12, 2006 at 08:34 PM · Greetings,

Kevin, I slipped the colle in there. If I had to choose between son file and colle I would choose the latter. Son file in iteslef can have a really numbinf effect.But i use the same Kretzer exercise as you and have found shooting the bow from one end to the other and controlling a beautifulcolle is perfetc for keeping the arm in shape,



October 12, 2006 at 09:08 PM · I know what colle is, but what is sonfile?

October 12, 2006 at 10:52 PM · Practice Routine:

1) look at large pile of music in the "currently working on and performing" stack

2) decide to read one more email, and while I'm at it, why not look at

3) get entirely distracted by some thread that leads to three other google searches, some listening (hey, at least I'm doing research...) on itunes, a video on youtube

4) realize that an hour has gone by and I only had an hour and a half to practice

5) try to get 90 minutes of work done in 30, and vow not to do this routine again

Gotta go practice!!!

October 12, 2006 at 11:08 PM · my bad Buri..didn't see it.... :)

October 12, 2006 at 11:16 PM · Greeitngs,

Karin, I have written a major essay on this in the archives.

It translates as `spun sound` and Flesch described it as any note held longer than 12 (?) seconds. Pracitcing son file means playign right on the bridge and moving the bow really slowly with no breaks or changes in sound trying to get as much sound a sposisble- it won`t be that much. Initially I guess you could do between twenty and thrity seconds. Little by little increase the number of seconds while keeping the sound as pure as you can. Use a mm.

You can also practice the exercise with the bow 1cm above the string. Isuggest you do this at a later stage.You will notice during the stroke taht if you move the finger sor wrist in any way you get a glitch. So the bow change at the heel is fdone with a completely relaxed `floating` shoulder and nothign more.

You can also work on this stroke doing various combinations of cresc and diminuendo.

Flesch warned that practicing this could lead to lazy muscles. I think he menat an over emphasis o0n slow twitch muscles. So it is improtnat to pracitc esome kind of rapid bow stroke after such as half and whole bow martele or colle at the heel and then immediatelt at the point. Its a greta work out.

Not all teachers are agreed about the bvalue of this stroke. Auer questiooneed it to a degree. Yaroslav Vanacek once said that the msot useful tone production exercise was between 10 and 15 secodns near the bridge.

Personally I have found this practic emiraculuous and follow the advice of Applebaum (actually an Auer student) who said that diligent studnets should practice this stroke for at least half an hour eveyrday.

Bit like meditation really.



Kevin, well, it is avery small stroke!

October 13, 2006 at 02:03 AM · for me it's a miracle if I practice.

Usually I'll warm up for a few minutes and just learn repertoire... right now I'm finishing up the Strauss sonata which definately benefited my 2nd and 4th position, and getting used to more unviolinistic writing. I'm also half way through the Ravel sonata which is a challenge for the bow, to have some whimsy in the right hand while not sounding "on the surface", and the rythym can be challenging. The last movement has to be pretty fast so that's not easy. Ravel loves the G string...

I usually try to do Paganini first, and Bach last. Some people do Paganini and Bach first after whatever warmup or scale routine they do, but I like to mix it up. To be honest since before my jury (in April) I've probably never practiced more than an hour a day (and that's being generous) so I'm not the best person to give practicing advice.

October 13, 2006 at 05:53 AM · Thank you for the repeat explanation, Buri. I did a Google search but didn't restrict it to and will do so next time. The exercises remind me of abdominal crunches...unpleasant, but they work.

October 13, 2006 at 06:24 AM · Greetings,

almond crunchies are better.



October 13, 2006 at 10:04 PM · Good one, Cecily!

October 14, 2006 at 01:40 PM · I think that before going trough a "big" repertoire or anything, first you must have all the technicals aspects you will need... so that is why i do everyday 20-30 min open strings, taking care of the changing bows in all strings due that for each string you need a different amount of weight to produce an exellent and more than that and regular sound... what is the most difficult for me... i combine very slow bows with fast bows. While practicing opens strings I try to hav left hand in normal position and to move it over the fingerboard, like this you are practicing open strings on real situation... beacuse most of time we practice open strings and just care about direction of bow and sound and when is good we start to play, but then it changes because in the playing the possition of body changes.

Then i do almost 45 min for left hand... power, flexibilitie and articulation... i do schradek(dont know if it is good written) slow, medium and fast tempos, in all strings, etude 6 of dont and typing exercices... Vibrato ofcourse..when i have time I do exercices for independeces of finger... but that you can do when you are in bus or in the train or in a boring reheasal of orchestra.

Then i go trough scales... each day a #5 of flesch but not the crhomatic... doble stops of sevcik... and then if i have enough patient i go into the pieces... but ussualy i practice to times a day splited in 2 hours... so the first 2 hours technique and the other 2 hour, 30 min of warming up and the rest playing.

But i think that each violinist has its own problems to fix and differents needs... for example i am trying to recover a good level of technique and intonation after 4 years working in an orchestra, and in orchetras you learn so bad tricks and if you are not careful it eats your technique...


October 14, 2006 at 05:10 PM · My teacher never emphasized etudes, scales, or anything besides my repetoire. But I feel that he used the repetoire to convey technical lessons and advice, work that most people get from their other books.

Still, I have found that on my own, I need to have a more disciplined approach, or I am not able to accomplish the feats of the piece.

I am not the most disciplined in all the varying bow strokes and etudes, but I work on whatever is bugging my technical conscience through a few main etude books.

First I do a few scales with the arpeggio sets. Depending on whatever technical crisis is going on that week, I will do different speeds or articulations. But I don't spend a whole lot of time here, because I get tired and frustrated.

Then I move on to:

(viola) Wolfhart. Usually three exercises

(violin) Mazas, Schradieck, or Dont. Usually two.


(viola and violin) one Kreutzer. I usually spend about 15-20 minutes on one, working on a specific goal.


Orchestra music. Usually 30-45 minutes.

Then. Break. Stretch. Hydrate myself. Smoke.


Repetoire. I try not to do the same rep two days in a row asn I'm usually working on a lot of things at a time. So I alternate days.


at the end, do a run-through of one piece for enjoyment.



and...switch instruments.

As a general rule, I don't practice in as concentrated time amounts on the viola as violin. I take more breaks and spend less time on individual exercises or pieces. For safety and energy and conservation/prevention. I don't think it is a weakness of will or technique, but a restriction of body. For this reason, I do not play viola in an orchestra. It would be damaging. My brain and soul was meant for viola, but I have the strength for violin. *sigh. And it is largely due to my instrument needing a lot of work. Or replacement altogether.

I played a friend's viola last night and....lusted after it for hours. It is almost 17 inches, (mine is just over 15), but amazingly easier to play. Proportioned so well in the neck and fingerboard.

Oh well. Off on tangeants yet again.



October 25, 2006 at 01:52 PM · Hello everyone,

Mostly I start with open strings in long notes. I take care my bow is very regular and the speed of the bow has to be the same as this of the weight of my arm, I also take care of changing direction of the bow. I think it's very important to move you're whole body when you do this as you where playing the concerto of Sibelius. After this I trie to build up my spiccato, ricochet flying spiccato, staccato and most important my martelé.

Because I'm convinced that when you learn one technique very good al the others get born out of it. For me this technique is the martelé.

After I've done my open strings (mostly I practise some sessions of 1h30 of wich I do 15m open strings) I begin to do scales. I never practise scales fast because I must be able to conctrole every movement I make. Although, I try to practise on a good articulation, intonation and BOW as I'm playing in a fast tempo.

mostly I doe only number 5 of C.Flesch and every day some 4 scales. this takes togehter with bow exercises from Sevcik (op2) and Double stop exercises Sevcik op 9, and caprices, chamber music and orchestral parts some 2houres.

When I finished this I can start to do some repertoire. Mostly I work on one piece and some lines of Bach or antoher solowork.

But I think you must do what you feel you have to do.

I think the most important is to listen to the language of you're body and to have enough variation in you're study.

I'll hope everyone will enjoy it

If you feel it is comfortable it is good (MOSTLY) :)

grtz and much courage


October 25, 2006 at 02:44 PM · I start my practice with Sevcik Shifting exercises at a very slow metronome speed and gradually increase so that I will play 2 full exercises each three times at 40, 60, and 80 bpm I then work on Sevcik Double stops the same way for 2 exercises. I also play the MotoPerpetuo as an articulation exercise 8 to the bow at 80, 100, 110 bpm. Then I work on the Literature I'm playing, also with the metronome at sslow speed and then at tempo. Passage work is taken separately with the metronome. It really is a pain but it works.

October 28, 2006 at 03:41 AM · hey buri, how do I find your writings on son file on


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