Practice techniques

March 29, 2018, 11:10 PM · Hi, I'm wondering if anyone had any ideas on how to practice better and more efficiently?

Replies (19)

March 30, 2018, 2:51 AM · Hi Peter and welcome!

My basic approach to your question is practicing for a half hour then break for a while. As far as scales I usually pick one a day to concentrate on and the same with etudes. Tune of choice I break down to work on one page a day, so in essence everything I do is in small doses. I think in my case short practice bouts keeps the injuries at bay and helps me concentrate more on trouble spots.

Would like to read about your practice ideas Peter.

Wishing a Good Friday to everyone here.

March 30, 2018, 5:48 AM · Hi,

Slow practice is a must. The following link to a post by Hilary Hahn has some terrific advice on slow practice:


March 30, 2018, 9:35 AM · Have specific long- medium- and short-term goals. Instead of "I'm going to improve," think "I'm going to improve the intonation of mm 75-90" or "I'm going to improve my phrasing and expression in the exposition of X". Have a plan before you start your practice session, very detailed and specific. X scale, focusing on element Y. X etude, focusing on one aspect of playing. That sort of thing. Work on details and foundations. I used to just think "scales/etudes/repertoire" but that wasn't focused enough. Now I really try to hone in on the particular skills I want to improve, at as detailed a level as I can. It's been really good for me.
March 30, 2018, 9:50 AM · Check out Nathan Cole’s videos on youtube. They are excellent. Also Kurt Sassmannshaus’ videos on technique. ( or on youtube.)
March 30, 2018, 10:43 AM · Search this site and the internet for "practice strategies", "how to practice effectively/efficiently", etc. You'll find a plethora of information. Some great advice above.
Here's some more things to think about:
know where you can improve
know what you're aiming for
know what you can do solve problems and improveimprove
Edited: March 31, 2018, 6:13 AM · Peter, I highly recommend the book "Practice" by Simon Fischer. You will find it very useful. It compiles basically all known practice techniques. It is illustrated by hundreds of concrete examples from the violin performance literature.
March 30, 2018, 11:41 AM · For private practice at home I think something can be learnt from a symphony orchestra rehearsal technique adopted by some conductors.

For example, the main item in one of my concerts soon is Rimsky-Korsakov's rarely performed* 2nd Symphony (the "Antar"). We did an initial sight-read of the whole piece at near performance speed, warts and all, just to get an idea of its general structure and geography, bearing in mind that this particular symphony is not in traditional sonata form but is more like a 4-movement symphonic poem. This first play-through also gave the players and the conductor an opportunity to identify problems.

In the next stage we worked through the first movement in reverse, section by section, starting at rehearsal number 21 and working in detail from there to the end to get things right. Then back to 20 to repeat the process, with a little overlap into section 21 to get the transition right. The whole process was repeated right back to the beginning of the first movement, giving us just enough time at the end of the rehearsal to play through that movement at performance speed - and it was good.

In the following rehearsals the other three movements received the same treatment and we finished with a play-through of the entire symphony at performance speed. The conductor and the professional CM expressed their satisfaction at the result.

The symphony will simmer quietly on the back burner while we look at the rest of the programme, and then there will be a final tweaking at the final rehearsal just before the concert.

I think the rationale for this rehearsal method is that it forces you to pay as much attention to the end and the middle as you would to the beginning, but avoiding spending a disproportionate time on any one section at the expense of the others.

*My justification for this assertion is that I can find no evidence that it has been performed in my region of England within living memory, and that the only London Proms performance seems to have been at a Henry Wood Prom in 1900! - but I could be wrong.

Has anyone here played the Antar?

March 30, 2018, 1:01 PM · If your schedule allows, break up your practice into multiple sessions.

For example, if you have two hours a day to practice, try to do 45 minutes in the morning, another session in the middle of the day, and another session late in the day. If you're like a lot of people, you will progress much faster than if you just sat down in the evening for a linear 2 hours.

Beyond that, don't be ashamed to pick up your fiddle any time you have a free 10 or 15 minutes - say, waiting for dinner to cook. Focus on one little problem or one little passage, try to problem-solve on it. Sometimes those little sessions can be really valuable.

Brains are amazing and mysterious things. Many times I've been stuck on a fingering problem or just unable to do a difficult bowing. If I work on it for an hour at night, then get a good night's sleep and try again in the morning, sometimes the solution is at hand -- but almost always there is progress.

When you're practicing, you are working muscles in your hands and arms. But probably more importantly, you are exercising your brain and producing new pathways and new ways of thinking. Muscle memory is really a function of the brain. And the brain needs time to absorb information and build new capacity.

March 31, 2018, 6:39 PM · It's a great question and there are many great answers in this thread and other threads. The big four components I like to have in my approach:

1) Always have some big goals you are working on independent of what you are working on (like great sound, using the whole bow, better intonation etc....something that is not repertoire specific but addresses where you are on the journey). Write it down, and keep it in mind

2) Record yourself some (even if it's a little bit) EVERY time you practice

3) Balance breaking things down, big picture practicing (run throughs), and new skill building. I practice the slowest and deepest in terms of deconstructing on the newest pieces. Don't bore yourself, and alway practice with your concert sound.

4) Seek out new input/ways to practice once a week. This can be articles, blog posts, youtube tutorials, books, asking teachers - there is a wealth of information out there. Youtube tutorials by professor V and Nathan Cole are great. Also, books by Simon Fisher are pure gold. Cornelia Watkins book Rosindust is wonderful. There is a wealth of outside knowledge ad inspiration out there....

A plug for my practice tutorial videos, if I may:

April 1, 2018, 7:40 AM ·
I would say that your best practice friend is Control, because once control is lost you will then increase the number of mistakes you make.
How to stay in control? Don't over-practice something. Limit the number of repeats and take more breaks. 20 minutes does wonders to replenish brains chemicals; whereas, OCD deforms memories.

April 1, 2018, 8:04 AM · Susanna Klein, just watched a few of your great new videos on YouTube, short and to the point.
April 1, 2018, 10:16 AM · Jeff - thank you! I'll record some more closer to summer time. :)
April 1, 2018, 8:33 PM · I like to set a definite time to start -- and then stick to it -- also have a time to wrap up a session so that I still have an appetite for the next one. As a previous poster has said, it's good to have specific goals and a plan.

FWIW, I start with a warm-up routine of about 20 minutes: basic left-hand finger exercises in 3rd position, then 1st, about 5 minutes -- e.g., Sevcik, Schradieck, Dancla -- to open up the hand. Next, vibrato exercises -- equal time on each finger on each string -- to relax the hand. Then basic finger exercises in higher positions -- 5th and up. Shifts and double-stops round out the day's initial break-in period.

After these hard-core drills, then scale work, etude reviews, repertoire. I can manage up to 3 hours of practice/play time in a day. Ideally, I prefer two 90-minute sessions, afternoon and evening, each with a couple of mini-breaks -- plus a few hours of space between the 90-minute sessions. When I can't follow this plan, I'll have three segments of 50 minutes each +/- in the evening, with 10-minute breaks between segments. I play each day on three fiddles, about equal time on each one.

Side note: In subsequent playing sessions the same day, I can do with far shorter warm-ups than on the first session -- as long as the room has enough heat and humidity for instant hand grip and reliable traction.

April 2, 2018, 3:59 AM · Lad the question is what you really want. If you want to be great player then these advices i read and not all of them i did i am sorry, you should not listen. For average professional you need to practice minimum three hours per day, but if you can stuff one and a half long concert repertoire into that short time then youre very productive genious. The longer you re able to practice with brain on then the better you will be and it will improve your stamina on recitals. My advice for beginning is start two hours from 8 until 10am and then in the afternoon from 4-6pm. With time you will feel that you can do more then you add one more hour until you get to four. The point is that in one day you make two days of practicing. But this wont make any sense if you re not using your head. So thats the most important.
April 3, 2018, 12:55 PM · I find that keeping my instrument handy helps a lot. If it's sitting on my desk when I'm waiting for a computer run to finish, I'm likely to pick it up and work on a few passages.

It's good to have recordings to play along with. An easy way is to find the piece on YouTube and paste the URL into one of the many YouTube-to-MP3 converters that are available on the web. (A quick search will find them - pick one you like and go nuts.) Once you have the recording as an MP3 you can put it into an MP3 player and listen to it in the car. You can also run it through a slow-down program to give yourself time to work on tricky passages - several members of our orchestra take up my offer to burn CDs with recordings slowed down to 70% speed. The slow-down software reduces the sound quality considerably, but it's still good enough for practising.

Our orchestra did Antar a few years ago. I'd love to try it again now that we've gotten better...

April 11, 2018, 6:01 AM · "Christian Vachon
March 30, 2018, 5:48 AM · Hi,
Slow practice is a must. The following link to a post by Hilary Hahn has some terrific advice on slow practice:


That's very good advice. I would only add to that - "slow, with metronome, and play VERY quietly, not letting the bow dig in at all."

April 12, 2018, 10:41 PM · I would add that I'm looking seriously into new fingerings and bowing. This means time away from the violin to re-edit the music. I'm trying (a la Ricci) to avoid big jumps and use semitone and tone fingerings, using where possible the same finger. In descending passages this particularly benefits a safer way down, and avoids falling down the stairs!
April 13, 2018, 3:46 AM · hi Peter nice to see you back, ready to reply to everything like we know you. just try to keep off Lyndon's back please, just don't reply in such case. actually Lyndon has not been posting a lot actually.
April 13, 2018, 4:20 AM · You are not supposed to mention that subject! I keep away from all that sort of thing. Leave it to the football hooligans!

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