What can I practice without my instrument?

Edited: May 6, 2018, 12:47 PM · Sometimes I'm in a waiting room or in a place where I can't play and I want to practice anything that can be done without my violin.

I usually practice my tempo, counting and reading the notes. What else can I do?

BTW, I'm currently learning vibrato.

Oh, and I'm kinda new here. Is there a way the get notifications when I get new replies?

Replies (24)

May 6, 2018, 1:01 PM · I think visualizing yourself playing pieces in a manner that pleases you can be a pretty helpful thing. Think musically as much as technically (and tonally for sure). Imagine yourself on a stage in front of a captive audience.

I read somewhere that Kreisler often "practiced" without his violin. If the legends are to be believed he could take the sheet music of an unfamiliar piece with him on a trip and be able to play the piece very well at the end of the journey, without a note of physical practice.

Edited: May 6, 2018, 1:26 PM · For vibrato, practice your finger flexibility using a straw or pencil. Here we go, start with about 6:20


Playing hard passages of your current practice pieces only in your mind (including all the finger movements, fingerings, bow strokes etc etc) also works if you are really focused. I use this in bus or train, in boring and useless meetings, or at night when I cannot fall asleep. I even try some fingering variations by that. Give it a try!

May 6, 2018, 1:30 PM · Also, don’t forget to listen to violin and watch symphonies and concertos on YouTube. In fact, part of my daily practice is to listen to or watch video of violin music and masters of violin. I pick up things all the time watching a violinist performing. You also want to become familiar with classic pieces. How they sound, the phrasing and composition. And watch how the violinists handle the dynamics and expression of these pieces.
May 6, 2018, 1:33 PM · Great suggestions above. There are similar threads on this site. Search them up. Theory and ear training are also good choices. Unfortunately, you cannot get notified of new replies to topics. I wish that were possible too.
May 6, 2018, 4:19 PM · The "Last Update" column in the list of Discussions is an indication of the latest replies to topics.
May 6, 2018, 5:26 PM · I play my violin hand on my right forearm. I got a lot of practice in during boring classes that way.
May 7, 2018, 1:09 AM · You can practice completely in your head. Very helpful. It requires intense concentration but the benefits are worth it. Your brain actually does the same when you are practicing in your head as when you practice normally. Just imagine you are playing and 'feel' your fingers on the string in your head, 'feel' your bowings. I do that without listening to the piece, I hear the sounds in my head. Since the concentration is so intense I take breaks often.
May 10, 2018, 6:41 PM · I've seen a video talking about mental practice. By what you all say, it seems right! I also watch a lot of violinists performing and violin hints/tutorials, since it's useful as you guys have stated.
Now I'm going to make sure to practice mentally, since I've not been doing so.
It seems like many people want to do something useful during boring classes!

Thank you all very much!

May 10, 2018, 7:16 PM · While practice is the most important thing for a musician, there are other things usually neglected that I think fit precisely the circunstances you mention: Theory.

That will depend on your background but I didn't have any serious musical theory study in my life and learning (just a little, and late), about harmonies, traditional scales, beat and tempo of different musics, etc, helped me to improve when I hold the violin again.
Just reading some Simon Fisher's books, like the Violin Lesson, even if you don't do the exercise at that time, is a considerable learning of whats, and hows and whens, which improve the player.

May 10, 2018, 8:00 PM · You can do tons of stuff. You may do an image training. I know that a violist learn a piece while he is travelling from point A to point B. He just looked at the score and did an image training. This story tells how effective an image training can be.

Also listing to music that you are learning is very helpful. Know the piece will help you to learn the piece quickly but also will motivate you.

Good luck with your practice!

May 11, 2018, 12:44 PM · This may be useful:
It is best on a desktop or laptop computer.
May 11, 2018, 7:05 PM · If the waiting room is at a psychiatrist office, you can mentally practice viola.

The psychiatrist may need to give you a prescription afterwards though...

Edited: May 12, 2018, 1:23 AM · A big part of this danger depends on the viola you're mentally practicing on. You should imagine a good one, the best one you can mentally afford, I'd say.
May 12, 2018, 8:45 AM · “Imagining a good viola....” yup, a psychiatrist waiting room for sure!
May 12, 2018, 10:45 AM · Yeah, I know, sounds as foolish as a non whistling e string... But in your mind you're free to imagine anything! No matter how surreal it seems...
May 14, 2018, 8:32 AM · Playing air violin can be fun.I would much rather be holding one though.

Playing AV in a public place might attract some attention though:).

May 14, 2018, 8:50 AM · I like to imagine a violin or I roll up a magazine and pretend it is
May 15, 2018, 5:07 PM · I suspect there are a lot of exercises that could be done, and the benefits of these might be just outstanding. Certainly, right hand, wrist and fingers could be endlessly worked on, for a few minbutes each day.
Edited: May 23, 2018, 9:42 AM · Since child-hood, I would practise all my violin pieces & concerto passages from them (or any violin literature I had learned with the fiddle in hand or at the piano to absorb harmony & melodic themes of such as a sponge) ~ However, no one ever taught or told me about what I was doing naturally until one evening at our family dinner table when my father - an acclaimed teacher of young people in the U.S. (& later Europe, Scandinavia, Mexico & Japan) - watched my right hand 'playing' left handed fingerings/ movements (slides included!) on the table near my fork! Dad asked,'what in the world are you doing, Lizzie!?' Looking at him with surprise I said, 'practicing some piece by Johann Sebastian Bach.' I could see a puzzled look on his face as he further inquired, 'are you sure you're practising!?' I replied simply, 'Yes, I do this all the time, Dad!' My brilliant teacher/father began asking me, 'How do you do left hand fingerings with your right hand fingers tapping or brushing the top of the table?!' I was so used to this & when practising with my right hand, had/have always heard the entire section in my head-mind, simultaneously, & keep in a tempo I can navigate as if actually playing my violin that it's No Big Deal to me, but to Dad & many others who found out or have watched me doing this, it seems to be a mysterious almost-paranormal process? Go figure!? All I know is practising my left hand fingerings & even slides w/ my rt hand same-fingers helps secure a very strong mental image & 'road map' of the section of a piece or concerto away from my fiddle!! Not telling how many decades I've almost subconsciously done this, it all started when around aged 8!! Once aware I wanted to be a Violinist (and a Special one!), I've been very observant when 'Quiet Practising' which has brought great benefits without disturbing other's unless having coffee or dinner, lunch/Tea w/ family &/or music friend's!! Never ever having spoken about this until now, the Subject of practising without the violin caught one's eye & ensuing curiosity, reading all 18 prior Replies before penning this, which seems like brushing my teeth, it's so natural and built in!!

Done for now, I'll just mention that when visiting wonderful Josef Gingold, famed Concertmaster of George Szell's great Cleveland Orchestra + the Greatest Violin Guru in America, Professor of Violin at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN, & Founder of the Indianapolis Int'l Violin Competition, he eyed/watched my rt. & left hand techniques carefully, & in talking together, without thinking. my rt hand fingers started practising parts of Cesar Franck's Sonata for Violin & Piano, when Gingold stopped me, pausing a bit, then asked, 'Elisabeth, vhat are you doing vit your right hand finger's?' I gave him the same answer I always gave my father, and Gingold said, "It's Good!! I assign most of my pupils this idea to help build their technique and their neuromuscular memory!! Carry on!!" ~

If you are curious, try this with your right hand down as on the piano keys & think of a specific violin passage from a piece/concerto & start fingering it on top of a table, or even tapping given fingers to the rt Thumb doing so w/same matching violin fingering's with your right hand fingers! (*If you find this difficult, Don't Try for it could confuse pre-set left hand reflexes into a nervous reaction if never before having naturally right hand "doodled" ~ ) However, never before writing about this,*I truly don't know if my natural 'right hand doodling' will disturb reflexes in the left hand? In my case, it has never interfered in the slightest w/ my left hand function, but I do feel some
professional responsibility to mention this as does the FDA when labeling certain Drugs as a precaution ...

Musically Submitted from Chicago ~

Elisabeth Matesky / Pro Violinist

'Quiet Practising','right hand doodling'(c)Copyright'18em. All rights reserved

May 23, 2018, 8:38 AM · Sing
May 23, 2018, 9:52 AM · To ~ Violin Kiddu

Another Superb Suggestion!! (Mind Where you sing!!)

Elisabeth Matesky *

*Sometimes 'guilty' of singing when giving Violin Master Classes!

May 23, 2018, 6:51 PM · Elizabeth, I've always done exactly what you describe above, where I both "bow" and "finger" with the right hand automatically when my hands are idle. The "bowing" is done with a slight brushing motion on tabletops and such with my finger tips, and the fingerings are done by tapping or pushing simultaneously with the brushing motion, also on the right hand.

Chances are that you and I both use the left side of the brain to recall kinesthetic memories, so it manifests in the right hand when we're not actually playing.

May 26, 2018, 7:23 PM · This is a wonderful thread, just wanted to add two things.

1) There is a bowing exercise that involves holding the bow stick vertically with a good Franco-Belgian grip, and then flexing fingers in such a way that the bow rises and falls -- as much as you make it move. Little bowing finger push-ups, and it is helpful to do 10,000 of them a day until your bow hand gets stronger.

Anyway, the cool thing is, this exercise can be done with a pen or pencil.

2) The other thing that's surprisingly useful is to practice music in your mind. Just read the part and try to hear it in your head. Or listen to a recording and try to play along mentally. You really can "play" passages and work out fingerings and bowings - you don't have to decide them, but just thinking about the music will help you solve the problems and learn it.

Edited: May 28, 2018, 7:47 AM · To ~ Erik Williams!!

Dear Erik ~

I just came back on here and Walla, I see your post & feel truly exhilarated reading that you do what I've been doing since I was aged 8! This little side 'thing' as never taught nor mentioned to me by any of my violin teacher's or Artist Mentor's, was & is just something I did and quite regularly but not pre-
planned ~ When 'off' from specific major concerto repertoire, I try 'doodling' to keep my memory alive, physically and, I guess, neuro-muscularly, but I never actually "thought" this up! Its always been just something I stumbled onto or did naturally as a child ...To learn another in the world also does so and as similarly described, on a table top w/ both bowing's and fingerings is rather astonishing to me!! We might form a "Right hand practising left hand fingerings violinist's doodler's club"!! What you say?? Actually, maybe it is best not to pass this about for it might interfere with string player's nervous reflexes, which in my Reply, I tried to mention having little knowledge about any interference with 'normal' left hand function of other's who may possibly be or are unaware of this 'whatever' it is 'thing' I do term automatic untaught 'Quiet Practising' ~

What a discovery to make the acquaintance of a "right hand doodle twin"!! Do I ever wish my Poppa was alive to find this out!!! Also, Josef Gingold!! If you wish, please drop me an Email which can be found on my LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/Profile, Elisabeth Matesky pages ~ How delightful this is!

Are you playing professionally, and if so, Where? Might you be in the UK?? I lived in 'inner' London for almost 8 years & absolutely loved London, and still do!!! Fortunately, I do get over quite a bit to give Violin & Ch. Music + Bowing Master Classes at major London Conservatory's w/a last trip doing
"By Invitation Only Violin Master Classes plus One on One's" which were great fun to help out some Brits!! A forever loyal Anglophile, last week end was 'Heaven' for me! My Union Jacks were up & so were quite a few of my friend's at 4:00 AM, Saturday, May 19, 2018, viewing The Royal Wedding at St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle!! The music offerings were truly superb and magnificently performed ~ All were 'over the top' plus!

Forgive my going on, but topic's of Music & London always get me smiling!

Sending musical best wishes, I'll hope to hear from you, Erik ...

Elisabeth Matesky / USA ~

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