how to get out of a bad practice slump

June 18, 2018, 12:37 PM · the past few days my practicing has just been bad. I have tried playing things very slowly with a metronome, I've been warming up with open strings, scales, and some etudes that I know I can play well but I still feel off. my left hand fingers are getting confused and I feel like I'm focused but my playing sounds unsure and scratchy.
I think I need a different approach to practicing. usually I just do slow metronome practice (my main problem is that my left hand gets easily confused) but I guess I need more than that.
what should I do? what things can I try to get out of this?

Replies (6)

June 18, 2018, 1:08 PM · Finally--something I might be able to help with! :-) I am returning to playing after 38 years away. Back in high school I was a competent player, who took private lessons at an excellent school and was a member of a good youth orchestra. But I wasn't super talented and I guess that's why I quit.

Fast forward to now, and I'm working on trying to get back what chops I had. I find that I need a lot of variety. I might work mostly on Schradieck exercises for a few days, say, and then go off and work on some easy Bach pieces and my orchestra stuff. Interestingly, when I return to Schradieck or Wolffahrt after days away playing other stuff, I am better at it. And vice versa--just playing the exercises improves my ability to play the Bach or the orchestra music.

My left hand gets confused, too. I find that many things I retained and they came back right away, but others are coming back more slowly, and that includes my ability to play up to speed. So I slow down. I also found this video (and others by the same guy) on playing Schradieck (applies to other ex's as well):

I found these videos super helpful because just trying to gradually increase speed wasn't working for me, but these alterations of the exercises really DID get my fingers "thinking" and moving faster.

So try something like that. And be sure that you're not just playing the same things all the time. Mix it up. Give the exercises a chance to do what they are meant to do -- improve other things that you play!

June 18, 2018, 4:31 PM · Go back to your music library and find something you learned well in the past. Play it through -- "once more with feeling." Give yourself the chance to see how much you've improved since then -- how easy the piece seems now, or how much better you play it, and with less effort. This will help you remember why you were doing all this in the first place.
Edited: June 18, 2018, 8:03 PM · Have some rest. Sleep, walk, meditate, go to a spa or have a massage if you can afford it.
Eat well and remember to hydrate.
Your brain, your muscles need time to commit the learned to the long term memory.
After the break, start slowly and pay attention to details, your posture, sound quality, etc.
June 18, 2018, 11:45 PM · Hmmmm it's strange that this has began for you, OP. Something must have occurred to trigger it. Has something significant changed in your life?

Quality of practice largely depends on how focused you're able to be, so if there are mental obstacles going on in the background of your brain while attempting to learn something, you'll find that practice ends up sucking without an immediately attributable cause.

Try to take care of whatever is distracting you first (or at least become cognizant of WHAT the distraction is) and then get back to practicing.

June 19, 2018, 1:04 AM · Any long term learning/practice/training has bad periods. Nothing seems to work and one feels frustrated.
Best thing: like insomnia or hiccups... Relax accept it. This is a very long race and we can afford a slow patch. Others will come that you will be extra-effective. In the end it evens out.
If it's any consolation, I see around me (and also reading between lines in that it's quite common during these days. Summer is around the corner and I guess it affects the instrument, the bow, our mood or all of it.
Do your best practice, without obsessing about it. It will pass. And I second Roky Milankov's advice: Some distraction may work wonders. Rest and relaxations ARE part of the training.
June 19, 2018, 12:01 PM · Three things: 1) Our technical improvement will not be gradual and even. There will be frustrating plateaus and then break- throughs leading to rapid improvement. 2) Our hearing, musicianship, pitch discernment, judgement, can improve faster than our technique, so we seem to be getting worse when we are actually getting better. A third thing that happens with me that seems really weird: After pounding away at some difficult spot without results; just let it go for a week or two. When you come back to it, it may be strangely easier, like the back of the brain needed time to get rewired.

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