What to do when you are away from your violin for more that a few days
The parent of one of the young musicians in the Youth Orchestra asked my advice on what her young musician can do while the family is away on vacation but she won't have a violin at her disposal?
She isn't my student and frankly I'm a bit at a loss for a good suggestion.
Any ideas for me to offer?
The student can listen to recordings of whatever pieces she's working on for her lesson and/or the pieces the orchestra is working on.
It's difficult to not be able to reach for the violin for any prolonged period of time, but there's a lot of research and study that can be accomplished even without playing. I'm going to be without my violin for two weeks during the holidays and I'll be studying scores, thinking about phrasing, and thinking about interpretation. I'll also be listening to a lot of recordings. When I listen to recordings of music that I am also learning, I don't listen with the intention of copying what they're doing. I listen analytically and consider what the player is communicating with their choices, and whether or not that is similar to the mood message that I'd like for my own interpretation. If not, how would I rephrase it so that my message speaks the way I feel it should? There's nothing wrong with referring to recordings for inspiration as long as our interpretation is still our own and reflects our experience of the phrase structure. Anyway... I got a little off on a tangent but these are all things I think about when I don't have access to my violin.
I go over the score together with a recording, and visualize/"feel" playing. If you do good visualizations you can even feel when you're committing a mistake -- you can realize "oh, I missed that shift by a bit" or the like.
I would call that a vacation. Maybe take one of the classic violin books by Leopold Mozart, Auer, Szigeti...
If the student practices diligently already, how about enjoying time away and pursuing other interests.
Easy: mental practise.
Like others have suggested, there is a lot you can do away from the instrument. Bring the score for the next concert along with recordings. Go through your parts, familiarize yourself with the phrasing and dynamics, identify clues/points of reference in other's parts you can use to get back on track, visualize and resolve fingering, work out difficult tempos, work out the bowing, familiarize yourself with key changes and repeats, identify parts you need to concentrate on upon your return etc. If you can follow with your part the full rendition of the concert without getting lost and not loosing tempo you are already ahead of the learning curve when you get back.
Its hard for me to understand why you would need to be away from your instrument. I always travel with some kind of violin whether its a Cricket, a silent or my regular instrument. My daughter who is now fifteen has not been away from home without her instrument since she was playing a half size. We fly with them we take them all over the world. If we are going somewhere climatically hostile we'll take a cheap rental or a silent. If the student does not want to leave her instrument behind let her take it
Violins should not be left in a car, which can make it very annoying to travel with them.
There is a tutorial on how to play a piece/etudes with scores in youtube, which is good for mental practice by watching the bow and changing position, and the sound production.
I had all sorts of plans to study without my violin on vacation this year, for I was going to a "climactically hostile" environment and had no desire to spend money on a silent violin for one trip. Once I was on vacation, I ended up simply enjoying my vacation. I didn't listen to music the way I normally do, nor did I do any studying or mental practice. It was a nice break, and by the end of my vacation I could not wait to get back to my violin practice.
Thanks to all who responded. I shared a synopsis with the mother. The most interesting response happened when I mentioned that some said to just let her daughter have a vacation. Mom responded: "That's what her teacher said but I want her doing something productive..." She also said she would think about having her review her music while traveling on the plane with a headset and the music recorded.
Something has clearly changed since I was young (1960s in my case). My mother would never have been this eager to keep me "productive".
The brain is off solving problems in the background when someone takes time away. Everyone needs breaks, and the kid will only benefit from relaxing and putting conscious thought onto other things. Parents man, SMH.
I honestly would also use the time away to really rest and recharge.