I have an audition “coming up” at the end of May. For it, I am working on two concertos.
I am wondering if there are thoughts about the best way to manage my time in working on both pieces. I have been working on one for a few days or a week, then switching to the other, then back...but I feel this isn’t the healthiest or most productive way. On the other hand, switching back and forth every other day I feel doesn’t give enough time for new developments to sink in. I haven’t really managed to work on both each day, because after doing warmup and scales and arpeggios and etudes and then starting on one of these pieces, I feel there isn’t enough time to do both. (Of course, I could shift my perspective and make/take the time to do both in one day, just doing smaller chunks of each, if that would be beneficial.)
This must be in a lot of ways a very personal preference (much like using a shoulder rest or not ;), but I would be glad to hear advice and or experiences from others as I figure out what might work best for me!
Multitasking, are we? One approach that's very simple is to just have a prioritized task list regardless of what concerto the task comes from and work your way down, spending time on each task until you feel either you've accomplished what you intended or you've stopped making progress because of mental or physical fatigue.
Do both each day. Task-switch (either within each piece or between pieces) every 3 minutes (or every 5 minutes if 3 minutes is too short a concentration time for you). This forces your brain to remain maximally attentive to the task. Don't practice any segment that's already pretty good. Elements that get a lot of attention one day, because they need a lot of improvement, need at least a quick refresher the next day to make sure that what you have learned sticks; you may have to do tough spots several days in a row before they stick. Note that sleep will cement things in your brain and you want to try to avoid completely neglecting a tough spot for several days in a row.
You've gotten good advice from both Paul and Lydia.
Excellent advise so far, indeed!
I think you want to sit down and go through your routine with your teacher, because it doesn't sound like you're working on enough to occupy 4-6 hours of practice if you are working on things in an efficient manner.
Yes, time is there. I think it’s more a matter of mentally being able or willing to jump out of one piece and into the other. I do technical stuff the first few hours, and then jump into a piece and feel I have so much to work on in that “world” that I don’t want to leave it. It would be a matter of discipline, I think. And it’s a very good point that I’ll have to be able to switch from one to the other quickly on that day. I should start now...I see that.
Lydia wrote, "it doesn't sound like you're working on enough to occupy 4-6 hours of practice." That's maybe true ... unless the two concertos she's working on are bloody murder.
It's important to rotate what you work on earlier in the session when you're fresh. There should be days -- possibly many days -- in which you do no more than 10 minutes of warm-up before launching into repertoire work. Take a break at least once an hour, and considering doing a scale or two after each break, rather than clumping all the scale practice together, when you're more likely to do it mindlessly.
You've received a lot of good advice here. If I had to add anything it would be to reiterate what others have said. If you're doing 4-6 hours a day then you, of course, should have enough time to do two concertos every day. The thing to figure out is how you use that time, and if all that time is even necessary to get the job done. Often people tell us that "we must practice x amount of hours to improve," but in actuality, the only person who knows how much they need to practice is you. If you practice efficiently I'm sure you'll notice the time you spend practice will decrease quite a bit unless you really have that much repertoire to practice, but that's not the case here with two concertos.
Working with intense mental concentration for four to six hours with only a 5-10 minute break every hour is very difficult and it can take months or years to build up to that. I think people need to be realistic about mental stamina.
I estimate it would take approximately 1hr to do Saussmanhaus style tuning work on just the first movement of a concerto. Quite easy to chew through hours on a single movement of a concerto. Should it be done daily? It depends.
I spent all of last year doing a technical rebuild, so I understand why you spend a lot of time focusing on that. However, I'm assuming that your tech rebuild is out of the intensive phase and you can relax on it a bit. I have been doing a warmup (short, like 10 mins), then spending a good block of time switching between repertoire related tasks, then doing the tech work, breaking, then switching between repertoire and tech, and so on. For a 50min block, I'll do a warmup, 2 blocks of repertoire work, and tech work. Then the next block, I'll do 2 blocks each of rep and tech work. I try to end my day's practice with repertoire.
Anita, I want to wish you good luck on your new musical journey. While keeping your mind on your ultimate goal of playing professionally, I urge you to enjoy each step along the way. I really liked your statement about ". . . to be able to express and communicate on the violin. To make beauty." If you can keep that as your main goal you can make a wonderful life in music.
Anita, which exercises, etudes, and concertos are you working on? The entirety of both concertos, or just one movement from each? If you were to run through everything "straight" without stopping, at tempo, how long would it take?
I second the idea of a practice journal so you can keep track. My personal way is that the hardest of hardest spots can be practiced 2xday (both pieces), the second tier rotating every other day. The On the days that you go deep dive on some stuff, gloss over the rest (i.e. run or play through slowly so you don't loose it). Work in running larger sections every few days, and as you get closer run more and larger sections and deep dive less. performance practice towards the end. Adjust "basic regimen" - for example on days that you do a lot of double stop work in your rep, maybe leave that out of your basics. On days that you run double stops section in practice, go ahead and include in your basic regimen. Hope I'm making sense? In terms of how much you are practicing - I would be careful with these extreme hours...injuries are prevalent - 4 out of 5 string players will have them. If you record yourself every day several times, you can practice less, but get more done. It's more about training the ears than training the hands, although I agree some motor training is of course required :) Above, enjoy the journey, the journey is what it is all about.
Sorry to have taken a few days to reply! I had a lot of things to take care of. :)
And I forgot to mention, re. the possibility of injury...yes, I know that’s a real danger. I was injured before, had to do the whole gamut of hand doctors and physical therapy and tendon scraping and no playing for months and months...so I’m very careful. I don’t ignore any signs! But, since my first lesson with my new teacher last year, in which she adjusted my setup (removed my shoulder rest), I haven’t had any playing-related pain! Woot! Even with long hours and performances in which I was very nervous. It helped free up my shoulder, as using a shoulder rest does for many other people... (Plug for...what’s the opposite of dogmatism? Cat-matism?)
Something I have found helpful is to put passages I want to clean up into Musescore. I can then print out a page or two and use it as an etude. I find having a nice clean page that doesn't have any eraser marks and alterations less distracting. It is also easier to access and focus on since I do not have to fumble through a bunch of pages. There are times I have only a couple of minutes and having this front and center helps. When the page gets cluttered with check marks and such, I print out another fresh copy.
I recommend an iOS app called "Modacity" for practice-journaling. However, if you don't need charts and graphs, a spreadsheet works just fine.
I know I'm incredibly biased, but you might want to try the Practizma Practice Journal. Available at practizma.com and a handful of retailers listed on the site. Good luck - it sounds like you are doing lots of good stuff.
Susanna - I'm not the OP, but journals help me quite a lot - depending on how it is laid out. Is there a website that might provide a sample page? I'm intrigued. Thanks!
Catherine - I have sample pages and some info on the layout on the journal page of my website - copy this link into your browser: