How to stay motivated and keep practicing

March 17, 2020, 1:40 AM ·

Well, my teacher has suspended all face-to-face lessons and my community orchestra has effective cancelled all rehearsals and concerts for the season.

My violin playing is now accountable to no one. Any suggestions on how to stay motivated and keep practicing?

Replies (25)

March 17, 2020, 3:52 AM · I have seen a few people doing various hashtag (#) challenges on Instagram. For example #100daysofpractice or #30daysofpractice. This generally encourages the user to post a small snippet of their practice sessions on social media for 100 days or 30 days.

Will you have having online lessons? Now might be a time to pursue them, so your learning and practice doesn't tail off during this period of isolation.

March 17, 2020, 3:54 AM · There's an orchestra I want to join in September. That's my motivation.
March 17, 2020, 5:18 AM · During this enforced sabbatical, I spend two thirds of the time on slow, totally aware practice instead of one third..
March 17, 2020, 5:29 AM · I just like playing music. Practising is for swots
March 17, 2020, 7:13 AM · Right on, Steve! Don't consider it practice -- consider it "playing your violin" or "playing music." We call it "playing the violin" not "working the violin" because it's supposed to be an enjoyable experience.
While I don't teach violin, I do teach woodwinds and brass along with guitar and bass, and when students are finding it hard to work on exercises for whatever reason, I suggest that they go back and play songs and exercises from the past that they enjoyed. Rediscover the joy of making music, the joy of taking an inanimate object and getting nice sounds out of it.

As you do that, you will probably find that you come upon harder passages or an annoying leap that isn't great and then you'll find the exercises/etudes that will help you improve that. And even if you don't find specific exercises/etudes, simply repeating the difficult passage or leap slowly until it's perfect and then speeding it up to tempo gradually will help improve your playing.

Emphasis on the word "playing" -- make it fun!

Edited: March 17, 2020, 7:17 AM · I've been working on a "reduced practise schedule" since auditions passed. I'll try to fit in an hour of scales and whatnot, but mostly I've been working on composing and recording things that I enjoy. I've had a few days where I spent 8 hours with an instrument in my hands but didn't spend a moment actually practising. I think I'd be burnt out by now if I was still just slamming standard repertoire 4 hours a day.
March 17, 2020, 7:53 AM · I've never been into practising scales, studies etc for the sake of improvement, but I will keep coming back to a piece of actual music to try to get the sound, intonation and phrasing right. A few years ago I "discovered" Franz Drdla's charming little salon pieces, of which I've printed off 50 or more from IMSLP. Why are they so seldom played these days? They make pretty good sense unaccompanied and such good exercise in making the violin sing.
Edited: March 17, 2020, 8:37 AM · In the absence of performance "goals" we can also take time to concentrate on tone and intonation. Well-played scale & arpeggios are like rainbows: not works of art, but still beautiful! And to learn to enjoy the sensations that we usually take for granted.

Three pleasures: music, playing music, and playing it well..

March 17, 2020, 9:08 AM · All ensemble rehearsals and concerts are cancelled.
I'm going back to my "roots."
Played through my first cello concerto (Grutzmacher) on Sunday - first time in 70 years.
Played through my first viola "concerto" (Mozart Sinfonia Concertante) Monday).
Plan to play through some Mozart violin concertos today (I've got 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 on the stand).
Plan to go the drive-through pharmacy on Wednesday and pick up prescriptions for the next 90 days.
March 17, 2020, 11:55 AM · There are so many good things that could be done with all this extra time and cancelled commitments. What I am dealing with is some kind of emotional paralysis.
March 17, 2020, 12:00 PM · When I need to motivate myself to improve, I just post a video here, and then usually a follow-up.
March 17, 2020, 3:19 PM · I don't have any problems with motivation. I just love everything about the violin: the sound (It's orgasmic to me), the music, the feel of the violin, the vibrations against my chin and shoulder, everything!.

But I almost never practice to the point of diminishing returns. I always quit when I still want to play more. That way I'm always always hungry to play again, as soon as possible. And as Steve and David said, I just don't consider it practice, I consider it playing music, even scales.

March 17, 2020, 3:45 PM · David,

I'll ask you the same question I ask my students: What type of music makes you happy, joyful, excited, inspired,...?

Playing for your own happiness is just so much fun. To be sure I do exercises and scales, all of those basics, but most of my time is just playing for me and my own enjoyment.

Edited: March 17, 2020, 3:49 PM · I guess we're all in the same predicament. As a physician, I find myself on the front lines of this thing, and feel compelled to fight it. My colleagues and I are managing, but at a basic level I admit it's just frightening. Violin (work, practice, playing - call it what you want)is lately a wonderful and welcome distraction from some real worries, and I am finding I can do it with an unusual, renewed concentration. Last night, I started a comprehensive review of scales (especially my "difficult" ones) bow excercises, vibrato review, and plan a comprehesive play through of some of my etude collections and rep. I plan to practice in private lest my colleagues make jokes about Nero.
March 17, 2020, 4:09 PM · I think we all (at least the amateurs among us I guess) should look at violin practice as something that can help us get through the times ahead and can keep us from going crazy from all the restrictions that we have to endure, in my opinion for a long time. In other words: Look at violin practice as a privilege, not a duty that needs to done in order to each some goal. And practice accordingly.
March 17, 2020, 6:17 PM · Well... To me this time is - more time to practice.

It’s actually very easy (at least for me).
The constant gigs and job together just leave little time to do real practice (let alone sports). I have been running. And bicycling for 5 days straight and I keep my fiddle on my work desk. I play a tune every 30 minutes to stretch and clear my mind and I practice for about 2 hours in the evening.

My suggestion is - open the box and don’t close it. Have the instrument in your hand as much as possible.

March 17, 2020, 7:46 PM · David, ping me in email or on Facebook? I've got something I think you'll be interested in but you don't have a contact method on this site.
March 17, 2020, 9:03 PM · Lydia, I pinged you via my Facebook. Thanks in advance.

Thanks to all the responses.

March 17, 2020, 9:37 PM · @Joel that is my experience too. Gotta break out of it somehow!!
Edited: March 18, 2020, 2:43 PM · Luckily I don't have this issue. Although my orchestra rehersals and concert have also been cancelled, it isn't my motivator. I actually see this as an opportunity to work on my technique more. Learning and playing the violin is my motivator, and I could never run out of things to learn and improve upon. Practice isn't a chore for me, it is something I look forward to, even if playing basic scales. Having a regular routine is important though.
March 18, 2020, 4:27 PM · Now I'm really curious about the thing Lydia sent to David.
March 18, 2020, 6:41 PM · Yeah me too.
March 18, 2020, 6:41 PM · Ping me in email or on Facebook, Erik. :-)
March 19, 2020, 12:28 PM · Hi David,
Would your teacher teach via FaceTime, Zoom, or Skype? That might help.
March 19, 2020, 6:47 PM · yes, she provides lessons via Skype. I am old school...


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