Mental practise

April 18, 2020, 2:37 PM · Hello
What is the best way, or ways you have found of mental practise?


Replies (40)

Edited: April 18, 2020, 3:37 PM · I close my eyes and finger the music on my forearm. When you hear it perfectly clearly in your head and you're fingering it correctly, you know you're doing a good job. It is *not* a passive activity, but it does really work.
April 18, 2020, 3:42 PM · Jeewon, what I have done before on the train on the way to my lesson is sit and think through where my fingers would go and what I want it to sound like
But I was wondering if there are more efficient ways of doing it
April 18, 2020, 3:57 PM · I sometimes find myself having dreams of me practicing. Does that count?
April 18, 2020, 3:58 PM · Cassio haha I'm afraid not
April 18, 2020, 4:05 PM · But the thing is, I finish work at 6am and my parents say to me that I can't start practise until 9am. I don't want to waste that time watching Netflix, or PlayStation or whatever
April 18, 2020, 4:11 PM · I have being as relaxed as possible on my mind a lot of the time. And about what I expect of myself in that particular session. I am aware of tension, but only big "parts" of it while warming up and playing. If its a subtle little thing, I don't always get it
April 18, 2020, 4:25 PM · Get a practice violin or practice mute. Mental practice is not so efficacious.
April 18, 2020, 4:27 PM · I have a practise mute. My mum is a light sleeper, I still end up waking her
April 18, 2020, 4:38 PM · Jeewon I generally try to tension release on scales instead of repertoire
Edited: April 18, 2020, 4:54 PM · When you are learning a new, hard piece, part of the challenge is slowing down your brain to hook up with the notes and not be tempted to make any large-muscle errors. So get the up/down bows correct, the string crossings, the shifts, etc.

Then, once you have done whatever exercise it is you do, such as slow martele or detache for fast and complicated runs, try re-living that as you walk outside. You will get a much deeper sense of how it all fits with the bar and whatever pulses you wish to organize the music in.

One of my teachers did a similar thing in college— he worked in a restaurant and would re-live passages slowly while he was washing dishes.

April 18, 2020, 5:20 PM · What about videoing your entire practice and or lessons the day before and using the quiet time to review your videos? I find videos really help me to refine a lot of things and give me an idea on progress.
April 18, 2020, 5:29 PM · I sort of do that with masterclasses on YouTube. Not exactly the piece I am playing, but something by the same composer and some of the same things will apply, or contempoaries of said composer
April 18, 2020, 6:22 PM · Apparently 'mental practice' is best done upon retiring, and I'm inclined to believe it because this is how I improved my Broad Detache stroke. Louis Kievman wrote a book called "Practicing the Violin Mentally and Physically" and I gained much benefit from practicing the exercises on "Note Finding".
April 18, 2020, 6:30 PM · Henry, when you say retiring I assume you mean going to sleep? Otherwise I have 60 odd years before I can make use of it haha
April 18, 2020, 6:32 PM · ya, ya, sleeping.....
Edited: April 18, 2020, 9:46 PM · The closest thing I have done to mental practice is; as concertmaster a of a community orchestra, I will do a first draft of bowings and fingerings at the desk. But even though I have lots of experience, when I review them with the violin and bow in hand, I still change a lot of it.
April 19, 2020, 12:39 AM · As is nearly always the case, Simon Fischer has much to say on the subject. Have a look at this - there's a section entitled "Mental Rehearsal"

He has a whole document devoted to the subject here and another one here

Edited: April 19, 2020, 3:16 AM · I can't believe a heavy brass practice mute would be heard by mum but if so get a practice violin and use the practice mute with it.

@Jaewon - out of the mouths of babes! Yes, all practice is mental practice. The body is operated through mental ideas (visual, aural or tactile). These must obviously come before the motor response. Practicing the visual-aural-tactile ideas is essential then. Studies have shown that this kind of practice is about 40-60% as good as actual. The best is to do real practice with the knowledge of the role ideation plays in the forefront of your mind. See Sweigard (1974), Bonpensiere (1953) and Todd (1937) on ideokinetics.

April 19, 2020, 3:36 AM · Having been a heavy user of practice mutes, silent violins, and silent violins with practice mutes, I have a couple of observations.

First off, there is no solution to make the instrument truly silent. My wife (who is not an especially light sleeper) could still hear me practising with any of the above.

Secondly, whilst the practice mutes and silent violins enable you to practice intonation, bowing etc., they do not allow you to explore and refine the tone you play with because the instrument sounds and behaves differently.

Once I'd figured these two things out, I had to find a way where I could practice on my normal acoustic instrument without disturbing my wife.

April 19, 2020, 3:50 AM · So, if you play pp on a practice violin w/mute your wife can hear it?
April 19, 2020, 4:52 AM · Don't practise mentally. You imagine yourself sounding like Heifetz, then the reality hits you all the harder when you practise for real.
April 19, 2020, 6:23 AM · Have you priced the lumber and hardware it would take to build yourself a sound insulated practice booth in your basement?
Edited: April 19, 2020, 8:06 AM · Hi Jake, maybe think about how the musicality of the scale / study / repertoire informs the technicality, instead of the other way around. This way you are thinking more about phrasing and expression instead of an emphasis on the technicality and more importantly - your distinct sound will come through. I always found that the better I internalised a melody and knew all the nuances of the phrasing, the rest fell into place.
April 20, 2020, 4:21 AM · The field of mental practice on the instrument includes a mandatory element of visualization. At the same time, there is a certain percentage of population, also among musicians (and I between them) who have natural flaw, called aphantasia - the inability to create mental images; and his research began only six years ago. There are tests on the Internet, and everyone can test themselves, perhaps to stop the state of constant frustration .
Edited: April 20, 2020, 9:23 AM · Fascinating. I would contend that they do visualise but they are not conscious or not able to be conscious of doing so. Ordered the book.
April 20, 2020, 11:47 PM · Aphantasia is not a fiction, but a real phenomenon, which was first described by the English researcher Francis Galton in 1880. This is an inborn or acquired mental blindness of the senses: the inner eye, inner ear (oh, god!), Inner tactile, inner smells , inner orientation , etc. Those interested can enter the group of aphants in FB.
April 21, 2020, 3:37 AM · They do have vivid dreams though.
April 21, 2020, 6:52 AM · I can't imagine what aphantasia must be like.
Edited: April 21, 2020, 10:38 AM · Imagine that I am looking at an apple to draw it from memory; close my eyes and ... doesn't see NOTHING, except spots on the retina; and after ten seconds in the mind pops up  CONCEPT about the image of an apple, but not the image itself: round, red, with a stalk. So small children perceive objects and transfer to drawing. It should be clear that in my 74 I draw at the level of a 9-year-old child.
You can compare with the situation that someone wants to learn to play the violin, but he has a small flaw: he does not hear sounds inside himself, and even he does not have an inner voice. Maybe he can learn to play the concept of Seitz's children violin concert?
Edited: April 21, 2020, 12:46 PM · I've taught many 11+ old children. The slower ones, if you ask them what letter comes after say f in the alphabet don't visualise. They have to say the alphabet. The visualising that the majority do can be taught - these kids missed out somewhere along the line.
April 22, 2020, 10:17 AM · My experience with mental practice was with percussion (marimba) so not exactly the same process. It came after a conversation with one of the finest players in the world. He said there are physical problems in learning a piece of music and there are mental problems. You choose the kind of practice based on what kind of problem you're having.
It takes a lot of mental energy, not something I would do to kill an hour or two. I used it for memory work mostly. I would find a quiet place away from the instrument, with music at hand, and slowly think through the piece, visualizing my movements, consciously relaxing, trying to feel and hear all of the details. If I wasn't absolutely sure about something, then I'd look at the music and go through a section repeatedly for several minutes just as if practicing it.
As an experiment you might try learning a piece or etude (something well within your technical grasp!) without the instrument. Give yourself a week or so and see if you can absorb all the details and memorize the piece. Then when you're ready, give it a shot.
Edited: April 22, 2020, 11:13 AM · Good points. MP is not going to improve your trill. A good application would say, switching to viola. Most of learning to read the alto clef would be best left to MP.
April 22, 2020, 12:29 PM · Tim Maynard , for those who “suffer” from aphantasia, this is simply unrealistic. I, like others, read in the past "Piano Technique" by Gieseking and Leimer ...
Edited: April 22, 2020, 12:44 PM · Tell me Nachum, I worked out how old Kreutzer was when he broke his arm (1825). I put 34 ( born in 1766) in my mind's eye, added 5 to the 4 then 2 to the 3 for the answer. How would you do it?
April 22, 2020, 1:06 PM · Bud, I lost you.
April 22, 2020, 1:24 PM · It's called mental arithmetic you place a number (34 in this case) in your mind's eyeI and to add 25 you add the 5 to the 4 then the 2 to the 3. The image in your head changes first to 29 then to 59. How would you do it?
April 22, 2020, 1:26 PM · Keewon, that's not MP.
April 22, 2020, 1:39 PM · It's often called mental rehearsal as well. The book Aphantasia (Arrived today) is pretty rubbish. No bibliography at all!
April 22, 2020, 1:53 PM · Hey, you got through Merleau-Ponty? That's a chore! Embodiment's the thing.
April 22, 2020, 2:20 PM · Shame he died so young.

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases Guide to Online Learning Guide to Online Learning

ARIA International Summer Academy

Meadowmount School of Music

Antonio Strad Violin

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases


Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Metzler Violin Shop

Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin



Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins

Potter Violins

String Masters

Bein & Company

Annapolis Bows & Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine