Need Help Practicing

Edited: December 14, 2020, 8:37 PM · First discussion post, been reading plenty of these discussion lately so I thought I’d ask for advice because I’m feeling like I don’t have a sense of direction when practicing, so I’ll give everyone a breakdown of myself and my deficiencies.

Technique Problems:
Sevick 40 Bowing Variations: My teacher as stated multiple times that I have little flexibility in the my bow hand, and a collapsing double jointed pinkie in the middle joint. Any advice on improving my bow hand?
Double Stops: Any idea on how to practice these, I feel as though double stops is definitely one of my major weak points(from my experience playing “easy” double stops in Kabalevsky.

Repertoire:Have just finished Kabalevsky(all 3 movements) and Kreisler Praeludium and Allegro.
Currently Working on:Bach Partita 2 First 2 movements:My teachers has stated(we have online lessons) that while it looks like I’m playing the pieces perfectly, my tone is not centered and my intonation seems off.
Just started Mozart 4:Any general tips on how to approach the piece? My teacher has stated that I should work on the second movement this week, then after New Years(when my teacher starts lessons up again) do the first and third movements. The second movement seemed extremely simple( could sight read the entire movement), but I need major help on the Joachim Cadenza, mainly the thirds.

What I’m looking for here is an effective practice schedule for myself, as I’ve been struggling to maintain concentration as I feel as though I don’t have a direction. I have around 3 hours of practice time(1 hour at school in the morning, 2 at home after school)

Replies (21)

Edited: December 14, 2020, 10:21 PM · I agree that it sounds like what you need are some very focused practice methods. If your teacher is not helping you with that, maybe you should come right out and ask. A general rule for me is 25% on scales and scale-like studies, 25% on other studies (I like studies), 25% on some kind of faster repertoire, 25% on some kind of slower or more lyrical repertoire or solo Bach.

My teacher taught me to practice thirds this way:

Start with C major, start on the G string. The first "D" is your ONLY open string note, but otherwise you stay in the lowest positions possible for these intervals, even if that requires some awkward shifts. Play:

DB, DB-CE, CE-DF, DF-(shift)EG, etc.

Each comma is a bow change, initially with a pause to ponder the previous two double-stops you have played. Each hyphen is a slur. Classical-type shifts.

To mix that up you can just start adding accidentals, either sharps or flats. And of course then you come down the same way. How high you go is determined by your comfort horizon (you try to push a position or two past that).

Same with sixths but you start with GE.

Edited: December 15, 2020, 2:02 AM · I can't get inside other violinist's heads. I can only state what worked for me.

Looking back - my most successful practice sessions seemed to contain the following:

1) Flesch scales. I'd spend around 45-60 every morning playing most of a complete system in one key, alternating high/low/major/minor. The one thing I'd focus one most was being relaxed, especially when shifting.

The basis of what I'd normally do for each key

One octave scales - complete
Three octave scales - complete
Thirds (major)
Sixths (major, I'd skip these if I was feeling lazy)
fingered octaves
octave arpeggios (Way more important than people tend to think)

2) Schradieck school of violin technique vol.1

I don't think I ever started a good practice session without playing through the first two pages cleanly and evenly. Always alternate strings and finger positions.

The string crossing pages are a must to play through smoothly every day. Alternate G,D,A

Then pick a few other pages randomly. No need to play the entire book every time you practice.

3) Kreutzer

Get in the flow with a few early etudes. Then select a few specialty etudes and polish them a bit.

If you're still in the mood for etudes after that mess around with some Rode, Dont, advanced Mazas or Dancla.

I'd often try to fit in at least one movement of unaccompanied Bach as well, focusing on resonance and clarity.

Just my routine. Take it for what it's worth.

Edited: December 15, 2020, 5:36 AM · What you are saying sounds like you have some gaps in basic technique, left hand and right hand. You are probably very agile on the violin, but the deficiencies in your basic technique hold you from getting your pieces (which are already quite advanced on the higher intermediate level) to a perfect level. Your teacher seems to only listen to your playing and only indicating the flaws they hear, without actually going more deeply to the root causes. We can't obviously teach you the violin from this forum. All I can recommend is you get the book "Basics" by Simon Fischer which is ideal for self-help in specific technical issues. You will find exercises for all the problems you mention, plus many more.
December 15, 2020, 10:39 AM · Here's an off-the-wall suggestion: try transcription. I can't bring myself to follow any sort of practise regimen these days, but pulling solos or pieces I like is always great fun. And educational, of course.
December 15, 2020, 1:38 PM · Hello Tam, I'm guessing that you have switched to online lessons because of the pandemic and have studied with the same teacher pre-Covid. What I have found with online lessons is that we students need to be much more proactive, and ask more questions, because the teacher cannot see (or even hear) as much as in person. From reading your post, is seems as if you need to ask more questions and get a better understanding of exactly what will help you move forward. Here are some random thoughts/ideas which may or may not be relevant to your situation.

It is good to have an idea of how you are going to split your practice time. But you do not need to stick to it rigidly, if you are having a productive session on scales, don't stop just because the time is up. And switch off to a new task if you start to feel tense and/or frustrated. How you divide up the time -- figure something out and then ask your teacher if this is a good plan given your particular situation.

Regarding your bow hand, ask your teacher for advice about how to deal with these specific issues. It sounds like maybe you are gripping the bow too hard, but get up close to the screen and ask your teacher whether there is anything you can do with your basic bow hold or finger position on the bow to improve this issue.

Double stops--yes, they take time but they are one issue that can be solved with careful work: Here are some approaches that have worked for me--play the bottom notes slowly, while maintaining the appropriate finger position on the top note, then switch roles and play the top, letting the bottom follow along. That way you can focus on which fingers are getting out of place, at the same time getting the feel of how the correct finger placement feels. To clean up a double stop passage, play the first double stop and then pause and "park" the fingers on the next double stop before you place the bow. Repeat several times and then try it the normal way, you will probably see an improvement.

Regarding repertoire, a slow Mozart movement is a great thing to work on now for tone and intonation. Focus on these when you practice it, and ask your teacher what exactly is meant by "tone not centered". There is some issue of bow control going on and you need to get a clearer idea of how to improve this, the remedy is different depending on the problem and of course the repertoire. Ditto regarding intonation, what is really going on--are you going sharp as you get into the higher registers? Are you generally not playing in tune? This can be conquered by slow practice and really listening.
In general I think you need to ask your teacher more questions. Don't worry about the Mozart cadenza until you get these answered. Your future self will thank you.

December 15, 2020, 6:34 PM · Hey Tam!
If you would like to know my opinion.... well you're going to have a good stable basic technique by practicing Bach, fopr sure. But what is your goal? To be honest, I don't know in the U.S, but here in BP you will not be accepted to Franz Liszt music school, even if you play Bach a lot better than me, while I'm alread 41. Yes, playing bach better than me is easy, but trust me, it's not so easy. From a multiple point of view. I think you can get the bowhand from the second partita (there are easier ones), because what you need is a steady bow with even strokes, approximately the same for all notes, on all the strings. You can practice lower half bows, and middle bows with Sevcik, that is very good, but I would play Bach at the upper half.
I would certainly eliminate upper positions when possible (the idea is to get a fluency, and Bach is very very difficult, so keeping left hand as simple as possible is good). It is also good, because the change from Bflat to C sharp at the beginning seems awkward, and you can practice positions with playing in opositions, but you can also practice to get a good sense of string crossings. If you would like to play double stops, I think this is a good direction.

The first mark I put on the sheet is a double stop. You can play it as a bouble stop, but then you cannot lift and replace the pinky on for the Eflat, whereas if you play as single notes, then you have time to lift up the pinky, and then put it back to the A string.

The second mark I signed is also a double stop, but you have to play it according to the piece as single ssuccesive notes. The third mark is a G and a C, which is also a double stop, one of the most difficult, a 5th double stop.. See, you can practice thrd position as scales, a Sevcik for bow, and then the second movement, and then you already practiced third position, and you can try the fifth double stop......

December 15, 2020, 6:48 PM · Hey Paul!

Nice that you're better :) Yeah I like studies too, but really, from Kreutyer the only useful one I could practice is the first one... I also agree, that playing a lot that study helps a lot, but of course you always have to vary something, like bow distribuiton.... no?

There are people who vary tempo when the get sombre from playing the same thing over and over again.... yes.... a C.

December 15, 2020, 7:21 PM · Mr. Gabris, to clarify, when I said I was having problems with my bow,hand, what I mean is the flexibility in fingers to do advanced bow strokes like spicatto and sautille, i don’t think the second partita of bach(which I’m working on) will help with that.

True Alice, I pretty shy so I don’t ask many questions, and when the rare moment comes when I do, I feel like it’s a lot more difficult online as my teacher isn’t able to manipulate my hand to fix my technique.

Great advice everyone, I’ve been progressing a lot recently so I’ve been actually enjoying the violin and practicing and am in a bit of paranoia of,plateauing.

December 15, 2020, 8:44 PM · Hey Tam! wow.. i actually got scared, because you wrote mr gabris... huhh. okay okay.... letmesee.... we need to talk!!!

just to let you know, my mom is a psychologist, and i actually also have a degree in clinical psychology... so trust me.... just because yu wrote mr gabris... (shouldve called me krisztian, then this wouldnt have happened, this writing following)

its ok that you practice a lot, but what will happen later? you have to seriously plan your life better. these are just dreams that will never come true... people always just say they want to do this, but that will never happen, because these are just not reality. life is paying your bills correctly, behave so people regard you as a trustworthy good professional. life is buying carpet in obi.

anyways, i think its ok, don't always listen to what others say, im glad you dont understand everything i say ;

Edited: December 15, 2020, 8:58 PM · Pinky issues can be severe. You said you've got a double-jointed pinky in your bow hand that's collapsing. I had an issue in my left hand pinky when I was a teenager, where it would "lock" in place and then release. After a few times it was painful, and it became more likely to happen again after a couple of times, so it was kind of a feedback loop. What I found was that I just had to play less stuff that had really high-intensity high-position (with vibrato) requirements for my pinky, until it could heal some, and from then until now, I've just learned to be careful with it, and it only flares up maybe once a year now. Of course your issue may be a lot different but I'm guessing you're just going to have to dedicate some bandwidth to it while you're practicing, especially bowing studies.

I'm sorry I can't agree that Bach should be played in the upper half of the bow. Maybe the D Minor Gigue but not the other movements. Watch Perlman bringing it to the frog:

I find that it helps if I know what I'm trying to improve before I start practicing something, to avoid just doing it because it's "required" or whatever. Even (especially) a scale -- children tend to play them mostly "for intonation" but the string changes and the shifts have to be clean and seamless too, and the whole scale must have even, resonant, focused tone. My teacher teaches his younger (or less advanced adult) students to make sure they are playing a significant crescendo into the top of a three-octave scale and to focus a lot of attention on bow sound point. I have found this advice valuable.

I second the advice to read "Basics" by Simon Fischer. Fischer is a bit of a pedant, but there's value in thorough instruction. Violin is a detail (wo)man's game after all.

December 15, 2020, 8:59 PM · yes, yes, not necessarily upper half, yes, its just easier.... for me...

I think if you have the pinky problem, just use the pinky in first position, but then I think the german bowhold is necessary too.. is it?

otherwise, cognitive science masters is a new thing, how would i have finished a year of cogsci at marseille, if would have not a degree in psychology from butapest? I know i know i had the maitrise first, and then finished psy in bp, because inwas accepted with two years from HU and a licence (third year in france) by erasmus in aix en provence. But how do you know that? Paul... all the stuff you learnt at conservatory yu tink is useless? come on..... get a grip man...

December 15, 2020, 9:21 PM · ok I checked the yutube video in the link of ur previous post... whattosay?

I personally thing how great mr perlman is (he is a top classical violinist) , this rendition of the partita is not really one, which could be considered authentic baroque style.

the vibrato, the tone, is romantic, at least i perceive it so.

Especially the phrasing. I prefer gidon kremer (im writing from phone, so thats why im not capitalizing), but there is an opposition about how bach should be played. Im not sure, I like Rey Chens interpretation, also Viktoria Mullova... I cant really think anyone else i like, i mean bach top.classical, because Christian Ferras is dead... did i mention i spent some studies privately with a student of him at marseille? It was on the franco belgian bowhold, and tone production..

December 16, 2020, 2:54 PM · okay, so this is how I would play it:

but see, they would criticuize the Eflat instead of the E (I like it bettar that way), and some other notes I prefer, and also, I would not play the ending part, because it does not follow musically from the rest of it, and it is unnecessary difficult, technically. Besides, playing it in a concert hall? me?? forget it :DDD

Edited: December 17, 2020, 7:47 PM · "Paul... all the stuff you learnt at conservatory yu tink is useless?"

I did not attend conservatoire. I have a PhD in chemistry from the University of Minnesota.

I prefer Gidon Kremer too! Very much! In fact Kremer's Bach is about my favorite. There is great individuality in his playing. Perlman is more ... corporate. The Perlman video just came up first on my search and I saw he was using the whole bow.

I just wish he weren't standing in front of 500 kg of gold.

December 17, 2020, 8:26 PM · Thanks for sharing the link Paul, this is my introduction to Kremer!
December 21, 2020, 2:51 AM · Hey!
Paul... I don't know.... what to say... you ruined it... I thought you were semeone else.... see, it's ok to use different names on different sites, for different reasons. And most of what yopu wrote were implicitly implying that you are the person I think you are (will not say who, there must be a reason for pseudonames, otherwise it's quite obvious).
But the only explicit information you give about yourself, is that is completely incongruent with subtle-talk, or reading between the lines, or I don't know what.
The problem with this, is that others read this too, and I also have to accept what others state, explicitly, like a statement. Otherwise I would start to dissociate from reality, and look for signs, or double talk, or reading between... etc, that what you wrote is not true. But that is a wrong way. I think it is better to accept what people say in a concrete way, not hinting things by way of talk, talking, about something in another sense, thief-language, whatever you call it... so now I don't know. You said you did not attend conservatoire, and did not shift to jazz singing, etc. So what would I talk to you about? hmm?
December 21, 2020, 3:00 AM · To put it clearly, if you would've wrote (sorry my french is better) si vous avaiz écris "I am a chemist, but don't worry, you know who I am) ca vait mieux. I would've been better, because you imply in the same sentence, that you are hiding as a chemist because of another reason.

But now I don't know. Maybe you are a chemist, and I was all wrong? To be honest, in such a scenario, I usually let go of people, otherwise I would entangle in strange logic.

Edited: December 24, 2020, 4:20 PM · Every serious violinist works out their own personal practice routine. I don't think the technical part needs to last longer than one hour per day; that is warm-ups, exercises, scales, arpeggios,etudes. Pick one key per week when learning, one key per day when reviewing. Most scale books are set up that way. Don't get locked into only one approach to fingering scales; that doesn't happen in real music. Your Sevcik 40 vars. is my favorite bowing book. Being simple-minded, I don't combine bowing and rhythm variations with the scales; I can only focus on one thing at time. Don't get bogged down with the very difficult Bach S&P set. Most violinists spend most of their time in orchestras where we don't do double-stops and skill on the second half of the E-string is the key to survival.
Double-jointed, locked, collapsing 4th finger? I see this a lot with teen-age female students. During the growth spurt body parts do not grow perfectly in synch. The ligaments that connect the bones might be too long, loose. You might outgrow this. (M.D.s on the panel might correct me on this.) Be sure the fourth finger stays curved, like the others. Don't let it go straight, it will hyper-extend. If the 4th finger is short let it come off of the stick when playing in the upper third of the bow - you don't need it up there. Avoid the ricochet until you sort this out. I would not want to suggest changing the bow-hold outside of a real lesson, but I have noticed that the Russian hold uses the 4th finger less than the F.-B.
For the left hand, avoid doing 4th finger extensions; postpone Paganini. Arrange the fingerings to do 1st finger extensions instead.
December 24, 2020, 2:59 PM · Yes, but Tam was asking about wristz flexibility.......
And then the squirrel went up the tree, and got the coconuts from behind the monkey, that is , snatched it ...... so? what I am talkinga bout? Oh, sorry, i was copy pasting from another thread, and now I just don't care to delete it, because everybody is talking about something, but I don't know what. besides....
I think a flexible wrist joint should not be excessive, because calming the mind should be done by focusing on music or reading, and not always relaxing the joint. I mean, it can help to periodically focus on a part of the body, like the wrist, but please do not forget that you are playing music, and not gymnastics, or something else.

Also, I found that playing with a completely flat hair caused me wrist infelxibility. Besides, I did not practice violin for years, because I was told to go down to the buitcher shop and be happy there for my nice sound as a kid (I am just saying something, please do not exploit the fact that I don't remember things, because I watched too much televison). Then I had 10m more at gradnpa, and then no violin for years. I actually played bass in school.

I'm not saying this was good, but I had no other choice. Can not tell you why.

So, also, a détaché stroke can be done with the lower arm, but a whole bow should be done using the whole arm, not trying to separate the movements. It might help to visualize, imagine, and technically try to imitate that the middle of the bow is a point where the straightness of the stroke is broken by a very small degree..... that is then you realize that it is circular. Straight bowing is difficult, I think everybody agreed here ten years ago, that whatching the contact point while bowing is the best method for straight bowing.....

December 24, 2020, 5:44 PM · All very good, if complicated advice. Here's my method:

1. Stop playing the easy parts of your assigned pieces over and over again. Look for the measures that you can't play and work on those very slowly :)

Edited: December 24, 2020, 5:57 PM · I agree. Also (I got this from somewhere else, the net is full of excellent, grand soloists teaching), try just playing the difficult notes without any pressure with the bow. Just scratch some sound. You don't even have to play in rhythm. Thatz way you can also avoid the neighbour harrassing you when hearing you practice.... then play it twice normally.... ;-))

When I studied for almost two years as a private student from a professional teacher, I was also told to repeat the good intonation twice at least, or three times, to get it ingrained. The nervous system does not work that way. If you get an intonation wrong (in the middle of playing through the piece that is ok, don't stop) at like practicing shift or so, anything complicated intonation, then try once more, and if it'§s ok, go on. Try a different shift or scale or something technical, and do this method. Repeat till it it ok, then move on to someting else. Like bowing at the frog with a simple melodie. Or an etude.

If you just cannot get that technical issue (intonationwise) right, then move on anyway, and return later.

Also, if improvising a few minutes (why not) try never return to a note to see if it was out of tune or not. Go on with the melodie in your head, and hit that note asap, meaning it is in context of the line of melody, or harmonye :DD

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