What makes quality practice?
If I was asked to choose one action that contributed the most significantly to the quality of my practice, I would probably choose pre-planning. That is, before I did anything else, I sit quietly and think about what I want to achieve in the upcoming practice time, whether it be long or short, and how I should go about it in the most effective manner.
What are everybody else’s ideas?
Plan to slowly play each section of each practice segment. Speed comes by itself. I'm just learning this.
For me, making sure I use tools such as my metronome really helps. Also ensuring that I know how to tackle a problem, whether that be through research online, consulting a reference book or asking my teacher. Having a comfortable set up, and checking it every time I play, is crucial to making sure there is no extraneous tension interfering with my focus. I also try to have a set time and space to practice where I won't be interrupted, and where I won't be disturbing others.
I practice each passage slightly slower than tempo, then repeat while correcting and redoing the passage if any mistakes occur. I use rhythms, listening to recordings of the passage, playing without the music, and etc. Whenever I'm tired from doing this, I move on to APUSH or AP CALC studying, then I potentially go back to practicing after focusing on something else for a bit. It's a good way to avoid frustration. I think the biggest part is getting each passage to where I can play without looking at the music and with no mistakes, then I consider it ok. It's impossible for me to play difficult passages with music because I just don't have time to look at the notes, which coupled with my near-sightedness recently... yeah.
"If I was asked to choose one action that contributed the most significantly to the quality of my practice, I would probably choose pre-planning."
Make all the notes long enough that you no longer make mistakes. Practice at that speed again and then a little faster next time until you no longer makes mistakes. Then speed it up a little more keeping your intonation etc. correct. This is a process. I have this from a student of Sally Thomas.
I don't think quality practice always means slow practice, though it often does (depending on the objective). For me, it doesn't even have to be extensively pre-planned; it is enough to have some goals in mind. The single most important things are careful listening and awareness of what is happening while playing.
For the Haffner, learn it detache and don't worry about having it come off the string until the speed is such that the bow nearly bounces by itself. Slur four notes to the bow using relatively little bow in order to hear any unevenness in the left hand. When you practice the spiccato do so entirely on open strings in order to be sure that any string crossings are perfect.
I find that setting some sort of goal for my practice (ex: I want to be able to play my scales smoothly and at xx tempo) and then practicing at a variety of speeds is what works for me. For something like scales there comes a point where I have to be playing quickly and lightly to achieve my goal. However, it is when I play slowly that I am able to identify when something is not working for me and I can make adjustments. When playing quickly I don't have the mental capacity to notice what does and doesn't work in an effort to just produce the notes.
Andrew, what you say is true. But if practicing at concert tempo isn't making for improvement then it's time to slow down for a while.
"What makes quality practice?"
I think there is an important role for being flexible and responsive in practice as well. We come to each session a little different, and we can also use scales or some other platform as a way of exploring some particular element.
I do two kinds of slow-motion practice: Moonwalk, and Frame-by-Frame.
I find that bowing and fingering can be speed-dependent, so if I practise slowly, it's after I've worked out the bowing and fingering at full speed, not before. My teacher doesn't seem to like slow practice - she prefers one note, then 2, then 3 then 4, etc at full speed.
Gordon, I reckon two thirds of our technique lurks
Well, barring the applicability of that Jimi Hendrix paraphrase, if your détaché is perfectly coordinated, then all your effort will have gone into what happens between the notes.
Louis Spohr recommended a couple of hours of practice each day. That's a quite of bit of practice so it's probably best to break that up into 3 or 4 parts throughout the day (morning, afternoon, evening sessions). I think some breaks can give some time for reflection (e.g. what worked, what could work better).
But Gordon, I want an even better,
Another aspect of perfect practice is not allowing oneself to play a note out of tune, fuzzy, crunchy, boring etc more than once!
No, perfect practice is not allowing oneself to do any of those even once. If you do any of those, start the passage over again. Don't tell yourself that "it's just one mistake" because in practice you are aiming for the most ideal interpretation. It's only ok to make mistakes while performing because there are factors like stress, anxiety, and Feng Shui.
We can repeat the passage and play it better because our perception has changed. But if we don't zoom in with twice as much detailed attention to the twice-as-tricky bits, they may well catch us out in public.
Repeating a passage in practice does imply that you're watching and correcting intonation errors and mistakes. What I had in mind was that if you have trouble with a run, you should repeat it and fix errors too. I should have used the diction of "the place (shift etc) you have trouble with" instead of "passage" because it could be confused with dumb wholistic repetition. Although, I think it does help to practice a passage in context. For example, the first run in Wieniawski 2 requires a bunch of eight notes that lead up to the run, which is something that you have to account for when playing the passage because they build up to you getting in position. Or the var 9 to var 10 in Pag 24, which requires one to shift greatly immediately after the pizz.
I believe that different recipes will be optimal for different people.
May I try a caricature?
I do not doubt the value of analyzing a problem, then working on the smallest unit and then working one's way out from there. It has worked for me often. But sometimes it fails--or rather it eats so much time that I give up. Adding back the context after fixing the core problem is sometimes far from straightforward. For me at least the original problem often re-occurs as soon as the context is added back in.
As to the starting question: I don't think pre-planning is the most essential thing. I rather believe that the ear is the key: The difference between how one imagines the music and how one hears one's own music is what drives effective practice.
Buri has raised not only a great question but I'd say it is THE QUESTION.
Albrecht raised this issue and I completely agree. How to train our listening ability as key part of quality practice? Assuming most of us have normal healthy hearing, a well-trained violinist ear hears so much more, definitely more than those who don't often listen to violin music. Yet, among advanced players, including some professional orchestra players I know, their tone production, intonation, phrasing/musicality etc differ so greatly. I don't think it's a matter of care (although some poor intonation may need more frequent checking), but rather I suspect many just can't hear the difference; or rather, don't hear things objectively. Recording won't help. Other people's honest positive/negative feedbacks may do.
Actually, recording does help. I have heard recordings of myself. Ouch!
I also think that having a comfortable environment for practicing matters a lot too. Some examples are: removing all distractions (phone etc), making room, having a chair to rest on, etc. Also, not being hungry, doing all your homework/work if you're not in school beforehand, wasting time accompanying your significant other to continue to foster a pointless relationship, and so on. I find that I get easily distracted if I have anything to think about besides practicing. I do realize however that adults probably have many arduous tasks that cannot simply be completed before they have to do their daily practice.
Albrecht, you are right that recording does help, to a certain degree. It helps a lot on hearing things like intonation, phrasing, cleanness, etc, but recording is not very good at giving feedback on tone production, unless you have a very expensive recording system. Even so, I know a lot of people just don't seem to have the ear for the quality of sound. Even during live performance, people don't always pick up on that. String instruments should be treated like voices. People get turned off quickly if a singer's voice is boring or unrefined (in classical music), and they should treat string instruments the same.
"but first of all you have to care about it enough"
"If you don't have an ear for the quality of sound, of course recording won't help... but also, if you don't have an ear for that, I doubt practicing normally would help either."
I meant practicing “live” using whatever personal methods.
Hey Adrian, yes you are right of course, but I'm skeptical about using a recorder to train our ear for our own sound. Our sound differs so drastically from a small studio to a large church to a very 'dead' big hall, etc. It takes a lot of experiments without the aid of equipment to assess and adjust. When I suggested to listen to a lot of great soloists, it's not only the recordings we should listen to, but more importantly are the live performances, competitions, masterclasses, workshops, etc.
Here is a short video on how to practice (and how not to practice) by someone who should know:
Anyway, it seems that we can once more enjoy those thoughtful discussions between Yixi and Buri!
I'm glad to see Yixi here too. It's been a long time. How are you enjoying your violin, Yixi?
Paul Deck, that's a great vid on how to practice! By one of the greatest violinists no doubt.
Yixi, yes, great to see you back on this forum!
Hi everyone, this is my first post and hopefully I'd be able to add something meaningfull as this topic is very important.. Apologies for the grammar - English is not my first language. In my opinion, one of the most improtant points (as was mentioned in one of the comments) is a preparation, but one aspect of this preparation is often missed... Our posture in general and specifically the way we hold violin/bow. It's not natural for humans to spend hours with our hands raised and our heads slightly tilted etc. You know that more than eightly percent of violinists have some sort of shoulder/neck issues, resulting in tension, pain, tiredness, sometimes injuries etc. Even before we address the posture issues, we have to make sure we are perfectly aligned and relaxed. If you feel even the slight tiredness in one of the muscles, immediately stop, never push through, as the results could be very negative. What I say to all my students, 'the road to greatness is littered by unfortunates who are not able to play and perform fully because of the effect of the wrong posture and ignoring even the slightest discomfort or pain'. This is the foundation of everyhting.
I quite agree. I see amateurs
Apparently even the great Maxim Vengerov is suffering from the shoulder tension and as a result the quality of his sound has slightly deteriorated over the last years.... (he's still an amazing musician and violinist though, one of the titans IMO)