Practice Plan

Edited: March 24, 2023, 6:36 PM · Hello all,

Adult student taking a “guided” on-line course, (Been playing 1-year, four months), and have/can dedicate 1-1/2 hours per day for practice. This includes practicing the current piece I am learning.

With advancement comes additional skills to practice which starts to eat away at my available practice time and means less time to actually practice the piece I am trying to learn.

My current practice routine: (First position) (1-2 minute breaks included)
1. Physical stretches to warm up body
2. Finger taps, first position no bow. (To loosen up the fingers)
3. Tuning
4. Two Arpeggios, 10 reps each arpeggio. (I choose different arpeggios each day from course list)
5. Two scale runs, one and/or two octave, 20-reps each scale, Ten out of the twenty reps are slides. (I choose different scales each day from course list)
6. Fourth finger exercise. Ten reps on each string.
7. Wrist vibrato exercise, (just started learning). Basically, each finger, two complete bow strokes per finger, on every string.
8. Practice current piece I am learning
9. Wipe down bow, strings, and violin
10. Physical stretches.

My fear is if I cut back on any of these exercises to gain more time, especially to get more time to practice a piece, my skills will start to suffer. However, these fears may be unfounded.

So how have you dealt with practice time constraints as you have progressed?

Do you see anything in my current practice routine “I am over doing” and/or could be cutback without losing skills?


Replies (15)

Edited: March 24, 2023, 7:16 PM · Joseph, good for you taking up the violin and maintaining such an organized program.

You're right -- the number of skills increases so you can devote less time to each one. But as you develop higher-order skills, the lower-order ones will hopefully need less improvement and more of what you might call maintenance. Also, as you work on more complex studies and pieces, you'll be multitasking by necessity. In fact, separating out the various elements such as tone, vibrato, facility, and intonation for individual attention will be its own challenge!

As far as scales and arpeggios are concerned, I'd consider decreasing the number of "reps" and focusing more on listening carefully to each rep and deciding what you're going to improve in the next rep and how you're going to do that. You want do develop mindfulness in your work.

If you tell us what piece you are learning ("doing") now, we might be able to recommend a study / etude to go with that. Studies are a great way to start building up your technique multitasking.

March 24, 2023, 7:28 PM · You don't say how you are practicing the current piece you're learning. A lot of people, especially when starting out, tend to just run through their rep a couple of times from start to finish, hoping to iron out problem spots. This is about the least efficient and effective way to practice new pieces, so you might be able to save some time there.

You may not need the advice, but it's better to focus on a few specific spots in the piece that need improvement, working on a bar or two at a time, with a specific plan for improving that spot. This actively eliminates the problem spots in the piece. One misses the feeling of "actually playing" music when you don't run through things from start to finish, but you can allow yourself to do that once a week, to check your improvement. I'm sure there are more articulate versions of this advice waiting to be typed out by more experienced players here.

Also, yes, good on you for organizing your practice. I'm a big fan of routines.

March 24, 2023, 8:27 PM · If you must do this, set a timer to limit to 3 min. each. And prevent yourself from practicing reps that you've mastered.

Also, keep your schedule fluid. It should look different each week if there truly is any life in you.

Edited: March 24, 2023, 10:32 PM · Thanks for the feedback!

Currently I am learning to play Handel’s Alla Hornpipe from Water Music. When practicing a piece, I will play through once or twice and spend the rest of the time working to improve problem areas.

March 25, 2023, 9:54 AM · @Joseph - you are clearly very organized, and much of what you are doing is helpful. However, other than your current piece, you seem to be doing nothing but lots of scale-related exercises. As I said, that is helpful, but you might want to cut back on the scale-related activities and do some etudes or other pieces. You also might want to get a teacher, who can make sure you are not developing bad habits and diversify what you are working on. Good luck!
Edited: March 29, 2023, 1:04 AM ·

Here's what comes to my mind with your steps.

1. Maybe a couple of stretches. But, I wouldn't spend too much time. Thank about stretching occasionally before you begin to practice, versus taking practice time. I never stretch; but that's more likely a fault than any kind of an advantage.

2. Skip the "finger taps." (Though, I'm not really sure what they are?) Scales and arpeggios are very good at warming up the fingers.

3. There's absolutely no reason to tune beforehand. Just launch into playing. (Only kidding.) To save time tuning, you might consider a digital tuner. SoundCorset, which can be downloaded to an android device (and maybe a Mac?), is excellent. It has a built in tuner for tuning, a recording device, a metronome, and it can tell with what accuracy any given note is being played. A tuner is essential for me, given my age. Especially the E string. I've downloaded Sound Corset to both my phone and Samsung tablet. But for tuning, I use the following that I leave on my instrument full time.

5. Scales first; then arpeggios. A very good, basic book that takes the beginning violinist through all the scales in sequence is "Scales for the Violin" by Samuel Flor. It also includes the principle arpeggios. This book is pretty much all first position.

4. Arpeggios.

6. I hesitate to leave out 4th finger exercises. Probably a good idea.

7. Depending on when you began playing, consider leaving vibrato exercises until later. Concentrate on intonation in scales and pieces. Then pick up vibrato when it seems the right time?

8. Work on repertoire. (Pieces that you've been playing.)

9. I always wipe down my violin and strings . . . at the beginning of my next practice session. It always seems like I need to be getting to some other project, when I finish practicing.

10. See Step 1 above.

Itzhak Perlman has long been considered one of the finest violins in the world. I highly recommend his masterclass of several videos on They are outstanding for any level violinist, especially for beginning to intermediate levels. I think that it's possible to have a monthly subscription for a reasonable price for all masterclasses, Perlman's included. His videos are terrific, where each targets some particular aspect of violin playing. (For example, there's a video for practicing.)

Edited: March 29, 2023, 7:31 AM · Plans are a good thing, but such a time-managed, rigid plan might be mechanical if it is not applied sensitively.

It's difficult for us because we have no idea what your tone or intonation are like. They are the two most important things, assuming you want to keep your audience.

Generally speaking, your left hand is responsible for intonation and your right hand is responsible for tone.

The more your brain is telling your left hand what to do, the less control your brain will have over your right hand, so try to balance the two.

If you want to ditch something, then probably vibrato is the first thing that should go, temporarily. You should only learn it when your intonation is perfect. That implies that the task of intonating is no longer a problem for your left hand, so the right hand will suffer less.

The concept of "reps" (10 and 20) worries me. It implies the mindlessness of a gym. Better to play very slowly one or two "reps" with main focus on intonation and tonality (and musicality - singing scales. There's an anecdote about someone being amazed that when Pablo Casals played scales it sounded like music. That's naive and stupid - every musician should play their scales as though they were music) - listen and be thoughtful. Ears and brain, all the time, in case your course doesn't mention that.

I would treat the repertoire (piece) as the most important part of your practice. If you practise it well, listening for everything about it that you don't like (string crossings, intonation, hand coordination, tone, expressiveness, etc), then that will eliminate the need for extraneous stuff.

There's no point in playing a piece (or anything) mindlessly and then assuming mindless études will correct whatever is wrong.

Edited: March 29, 2023, 7:31 AM · Fewer scale/arpeggio reps with more attention. You'll get far more out of 2-3 thoughtful reps.

I do like doing 2 contrasting scales but you don't *always* need it and you can keep things simple by doing the matching arpeggio.

Finger taps are nice but possibly unnecessary. Stretches, only do what your body immediately needs. Full body stretch routines are GOOD but they're exercise, not practice. (That said, I do some stretches post-practice to help combat some persistent tension habits...)

Wrist vibrato: make sure it's serving your progress. Doing a lot if you're not sure it's physically working is counterproductive.

Agree that most technic elements should take 3-5 minutes with good attention. Save yourself time and focus for the music. You may help yourself just by mentally "chunking"


1.5 minute starting routine includes stretching and tuning.

2: Scale routine includes 2 contrasting scales w arpeggio, pick a specific concept to focus on (intonation of a specific finger, bow contact, type of rhythm or bow articulation, etc--make that scale work count!) 2x each unless there's something you want to go back for but after about 3-4 reps you'll get diminishing returns, try again tmw :) Give yourself 10 minutes

3. New technique or important maintenance. 4's are good to practice :) Keep it to 1-3 things, 10 minutes

4. Music!! (Though that could be another whole thread...! Not just reps, but intention!)

Reviewing old pieces is a good practice too!

5. Brush-up technique, review stuff, "jamming" experimenting, whatever you'd want to play "for fun"

March 29, 2023, 5:04 PM · Yes I have certainly dealt with a lot of time constraints before and in my opinion, I think you are actually spending too much time on scales and warming up. It would be beneficial if you could add an etude into your daily practice routine as it would help you build the technique that you need for repertoire.

Itzhak Perlman has a very good 3 hour practice routine in which he says that you should spend at least one hour on scales/arps/warming up, another hour on etudes/caprices (such as Paganini, Kreutzer, Rode, Fiorillo) and then another hour on your current repertoire.

You can find the link to this article here:

If you also cannot manage to do 3 hours, and say you could only do one hour of practice, then divide the three things equally, meaning you would spend 20 minutes on warming up, 20 minutes on etudes and 20 minutes on your repertoire.

I think the most important thing would be to not do too many reps unless you know what you are trying to improve. Try not to do reps just for the sake of doing them but rather focus on what you might need to work on for each rep for your warming up scales/arps.

Edited: March 30, 2023, 9:05 AM · I think it is important to have a warmup routine sufficient to bring you as close as possible to your best level of the previous practice session.

My warmups until I was 40 were a minimum; 2 fast 3 octave scales (one or 2 bows up or down) and not much more and then I would work on whatever music I was working on. For orchestra my home practice was focused primarily on the tough passages and that seemed to work for me and left plenty of time for chamber music preparation and any solos.

Following some good advice at a masterclass when I was almost 39 my warmup time grew to about 30 minutes including scales, "bow work," some "Dont Etude #6" (for 4th finger trills) and a couple of Paganini Caprices (not the really hard ones). The 30 minutes all that took every day was just warm up time and it carried me through some joint pain and out the other side so I was able to practice/play comfortably for any length of time and I experienced another 10 years of reasonable (if slow) improvement.

Now it's almost 50 years since that masterclass and I start practice sessions with one 3 octave scale (very slowly, one bow per note - have to steady my tremorous right hand) up major and down minor and a bit of "bouncing bow stuff." Then I do what I need to memorize the very fast notes I can't see quite clearly enough (barely 2-1/2 weeks now until our scheduled chamber orchestra concert, delayed since April 2020) and I need to be sure they are in my "muscle memory." Have to save my finger joints, which will begin to hurt when the going gets rough - so I can't really practice for too long.

Listen to your body! and your teacher!

March 30, 2023, 7:15 AM · Repeating ten times?
I recommend 3 times, then choose the best and try to reproduce it 3 more times; repeat this process; then choose the best of nine to finish.
March 30, 2023, 8:37 AM · You’ve gotten a lot of good advice already. My two cents: don’t practice a different scale/arpeggio every day. Pick one or at most two (major with either its relative or parallel minor) to focus on a week at a time, and practice the arpeggio that goes with the scale key. The idea is to really get that key into your fingers and perfect the intonation. You aren’t going to do that if you keep changing it up every day.
Edited: March 30, 2023, 2:19 PM · What are finger taps?.

I think Paul sums it up in a nutshell. My own practice routine at the moment, consists of G major 3 octave, B flat 3 octave, A major 3 octave and D major 3 octave, I then play a few scales in 3rd position and 5th position, after that I practice double stop etudes, which are great for intonation, and then I practice anything new and after that I practice my own rep, I dont do as you do with a set amount of repetitions. I devote time to each thing, like maybe 15 minute scales 15 double stops 15 new stuff and 15 rep. at first I practiced about 2 to 3 hours a day but have gradually gone less and less due to time constraints.

For me its more important than anything to listen very hard, better to play a couple of pieces in tune than fifty out of tune, well done for taking it up and sticking with it, its hard.;)

By the way, very slow is the way to practice.And although its painful(for me anyway), if you dont do it already, video yourself, its a great help, because what you hear, under your ear is often quite different to the reality.

March 31, 2023, 1:57 PM · I appreciate the feedback everyone! Some really good advice that will be very helpful.

March 31, 2023, 10:45 PM · I agree with Mary Ellen. The Flesch scale book is a fun source of scales for me. At first, one day per key wasn't enough - more like two weeks. However, after a while it became rather repetitive especially the simple scales and arpeggios. This is actually a rather recent project for me. Slowly working through and mastering the content of the Flesch scale book

Go slow. Pay close attention to intonation and tone. Be very aware of what your body is doing when you are playing. Relaxed playing. Position of hands. Relaxed shoulder. Where is your elbow? Where is your thumb? Do you feel tired? Why?

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