For your age and at the level you are now playing, to get into a top conservatory, in my humble estimation, you need a teacher of a level that can qualify to get you into such a school. Such a teacher should have already achieved that with other students.
Also, drop those other time-gobbling extra curricular activities, double or triple your practice time according to the assignments your teacher gives you. I would also expect your teacher to direct your extra curricular activities, if any, toward some orchestral and chamber music and sight-reading opportunities.
I don't do it exactly as planned all the time. Sometimes, I wake up late or I have many errands to take care of during the day. The biggest factor is trying to plan ahead and knowing what to expect going into each practice session.
Why are you doing so many extracurriculars? Are there any that you love more than others, that you could keep one or two while jettisoning the rest? How badly do you want to be a professional violinist? You need to give this some thought, and determine for yourself where your heart lies. To have a chance of catching up, you should be averaging more like 3 to 4 hours of practice a day.
I also have to tell you that even for students who are not behind, the path forward is difficult, and there are no guarantees. If you can be happy doing something else in your life, consider doing that other thing while continuing to play the violin for the love of it.
Nobody here can evaluate your level based on your rep list alone. We'd have to hear (and, ideally, see) your playing. Bach Double and Bruch ... that's a pretty wide skill range.
I'm a Mozart-level violinist on a good day, and there is a lot of the quartet literature that will be forever beyond me, and that's a little depressing. There's also a lot that I can play, fortunately, even if some of the tempos need to be taken down a little.
Sure, you could probably find time for more practicing if you weren't doing so many extracurriculars.
But having said all that, your original question of how to practice more efficiently is still valid even if you can find more time!
Here are my suggestions:
Make sure you have a frank talk with your teacher. Make sure they know you want to improve a lot. Talk about what you should be practicing -- scales? studies? planned sequence of repertoire? Your instrument and bow -- are they adequate to the task? If your teacher can't answer these questions you need a different one. Changing teachers is hard but sometimes you have to.
Schradieck is great -- are you only doing the first two pages? If so, try doing the next 8-10 pages over the next couple of months. You'll be getting one hell of a workout because those studies are harder than No. 1. At your level you could be doing Mazas Etudes Op. 36 and then starting Kreutzer. Ask your teacher whether you need more left-hand work (like Schradieck) or whether you need more work on bowing, in which case you could do Sevcik Op. 2.
When you pick up your violin, have a plan. Probably 80% of your time needs to be on just hard stuff. Hard passages in your rep pieces. Pushing your skill at scales (are you doing scales in thirds?). Hardest sections of your etudes or studies.
Violin practicing is sometimes repetitive. But it should not be mindlessly repetitive. With each repetition you need to know what you're improving. Work to improve how well you listen to yourself, because without that, you will have no idea whether you're playing correctly or not. Generally listening and playing skills evolve in parallel.
First thing you need to do is make sure you have a teacher who is used to preparing students for conservatory auditions. It sounds like you are doing some of the right things, but your repertoire list is a bit bizarre -- Vivaldi a min and Bruch are hugely different in level.
My kids find that doing 30+ minutes before school on scales and etudes is really helpful. They typically do a whole set of Flesch scales (single string, 3-octave with 3-6 bowings, arpeggios and scales in thirds, sixths, octaves, and tenths). My younger one (closer to your age) also does a couple pages of Schradieck, two Kreutzer etudes, and some Sevcik for bowing.
Expect to be practicing 3 hours a day if you are truly serious. You will need to cut out most of the other extracurriculars, and likely will even need to cut back on things like orchestra to get more practice in.
Also, make sure you attend summer music camps or programs, preferably the ones that mostly focused on lessons and practicing. This will help you to see the actual level of conservatory-bound students and how much they practice.
In my opinion, you're doing too much repertoire given your practice time (unless you're learning the Bruch and simply occasionally reviewing the rest, which shouldn't involve those other pieces taking up practice time on a regular basis). Also, was the Bruch assigned to you by your teacher or is it something that you decided to just do on your own?
You should be spending at least two hours a day on technique, and an additional hour on repertoire. Three hours is your minimum; since you're behind, it'd be better to aim for at least four hours a day, seven days a week. That might mean cutting out most if not all other extracurriculars. It might mean you take a less demanding academic courseload so you can do more practice and less homework. And it might mean that you give up recreational, social or religious time.
Practicing efficiently will help you squeeze more out of your daily hour, but you're not going to make anywhere near the progress of a student who is practicing efficiently for four hours a day.
What I've noticed in this discussion (and elsewhere on this forum) that there seems to be (to me :)) a big difference between the US and Europe. I have the impression that kids in Europe progress slower, but end up at the same level (or higer) then the kids in the US or Asia. I know somebody who will start Julliard this september and just started playing Bruch at 14. It's not all about what piece at what age. Is there in Europe more attention to sound production or to musicalty? I don't know... What I do know is that kids here play violin for fun and when they realize they want to become a professional violinist (mostly when they are a teenager), then they get serious and start making the hours.
Fischer's point is that the standard for teenagers (and young adults) in the UK is far below the US standard.
It’s all about the audition.
I can't speak for the UK, the differences between the European countries are extremely big. For example: I just read about a protest in Finland, about cuts on music education: private lessons are cut back from 60 to 30 minutes. That was a shock to me, because in my country (I’m from the Netherlands) if you want to learn an instrument you start with 15 or 20 minutes per week (no grouplessons). We hardly have any music education at primary schools and in high school a little bit. But no school orchestras for example. Homeschooling is forbidden here and teenagers make long days at school. That’s hard to combine with music.
On the other hand, my country has amazing violinists. Janine Jansen of course, but also Simone Lamsma, Jaap van Zweden (now conductor), Rosanne Philippens, Liza Fertschman and our rising star Noa Wildschut.
If the level at the start of conservatories of the kids in the USA is so much higher, why does America have so little top soloist if you compare it to European countries? I know Hilary Hahn and Joshua Bell, but that’s about it? So maybe there must be more to it then just the level at a young age?
If you would like to see more about the violin playing in my country you can watch our national violin competition. https://www.youtube.com/@nederlandsvioolconcours899/playlists
That’s quite the contention, Mikki. I haven’t heard of any of these people you’ve mentioned besides Jansen. Does that mean those other musicians don’t exist?
I don't know how you're going to get any better advice than all of the above. But on one tiny detail, please consider the following in addition to your regular practice.
I'm a (now retired) amateur, but in the realm of actual practice efficiency, may I suggest an extremely minimal daily routine? This is based on a brief article I got published in 1975 in The Instrumentalist (which I have mentioned on various discussion threads here).
The idea is to take 3 minutes a day. Play some technical musical detail (a shift, a couple of measures of a piece, a bow change, a scale, etc.). Play it super slowly, but with full concentration and with the goal of playing it absolutely perfectly, technically and musically.
You can choose something different each day, but do this for 3 minutes once a day. What you are practicing is focus of attention and complete control over what you are doing. It is mental as well as physical practice.
How can you not find 3 minutes, even on your busiest day? The goal is to practice 100% of your attention on what you choose to focus on. In addition to your regular daily practice, just add this 3 minute routine for a week or two and see what happens.
Hope that helps.
Being as general as possible, Louis, the best way anyone can make their practice more efficient is to use their ears more.
The following well-known soloists/major prize winners were born in the USA. Perhaps you’ve heard of one or two of them. Just a partial list as I do have things to do today.
Eugene Fodor (deceased)
Aaron Rosand (deceased)
Joseph Silverstein (deceased)
Yehudi Menuhin (deceased)
Noah Bendix-Balgley (1st concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic)
Rachel Barton Pine
Anne Akiko Meyers
The following violinists were born elsewhere but received a substantial portion of their training in the USA. I am only including those who moved to the US to study before college age. This is a very partial list.
Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg (emigrated age 8)
Frank Huang (NY Phil concertmaster; emigrated age 7)
Ida Kavafian (emigrated age 4)
Leila Josefowicz (emigrated age 3)
Isaac Stern (deceased; emigrated at 14 months)
The only violinist on your list that I have heard of is Janine Jensen.
Just looked up the others. Jaap van Zweden went to Juilliard. Liza Fertschman studied with American violinist Ida Kavafian at Curtis.
I do hope you all know Jaap van Zweden, being the former conductor NY Phil. Simone Lamsma reguarly performs in the US. And I would suggest to look en listen to the other names I mentioned, maybe you will be pleasantly surprised. I will absolutly do that with your list Mary Ellen.
If its true what you all are saying about the difference between US and Europe, than I'm a bit worried. But that's another topic to start on this forum maybe...
TO I love the advice Sander Marcus is given. It;s the same our teacher recommends when stuck with a piece. 2 times 3 minutes with absolute focus and really slow. Besides that: still make the hours :)
Upon reflection I do know of Jaap van Zweden. I just keep conductors isolated in a completely separate part of my brain.
Many, many, many more violinists graduate every year from conservatories all over the world than will ever become famous, let alone considered “great.” A lucky and gifted few will become notable soloists. A few more will become great concertmasters and/or pedagogues. Many will become, like me, musical “good citizens” with jobs in professional orchestras ranging from large to small, teaching young people who will mostly go on to be the audiences and amateurs of the future, bringing joy and beauty to their communities. Others will go on to lives in different fields, enriched by their experience making music at a high level.
My list is not an exhaustive compilation of the greatest American violinists of the last 100 years. It is literally the names that immediately came to my mind with a little help from google. The point I was making was that the American system does indeed result in a significant number of prominent violinists.
I suspect, but cannot prove, that the number of non-US musicians who come to the US for conservatory level study exceeds by a large margin the number of US musicians who go abroad for the same.
So all the students that go to Curtis or NEC or Juilliard from all around the world have had the kind of early training that can produce a soloist. And all it really takes is having a single teacher in an area that can do that, and of course, kids that are resourced enough to put in the hard work with the help of their parents and community.
The US, having been a rich country, had a lot of great teachers come over, and the conservatories benefited, but nowadays, you have violinists from South Korea that have world class teachers as kids, and don't even have to bother coming to the US for their conservatory training, because they might have the best teachers in the world there (who are now often completely homegrown, but whose teachers and grandteachers studied in the west with Galamian, among others). So it's these little concentrated studios that then pollinate other areas with certain students that go on to be the great teachers for the next generation.
There are certain economic conditions that allow these great teachers to flourish, but I think that savvy students go and seek out individual teachers, and don't obsess about a name like Juilliard or Curtis, narrowly (of course they'll be well taken care of there). Bron and other very in-demand teachers are in Europe.
Of course, the strong conservatories also benefit from having tons of talented students raising the bar and learning from each other.
It is true that what grad schools and orchestras want is a fantastic audition. In my opinion, the odds of reaching that level of playing are much improved by going to a school where one is surrounded by musicians better than oneself.
I wholeheartedly agree with your last sentence.
No doubt I made mistakes, but it's pretty clear where most talented violinists were getting their training over the past 10 years... the US is a big country with an elite music education system that has benefited from successive waves of migration of top violinists/teachers--some persecuted for their religion/ethnicity and others simply seeking better opportunities...
Edited to note that I found it very difficult to determine where finalists in the continental EU received their training, so I lumped them together. Vienna, Austria had at least two of the five.
Just look at all the kids who start soccer at the age of two and are playing serious soccer by the age of six or seven, for instance. The same is applicable to a lot of sports -- and these are kids for whom a professional sports career is probably even less probable than a career as a violinist.
You'll find that this can be the same in academics, too. Consider math. Kids go to Art of Problem Solving starting in second grade, or Russian Math even earlier -- and math acceleration often occurs in elementary school, setting them up to be well ahead of their peers by the time they get to high school.
So it's pretty reasonable to expect that whatever the specialty, kids are spending two or three hours a day on it by middle school in all likelihood, and certainly by high school. If you start late, then you need to put in more time to catch up.
We can probably assume that for some modest percentage of those serious students of whatever, some amount of their practice/study time is wasted. But for many, they've already been taught to use that time efficiently, so you can't simply out-efficient them. You have to actually put in the hours.
The exact same is true of music, even with kids who aren't planning to study music beyond high school.
As usual, Joel Quivey has a great long-term perspective of progress, in this case what preparation in the field is necessary. Realistically the opportunities available in orchestras and chamber music far outnumber those for solo careers. I really appreciate Joel's reinforcement of gradual introduction of orchestral excerpts, something I encourage in my studio.
But what about the practice strategy to get there? Here is where I have to part company with those that suggest time should immediately accelerate to three or four hours a day. That is a very dangerous proposition! It would be a rare student indeed that could not only handle that immediate load physically but MENTALLY as well. The risks of repetitive motion injury and discouragement are real when this extra time is piled on so quickly.
The road to success, in my opinion, must involve a more systematic approach, one I suggest to my students that I call musical mitosis. Let's go with your minimum time of one hour daily. Divide that time into two twenty-five minute sessions (separated by at least ten minutes, although placing them during different parts of the day might be even better). Every X number of days or weeks increase each session by five minutes. In your case I would do this at least twice a month. Once you get to fifty minutes, split each session into two twenty five-minute sessions, and so on until you reach that milestone. Why not the full half hour? When you start to "chunk" the extra sessions together a ten-minute break is as essential as the playing itself to clear your mind.
It is also important to remember some other things as you establish such a regimen:
Practice time really implies that you commit to work primarily on the weakest passages in your literature, NOT the material you already sound well on. If you do otherwise, you will not achieve the progress you seek. The best you can ultimately hope for under that mindset is music as a avocation. Give yourself some time to play for enjoyment, but always assume the most important goals of practice are detective work and a fascination with the process of examining music in a fresh way.
Do not have a clock within eyesight. It is too easy to get "legalistic" about time, to the extent that the focus is taken away from literature or technique. It would be better to set an alarm in another area of the room, and be amazed that the time passed so quickly!
Consider the use of silent left and right hand exercises before actually playing. This does not even have to take five minutes, but what happens physiologically is a beneficial, gradual warming of the musculature. Doing this will make your hands feel like they have already been in practice mode for at least a half hour! Think about it: how many marathon runners have you seen immediately start wind sprints before the race? They do not-they are stretching in order to optimize their peak performance!
Keep a brief journal of your struggles-and triumphs. If you share this information with your teacher he/she might be better able to pinpoint things to work on at the lesson.
Record a practice session in its entirety. Do NOT keep going back to it every couple of minutes. Just let the recording continue, then listen to it sometime later in the day. You need to be honest with what you are hearing, but not in a condemning way. Let it bring to mind things that need more attention. This can be something to share with your teacher as well.
Finally, get in the habit of using a metronome, especially once you get to the point of beginning your studies on orchestral excerpts. Rhythmic stability is often a major priority for those on an audition committee.
Please keep us up to date with how you are doing!
My advice is to listen to the advice that sounds blunt and like "tough love", and not the advice that runs contrary to that. Not that there aren't many optional paths before you, but if you keep the goal you stated, the realists are going to be your best guide.
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