Thoughts on Practicing

Practicing is a necessary evil for learning the violin or viola.  But it doesn't have to be boring!   Here are a few tips for making your daily practice more enjoyable and effective:

Have a Routine

Having a routine is especially important for those days you don't feel like practicing!  Many times just playing for 5 minutes will get you past the pre-practicing doldrums!  Currently my routine consists of dividing my time this way:

  • 1/3 Warm-up Exercises and Scales/Etudes
  • 1/3 Passage Work: detailed practice on passages giving me trouble
  • 1/3 Practicing Performing: running through sections of pieces or whole pieces. 

Your routine will be different according to your level and needs, so feel free to come up with one that is suited to you!

Pick Areas of Focus

This a great practice strategy for passagework.  Pick 5 areas of focus and play the selected passage, each time focusing on 1 of your areas.  For example:

  1. Intonation
  2. Rhythm
  3. Straight Bow
  4. Bow Changes
  5. Vibrato

Make sure to focus on only one of these areas at a time, and by the last time you play you'll notice a significant improvement in the passage!

Mix it up! 

Feeling bored with your routine?  Try these ideas to add a little variety to your practicing:

  • Improvise:  Sing a melody out loud or in your head, then try and recreate it with your instrument.  Alternatively, blast your favorite song on your ipod or stereo, pick a line, and play along!
  • Hold your bow backwards: Instead of holding your bow at the frog, try playing while holding it at the tip!  Primrose did this and it's a great bowing exercise!
  • Find a partner!  Find another player(s) to play chamber music with.

Short and Consistent Beats Long and Infrequent! 

Because of the way long term memories get stored in the brain, you'll see much better results if you practice 30 minutes a day 6 days a week, than if you practice for 60 minutes 3 times a week.  Even though those add up to the same amount of time, the first option will always generate better results come lesson time, and chances are you'll be more focused in the shorter sessions!  

Practice Until You Can't Get it Wrong

This is really important! Many times we practice only until something sounds right once. But think about it, if you've practiced the same passage 10 times and only gotten it right once, then you've got a 10% average! Once you've played a passage correctly, practice it at least three more times to lock it in. Ideally you would do this again over the next couple days, and then the passage will feel easy!

Do What Works For You

In the end, we all have our own style and approach to practice, so do what works for you, just make sure you practice!

How about you?  Do you have any tips or tricks you use to make your practice time more enjoyable? Share them below in the comments.