May 08

Keeping Your Violin Practice Private

By Bill Alpert | Transformation through the Violin

I often hear from violinists who aren’t interested in public performance or taking live violin lessons. And that’s OK.

Not every violin journey needs to be public. For many violinists, the practice will be purely personal. There is no unwritten rule that you must share your violin playing with family, friends or anyone at all.

If this feels like you, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. This particular path is just right for your life at this point in time. It is equally powerful, perhaps more so, than a similar journey traveled in public.

True, for some, conquering your personal demons is a path to personal growth, but for others public performance is nothing more than an ego building device.

The art of violin practice is more than just musical. It’s all about being in touch with your deepest motivations, fears and aspirations.

Everyone’s violin journey looks similar from the outside. When you go a little deeper and you’ll find that we all have a unique, personal relationship with our practice. Like snowflakes, no two practices are alike.

The most important thing is to really feel deeply what the violin brings to your life. This feeling doesn’t require words, but it does require that you are fully present for your practice.

Before you grab your violin to play, sit and take a quiet moment to notice the underlying emotion behind your violin practice. What is the dominant feeling in this moment? No need to analyze or think it through. Just breathe smoothly and stay with it for a few minutes; give the underlying emotion enough time to process. Stay aware and you’ll get a signal when it’s time to start.

Making this a daily part of your violin practice will improve the quality of your work, perhaps far more than volumes of scales and etudes.

Eventually you’ll realize that this short “meditation” is perhaps the most useful and and enjoyable part of your practice routine. This is why I’ve included meditations in my online training programs, including the Ultimate Violin Vibrato Workshop. I’ve had several students tell me they love this part of the program!

Whether your violin journey is in public, or fully private, a beautiful vibrato will enhance your enjoyment and will promote relaxation in your hands.

You can experience this for yourself:

>>>Download Step by Step Violin Vibrato Tutorial

Whether you play for one or a million, your violin practice is yours alone. Savor the journey!

~Bill (sitting-on-a-yoga-mat-and-burning-incense) Alpert

Apr 06

Making the Violin Dead Simple

By Bill Alpert | Practicing the Violin , Transformation through the Violin

Always start your practice with something simple. Dead simple.

Even if you feel it’s beneath you.

You’ve got a few minutes to practice the violin? Great! In your busy life it’s increasingly hard to find time you can devote to something that seems so impractical as working on violin tutorials!

So you skip the simple stuff, and go right to the advanced songs and music that you’ve been working on for months. And maybe with little improvement to show for it.

After all, you’re making up for lost time, and who wants to work on those bland songs or boring scales??

But… for almost every violinist, amateur or pro, beginner to expert, starting a practice session with your meatiest musical challenge is a HUGE MISTAKE.

I know, from having lived through this scenario so many times. And like so many other things in life, the right thing to do is sometimes the LEAST OBVIOUS. In fact, your best possible choice is often counter-intuitive. It’s the thing you’re least likely to choose.

Purely by accident I found out that the best way to conquer something I can’t play is to sneak into it by practicing something else. Something entirely different. And most important, something that’s so simple I can practically play it in my sleep.

Makes no sense, right? Or does it?

Mapping Your Practice

Violin is a physical activity. Lots of moving parts to coordinate. It requires a lot of finesse; you’ve got to be in touch with hundreds of subtle body sensations at any given moment.

But we get all wound up in mental traps. And we’re constantly telling ourselves stories about our ability (or lack thereof). We robotically practice ourselves into a state of mental frenzy, neutralizing any ability of our brain to help us.

But worst of all, this negative process becomes habitual. And it cripples us because the emotion inside of it leaves us out of touch with the very physical sensations that are key to improving our skills.

You end up trying harder and harder while digging yourself further into a hole. That nasty lick, that fancy bowing pattern, that hard to find pitch becomes even just a little more impossible every time you try it.

Yes, practice can make your playing worse. It happens all the time.

Don’t become a victim of practice thats “gone mental.”

Always start your practice with an easy physical “meditation.” If you’re feeling rushed, that’s even more reason to take this advice.

Focusing on physical actions and sensations makes the difference between success and failure for violinists. People who try to master the violin by only learning songs soon hit a wall where further improvement is impossible.

That’s why all of my training zooms in closely on the physical motions and actions of playing. Sometimes microscopically close.

For example, my Ultimate Vibrato Workshop includes a 12 minute video that explains the motions of a beautiful vibrato. Step by step.

You can view or download it here. http://invincibleviolinist.com/products–1

Next, I’ll send you a six step roadmap you can use to quickly tackle any practice challenge, so stay tuned.

Enjoy Your Practice Journey!
–Bill Alpert

P.S. Here’s a link to my step by step video training for vibrato. It’s a perfect example of focussing on the motions and actions of playing:

Download it here: http://invincibleviolinist.com/products–1

Dec 13

When Should I Learn Violin Vibrato?

By Bill Alpert | Getting Started on Violin , Violin Vibrato

The best time to start learning violin vibrato? Day one.

Often vibrato is considered an “advanced” technique, which should be pursued only after the basic foundation of the left hand is securely in place.
But instead, vibrato is the natural result of a healthy approach to the instrument.

With that in mind, I ask my beginning students, young or old, to perform motions that resemble (and in fact are) integral to a relaxed and mature vibrato. These motions emanate from both the wrist, elbow and hand joints, which all play a part in the final result.

Some players may want/need to wait before making a formal study of vibrato, but in fact I’ve seen many very young players in their first year of study pull it off with an impressive amount of finesse and freedom.

For me the bottom line is why wait? Developing and perfecting the vibrato reflex takes months and even years. It is integral to every style of playing, and so it should be addressed not as an “add-on” but from the very beginning as an essential part of playing.

Nov 25

Can I Clean My Bow Hair?

By Bill Alpert | Practical Violin

Many a string player has asked, “Can I clean my bow hair?”

In all honesty, I’m not the best person to ask. Though some musicians clean their bow hair, in my view the process is either non necessary or non effective. Over a lifetime of playing, I’ve only felt the need to try it once or twice. Most busy musicians simply replace their bow hair at a regular interval.

Properly maintained, your bow hair will last quite a long time. But it isn’t intended to last the life of the instrument. So when your bow hair looks dirty, it is likely in need of replacement, not simply a cosmetic cleanup. The exception would be a minor smudge in a single spot, caused by your thumb rubbing against the bow hair.

Here are some best practices for bow hair:

– Use your rosin sparingly, and only when it is needed. Most people use too much too often, causing a snowy mess on everything.
– Apply rosin with moderate pressure and slow to medium speed strokes. Too much pressure/speed damages the hair
– Use a quality rosin. If your rosin cake looks brand new, hard or glossy after many uses, it’s probably junk
– Keep your grubby fingers (or the body parts) off the hair!! And remember to release tension in your bow when you’re not playing.

Now, if you are still determined to try and clean your bow hair, remember to remove the frog from the bow so that your cleaning agent isn’t anywhere close to the bow wood. Alcohol and water are not wood or varnish friendly!

Oct 11
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Please Do Not Wait

By Bill Alpert | Practicing the Violin , Staying Motivated to Practice , Transformation through the Violin

Please do not wait until you’ve learned your favorite violin piece to celebrate that within your hands is a beautiful, powerful and precious object that was crafted lovingly at great effort.

Do not wait to recognize that your mindful focus during practice itself is a life affirming, positive statement.

Do not wait until your have achieved that elusive goal we call “mastery” to recognize that real mastery is finding joy in your work this very moment.

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