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 and mental breathing “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.
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This short video is taken from my Ultimate Vibrato Workshop, but it applies to any/every aspect of practicing a musical instrument. I hope it inspires you toward more skillful and enjoyable violin practice. For more information on the full training, click here.
Here’s something I’ve created to enhance your violin practice. Please try it and and let me know your thoughts!
The EAPT is an unconventional and powerful way to enhance your music practice. This seven minute practice experience is a constantly evolving constellation of sounds that will take you deep into the universe of the A Major scale.
The usefulness of this EAPT extends far beyond the practice of scales and arpeggios. It has applications ranging from improvisation to tone development to meditation.
While this EAPT is suitable for all instruments, ages and levels it was originally conceived and tested for stringed instruments.
Please let me know how YOU might use EAPT in your own music practice!
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.
Many teachers and families use games and activities to spur on the music practice cycle in their kids. If this works for you, great. But take heed:
Games, stickers and similar activities only motivate the student as far as the game itself. They won’t in themselves make students care about the music or the violin. Then, when the novelty of the game wears off, what is left?
On the other hand, when a kid really cares about music and the violin, meaningful progress will occur, even with a beat up instrument and uneven family support.
For older students and adults, it’s much the same. Your deep passion for the work will carry you through the inevitable bumps and dips.
Inspire, don’t entertain. It’s not your job to amuse those kids with an endless parade of practice bribes. So prepare to go deeper into the music as a family. Here are some suggestions:
Too busy or not interested in doing the above? Then you’ll get poor results at best. Be prepared for “I’m bored,” or “I don’t like violin lessons.” Novelty wears off quickly.
Seriously. If you don’t care, why should your kids?
My bottom line, speaking as a teacher to a student or to a family: “If you don’t care; I can’t help you.”