Category Archives for Practice Problems

How I Finally Took Charge of My Ineffective Violin Practice in 2016. And How You Can Do the Same in 2017.

Part 1 of 5.

By the end of 2016 a lot of unexpected things became clear about my violin playing. This was surprising, since I’m certainly not a newcomer to playing (and teaching) the violin.

Here are a few of the more useful surprises:

  • I practiced for hours. Probably too many. But most of the gains, (the stuff that stuck) happened during the first half hour, while I was warming up. I found that no matter what else I did that day, it was crucial to get the first 30 minutes exactly right.
  • Very often I got a lot more done (and learned a song or piece faster) by practicing just a few notes, instead of trying to cover several pages of music.
  • At times I thought that my playing had “topped off.” I kept thinking I had hit the limits of my ability. But think again. More often than not, it was a very common but destructive mindset taking its toll. Believe me, this can really hit you hard when you’re trying to get better.
  • Like me, if the thought of performing in public sometimes turns your stomach, if playing a solo gives you sweaty palms and an uncontrolled bouncing bow, you already know that you are not alone. Happily this got a lot better for me in 2016. The good news is that you have the ability to slow down or completely put to rest your butterflies using the very same methods.
  • If you haven’t already at some point, you’ll start getting work offers (gigs). I’ve learned that it feels great to be asked, but there are times when you’ve simply got to learn how to say “no thanks!” On occasion a bit of negotiation can really help. Accepting the wrong gigs can bite you in the.. (expletive deleted!)

What About Your Own Violin Playing in 2017?

Are you kicking yourself for a lack of progress? Frustrated about all the wasted time, the lost opportunities and the negativity around playing the violin? Shouldn’t violin really be something wonderful and beautiful in your life?

Please, please learn from my mistakes! You can cut out the drudgery and replace the suffering with your own truly beautiful violin practice. You can move ahead in your playing as you move ahead in your life. That’s the idea behind InvincibleViolinist.com.

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Here’s to your most-beautiful-yet violin journey in 2017!

Bill Alpert

Founder: InvincibleViolinist.com
The Alpert Studio of Voice and Violin

Music Lessons. Who Cares?

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.

FOR PARENTS: CREATING KIDS WHO CARE ABOUT MUSIC

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:

  • Attend lessons and take notes (instead of your iPad). Be involved with the daily practice routine
  • Explore music every day.
  • Listen actively as a family and talk about what you’re hearing.
  • Attend live concerts performed by great musicians across many genres.
  • Quit talking (or even thinking) about “talent” and/or comparing your children to their peers.

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.”

Stage Fright

If you’re plagued by stage fright consider this: the performance isn’t about you; you only think it is.

When you realize that instead, it’s about the music, the composer and continual process of mastering your instrument, your thoughts will gravitate away from your insecurities and ego. And toward being prepared more deeply, far more deeply.

Are you afraid of the stage? Or are you afraid of really doing the work?

How to Skip Your Music Practice

Don’t want to practice today? No problem, since you should already keep a notebook or journal handy in your practice room.

On the days you will be practicing:

Just before practicing, jot down a sentence or two about your goals for the session. That’s always a good idea.

If you’re thinking: “I’m not going to practice today,”

Simply write the following in the journal: “I’ve decided I won’t be practicing today.”

Now release any guilt or non productive emotions and go about your day.

Now at least you’ve made a clear choice, and brought a greater degree of mindfulness to your practice. Pay attention to your practice journal over time, and see what happens.

photo credit: mfhiatt via photopin cc