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.
Instead of “practicing the violin music you love” perhaps a more useful idea for students of music, beginner or expert, might be “love the music you practice.”
If you can become passionate about etudes, scales, or music chosen for you by others (orchestra, or teacher for example) it’s far more likely that whatever and wherever you play, you will move your journey forward.
Don’t resist, instead embrace those days. They’re not a bad thing. Actually they are a good thing.
Now you can erase all your assumptions and once again approach your instrument with a sense of excitement, discovery and curiosity.
Isn’t this the place where your best work happens?
You’ve crash landed on a desert isle with only your instrument. No music or books of any kind, and nothing committed to memory. And you can still develop (or maintain) virtuoso level skills on your violin. Simply play scales.
This much maligned musical element has a huge image problem: it is associated with the screeching, torturous notes of beginning players. And mind numbing boredom.
Still, everything you need to know about the violin can be found in a simple scale. Pitch, rhythm, tone production and every known technical feat on the bow or in the left hand can be embedded in a simple scale routine. Even musical gestures and phrasing can be cultivated through the lowly scale.
In fact, the scale is the most utilitarian of all-in-one practice tools, as I have written and often told students. Mostly, they seem unconvinced, offering only a blank stare.
When you come to accept this gospel of scales, it signals that you have made an important transition as a musician. You have finally embraced that practicing is about process, as much as it is about musical content. Pieces and etudes can become extraneous distractions to the work at hand.
Another way to say it, think of practice in its Eastern sense as a state of being. Release the Western implication that it is a verb.
Scales are a perfect fit for this Zen of practice. They can create a spacious sense around your daily work. Scales offer you the promise of pure, high quality practice. This, in turn, enables you to truly master the fundamentals with a higher sense of ease, clarity and purpose.
Try this: next time you stuck on a musical or technical problem in your favorite song or piece, simplify that problem by copying and pasting it onto a scale. You’ll immediately gain a fresh perspective plus new clarity on causes and solutions.
Your transformation: the violin teaches us to clarify and simplify what seems complex and to move through life with ease.