Making the Violin Dead Simple
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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About the Author
Bill Alpert is a performer, teacher and author with a unique focus on personal development and mindfulness viewed through the lens of violin study. Mr. Alpert's resume includes recordings, performances and film scores with artists such as The Moody Blues, Pepe Romero, Tina Turner and Johnny Mathis. The co-founder of the award winning Alpert Studio of Voice and Violin in California, he is professionally active in the American String Teachers Association and the Suzuki Association of America.