Getting Started on Violin Practicing the Violin

Feeling Lazy? Naughty? It Might Just Be Your Practice Room

When it’s time to practice, your gorgeous home may be your very worst enemy. The luxurious carpet. The rich and inviting furnishings. The decorator paint colors on the wall. They’re all tiny signals that tell your mind: “Relax, enjoy. It’s all good.” And that may be the single worst message you can plant in your brain at practice time.

This isn’t about the buzzing and whirring gadgets like smart phones and computers. Those obvious distractions should be banished from any practice room. Duh. Instead, this is much more subtle, this is about providing your brain with the cues that tell your mind “oh yeah, I need to dig deep for the next thirty minutes.”

Enjoy an engaged brain during practice. Not relaxed, but fully active in a positive way.

Can you imagine the practice rooms at Julliard are furnished with overstuffed chairs? Then adjust your reality by asking any Julliard music student. Or visit the practice rooms at any top college music building; you’ll find a practice space that might resemble the hotel room of your worst nightmares. Plain Jane, even ugly.

Get inside the brain of a great practicer

From the outside, you might say: “talent.” But if you could crawl inside that brain you’d see something like a rat finding a path through a complicated maze. Looking. Experimenting. Sorting. Remembering. Repeating as needed. All in the space of a few seconds, and all focussed on just a tiny morsel of music. From the inside out, it’s all shockingly unromantic.

Great practice is shockingly unromantic

Give your lizard mind the choice between an overstuffed chair and an empty cubicle, and and lazy wins every time.

Your cushy work space is likely the cause of your too short, too shallow, or worse yet, boring practice session. Enjoy the furnishings, and cheat yourself out of the wonderful sense of accomplishment that comes when your technique grows stronger, your music becomes more beautiful.

Go Ugly

It seems like a paradox, until you try it for yourself. Making beautiful music requires you to experience “ugly.” My students are often surprised at the less than beautiful violin experiments I assign during lessons. My prescription for a perfect practice room is much the same.

Practice where you can find plain walls, hard floors and lack of clutter. Add a full length mirror to keep you laser focussed on YOU! And it goes without saying, No phones, gadgets or other modern distractions. You might find the perfect practice space in an empty hallway or service porch.

Whether you’re an adult violinist, a self practicing young musician, or a parent practicing with a very young child, all the same rules apply.

Your InvincibleViolin Take-Away: Find your closest practice space that puts your mind in a balanced, resourceful and laser focussed problem solving mode. You’ll be shocked at the difference a place can make. Try it on your very next practice session!

Has changing your practice space changed your singing? Please leave a comment below!

By Bill Alpert

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.