Do you have a dozen half-baked projects on your music stands?
What about those violin songs or pieces you’ve been practicing for weeks, months or even years, but you still don’t have much to show for your work?
Here are a few suggestions to spur your motivation, speed your progress and get unstuck on your violin music:
1. Work with a coach, teacher or other accountability partner. During and after the move of my violin studio to Morro Bay, CA, I’ve had a bit of logistical down time. I’ve booked some lessons with a coach to get things back on track. (Yes, even seasoned players need to mentor with others from time to time). There is no way I’ll go into my coaching sessions less than prepared. And I’ll bet this will work for you too.
2. Calendar a performance date for your music. Knowing that a performance or audition is imminent will often be a powerful kick in the pants.
3. Build one or more small footholds for each practice session. Human beings generally avoid tackling large projects. But the ability to complete a series of small goals is easily available to any level of player. For example, my coach asked me to prepare a Kreutzer etude. So I’m completing a foothold or two a day on Kreutzer #12 as follows:
- Play the etude slowly, to identify and mark a red X on any measures that are most likely to contain pitch problems.
- For each subject measure that contains pitch problems, identify the probable cause of the problem and one or more solutions. Complete at least 2 or 3 of these in each practice session.
- Choose one or more problem measures per day, select and implement the best solution.
- Identify tone and rhythm problems across bar lines. For example, can I maintain great tone and rhythm when playing measure one, and then maintain that level of polish while I transition to measure 2.
- Link increasingly longer segments of music. Start with 2 bars, and expand to a whole section or phrase of the etude.
- Video record my self playing an eight bar section of the etude at performance level.
And so forth. Depending on the challenge in front of you, more or less structure can be added to your practice session. As I complete each foothold, my progress is constant and obvious! Each day, I ascend the mountain one step at a time, and soon it begins to look like a mole hill. The key is to plan your practice in detail, write down the steps and check them off as they are completed.
Your transformation: Working within this structure is transformative! It seems like more work, but it’s actually more fun. It works for violin practice, and equally well for just about any other large goal that you could consider.