Categories
Practicing the Violin Quick Violin Practice Hacks

Keep a Journal for Your Violin Practice

I’ve talked about this for the longest time. I’ve done it off and on. But not until this became a daily practice, did I realize how much better it made my practice time.

Why journal, when you really just want to practice? In the moment it often feels like a waste of time and a distraction from the task at hand. But… when enough of these journaling moments are strung together you begin to realize the following:

  1. How much time you lost/wasted because you left out journaling
  2. How much more efficient (faster) you become at getting from point A to B.
  3. How much clarity you gain from the act of seeing your efforts on paper.

I won’t belabor the reasons to journal. If the above three points aren’t compelling for you, you are just dabbling in the violin. Whether pro or amateur, a real violinist shows up regularly, and brings crystal clear focus to her work. It is the difference between a wonderful lifelong journey with our magnificent instrument and simply being the owner of a violin shaped object that will ultimately end up collecting dust in the corner of a closet.

A violin journal can/should be structured according to your particular needs. Here I will share what I keep track of in my journal:

  • Current musical and technical goals, updated regularly. Include performance opportunities and dates.
  • A “setlist” of my practice time, the pieces, etudes and scales that I incorporate in my session
  • Notes alongside the setlist that remind what/how I did last and what’s next for each setlist entry
  • Audio and Video entries that help me self-assess and track my progress over time.
  • For performance pieces, an annotated extra copy of the sheet music with free form ideas, sketches, descriptions, etc. that encapsulate my ideas about the piece.
  • Notes from your teacher/coach

If you have ambitious performance goals, spend more time on journaling. If you’re on a basic course of study, the journal can be quite simple.

Bottom line: if you care, keep a journal. Keep it fresh. Make it real and make it useful. And enjoy your violin journey!

 

 

 

Categories
Practicing the Violin Song of the Month

Bach Peasant Cantata Left Hand Practice

InvincibleViolinist.com Song of the Month

June 2017: Bach Peasant Cantata Part 3 – Left Hand Practice

Update: Over the last couple of weeks we’ve focussed on preparing a practice of Bach’s music. View and/or download these related resources at this link.


Already this month we’ve created a clarified vision of our final musical result and instilled a bit of variety in our Peasant Cantata bow strokes.

It’s great to divide our practice into these discrete but related activities. This “simplify” strategy creates an atmosphere of ease around our practice time.

I can say unequivocally that a practice defined by ease will always connect you to your instrument (and your life) in a more mindful and joyful way.

Said more simply: with easeful practice, your skills and enjoyment will both improve while boredom and struggle fly out the window.

Continuing with the simplify strategy, this we’ll discover to play the Bach with improved left hand intonation. We’ll learn practice tactics that give us better control over pitch.

The ability to play well in tune is a hallmark of good musicianship. Every level of violinist from novice to professional needs this in her toolkit.

Luckily, Peasant Cantata, draws upon a relatively modest palette of pitches. We only need to control a single finger pattern within the A major scale. That’s great news, since the A major scale is perhaps the most accessible in all of violin technique.

Instructions

  1. Begin by placing your fingertips in a row, lightly on a pencil. Think “light touch” as if typing on a keyboard. Learn the A major scale pattern by gliding your 1st and 4th fingers along the pencil. I also call this the “red” pattern in my full course.
  2. On the violin, balance the 3rd finger on the A string in its approximate normal position. Then spread the fingers into the red pattern as noted above.
  3. Use the plucking match to fine tune the pitch of the 3rd finger note (D) by matching to the open D string. You can pluck both together until they sound like a single pitch.
  4. Keep your hand comfortably stretched in the red pattern while you bow the “twinkle” rhythm up the scale from open A up to the 3rd finger. Use a full rich tone.
  5. Follow the same pattern up the E string. You have now completed the A Major scale.
  6. Once you’re comfortable with all the pitches, use the twinkle rhythm to perform all the notes of the Peasant Cantata, one after another.

Tips:

  • The second finger will be right next to the third. If you have thick fingers, 2 and 3 might even be touching.
  • The first finger will stitch back quite considerably from the second. You can test the pitch by playing it alongside an open E string.
  • While “twinkling” though the cantata, begin with small groups of notes, then later expand until you can comfortably play through every note of the piece in sequence.

By separating the pitch from other challenges in this music, we can create more ease when later adding back other elements of the music.

This would also be a great time to review last week’s bowing practice on open strings. At our upcoming live class, we’ll begin to reassemble all the elements of the piece into a unified performance.


Register for the Free June Class

Create a violin practice that really works! Learn how to bring a joyful ease to your practice in my next live online class on June 24, 2017. The June class is The Violin: Your Companion Along the Journey to Becoming Fully Awake and Alive.

Click here to register for the June class.

Categories
Practice Problems Practicing the Violin

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

Categories
Practicing the Violin Transformation through the Violin

Why most violin practice doesn’t work and how to fix it

 

This short video is taken from my Ultimate Vibrato Workshop, but it applies to any/every aspect of practicing a musical instrument. I hope it inspires you toward more skillful and enjoyable violin practice. For more information on the full training, click here.

Categories
Practicing the Violin Staying Motivated to Practice

Turning Passion Inside-Out

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.