Practice Tips

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Plan To most effectively use your valuable time, plan in your mind exactly what you are going to do. Use your notes if you have notes from your lesson. Physical and mental warm-ups, envisioning what you want to accomplish, planning which spots to focus on in advance, which scale you’ll use and which arpeggios, which exercises to do, how much time you can allot to each step are all very useful aspects to your practice time. Do not ever just run through anything, which is practically useless. Focus on breathing, skills, technique, listening, evaluating and what will serve the process so that you’ll be ABLE to play musically when you play in front of someone, whether it’s your teacher, a friend, relative or in a concert.

Record yourself Use a decent quality recorder or camera to make a recording of what you’re working on. This is an easy way to get an unbiased overview of what you are doing since it’s so easy to overlook or miss something while engaged in producing the sounds of the piece on our instrument. 

Transpose Take a piece which you know by heart and play it in another key. One easy way to do this is just start it on a different string. Think about where you might need to shift, or cross strings.

One string scales  (advanced level) Play a one octave scale on a single string with the pattern playing with fingers 1-2 shift 1-2 shift 1-2 shift 1-2 shift and then reverse, or 2-1 shift 2-1 shift 2-1 shift 2-1. Many have done this lovely pattern before.

I recently stumbled on a slight variation which is also very useful, which is to repeat the next higher tone of the scale with a new finger. 1 – 2 shift 1 to previous 2 and so on. 

Do body warm ups before touching your instrument. Arm circles small, medium and large, figure eights on one foot, both directions and then switch, arm stretches, head rolls, and finger exercises. Playing an instrument is like a sport for your smaller, finer muscle systems so do not neglect them. Avoid tension and strive for relaxed, slow motions, never fast, at the beginning of warming up.

Get secure with playing whole and half steps in major scales first, then learn to play minor scales. Pay attention to intonation. Develop your ear and take your time when working on intonation so that you learn to differentiate between the actual  sound quality of pitches. When it is truly in tune the sound will ring out brightly.

Try an air bow. That is, try using a pretend bow and draw it back and forth over an imaginary violin, with the hand relaxed and the wrist slightly leading or supinating on up-bows and slightly pronating on down bows. Think about the long, thin “C” shape that your wrist paints while drawing a straight bow. Slowly and deliberately move your pretend bow over one imaginary string so you notice the motion of the hand. Use a mirror to look at the motion of your hand, wrist and elbow. The shoulder should be relaxed.


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