Practicing Violin Effectively in Less Time

Is having talent overrated?

Well, this may surprise you a little, but if you want to be a great violinist, freeing up some more practice time is not enough! It’s more in the WAY that you’re spending your practice time.

images-33I’ll give you an example. Around one year ago, there was a student who visited me for just one lesson who, for a period of some five years, had been teaching herself.

She said she had practiced consistently one hour a day for those five years before she came to me for her first lesson in my studio.

You may feel that if someone had been practicing for so long, she would probably sound pretty good, but that’s not necessarily so. If somebody spends lots of time on practicing in an improper way, their progress may very well stagnate, and they may even get set back immensely.

Take Shelly on the other hand, a student of mine who’s just over 50. If she would have been practicing for five years and would have sounded like this, she definitely wouldn’t have been happy about her progress, but she had practiced effectively! It was a great help to her that I had showed her how to practice in the right way, and that I provided her with the proper mindset.

Progress In Violin Playing Is Not Only Based on Practice Time

Now let’s take a look this example of one of my students, Natasha. She is a gifted learner and spent one hour per week on practicing during the past three years. Natasha now has pretty good basic technique and her playing is sounding far better than that of several students who may have been playing the violin for a decade or longer.

If students practice the violin in a correct manner, they will progress better, so student 1 may sound a lot better than student 2, even in student 1 may have spent only 1/20 of the time that student 2 spent on the violin. I really hope this will open your eyes. The reality is that practicing smart is more important than practicing hard. So you now may have learned that you may pay not so much attention to how much time you’ll spend practicing, but far more on HOW exactly you practice.

Deliberate Practice, That’s The Way!

Now what do we mean by deliberate, or mindful practicing? Well, deliberate practice is actually a highly structured and systematic activity, an approach that is (forgive the word) more scientific. Rather than mindless and continuous trial and error, deliberate practice is a thoughtful and active process of experimentation that includes clear hypotheses and goals.

Paul Kantor, the famed violinist, once was heard saying that a practice room really should be more like a laboratory, a room that allows you to tinker freely with different concepts and ideas. Where you can experiment technical and musical, and discover which combination of styles and ingredients are producing a result you mat be looking for.

Generally, deliberate practice is a slow process that involves (sometimes endlessly seeming) repetition of very specific and small sections of a specific piece from your repertoire rather than merely playing through the entire piece. You may need to work on just that opening note of a solo to ensure that it will ‘speak’ or ‘sing’ exactly how you want it to, instead of repeating and playing the complete opening phrase.

3 More Effective Practice Keys

1. Duration

Your practice sessions should be limited to a time frame that lets you stay focused. This could be, for example, only 15 to 20 minutes for pretty young students, or up to 60 minutes for more experienced, older students.

2. Timing

Discover the times of the day that you seem to have maximum energy. This could be during the early morning, or right after lunch, for example. It’s good if you would practice during your naturally given productive periods because those are the best times for you to think most clearly and your focus will be optimal.

3. Goals

Use a notebook to jot down what you’ve discovered at your practice sessions and to keep track of what you’ve achieved on your practice goals. The most important element to getting into your ‘goal zone’ when you practice is to strive constantly for clarity of your intentions. Or to say it in different words, you should always have a clear idea of what sound you are striving to produce, or which specific phrasing you wish to try, or what particular articulation or intonation you want to achieve, and so on. You should want to be able to execute this sort of things in an consistent way!