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Structuring Practice

time to practiceThere are well-established, proven paths to violin advancement. Each week the guidance and practice assignments I give you are deliberately chosen to help you take the next step on that path. Remember, the curriculum I have developed will help you get there as efficiently and quickly as possible. If you trust me and follow this path dilligently and patiently, a step at a time, you will achieve the same results as the people who have taken the same path before you (this includes me, my teachers, and any violinist you may admire and aspire to be!).

Don’t waste your time or frustrate yourself! More advancement can be made in 15 minutes of good practice than in an hour of shabby practice. I’ve constructed my practice chart to help provide a very easy-to-follow, step-by-step framework for a typical practice session. Here is a brief explanation of each section, and its intention.

1. FOCUS – Each week I will emphasize a particular element in your skillset that needs extra attention in order to achieve the next level of playing. This will be detailed in the “Focus” box and should be foremost in your mind during every step of the practice chart. Challenge yourself to make these fundamental changes permanent habits, and you will see palpable and significant improvements in your abilities.

2. TECHNIQUE – Scales and Arpeggios are two basic components of mastering the violin that we will address at nearly every lesson. I will tailor the execution of these to fit your level and will give you detailed instructions on how to practice them that must be undertaken with focus, precision, and discipline. There are two blank boxes beneath these that I will fill with additional technical exercises for your advancement. Whatever technique assignments I give you I prefer quality practice over quantity. What is crucial here is not the amount of time, but the amount of focus.

3. ETUDE – This category is level-dependent and will be handled differently from student to student, ranging from developing note-reading and rhythm skills, to vibrato, shifting, and complicated bow strokes — whatever you most need help with. Careful practice of an etude is important as they are chosen to shore up whatever skills are lagging behind the rest. (Whichever skill is weakest, will drag the rest down.)

4. PIECES – Play through each assigned piece slowly with the metronome (more than once, if possible). Play carefully, with much attention to detail and musicality. Identify problematic sections, then zero in on them, normally 2-4 measures at a time, to dramatically improve them. Drilling these bite-size pieces will usually employ methods like “The Breakdown” mentioned on the practice chart, metronome practice at slow-medium-fast tempi, rhythmic distortions for accuracy and agility, the “trill drill,” “elbow bow,” and the use of “Intonia.” During the course of our time spent together, we will discuss and explore many different ways to help you make these dramatic improvements. Drilling small sections like this has a contagious effect that will automatically help the rest of your piece.

It is important to consider that only one hour a week is spent at the lesson, while the vast majority of your time on the violin will be spent practicing at home. With this in mind, the purpose of your weekly lesson is revealed: Your lesson is meant to teach you how to practice at home. It is this time at home, closely following the practice program I outline for you, that will determine how much progress you will make, so please make sure you understand all instructions before leaving, and follow them faithfully at home. I don’t mind questions, or repeating instructions, so please ask!

The progress you make is up to you! Cheerful students who follow the directions eagerly will generally make much quicker, and more painless, progress.

Posted on Friday, April 23rd, 2010 at 1:31 pm. Follow the comments via the RSS feed.

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