How to Practice the Violin Effectively
Do you get overwhelmed by all the pieces, etudes, scales and exercises?
How to make fast progress and feel accomplished after your practice session?
You might feel confused when you start your practice session. You feel you’re always out of time and at the end you have the idea you achieved nothing.
Do everything with a clear goal in mind
Why are you playing that particular scale in that key with that bowing technique? What do you want to improve exactly? The more specific you are, the better you can measure your results and the greater your feeling of accomplishment once you’ve achieved it.
Don’t practice that etude, because it follows after the previous one you did in the book. No! Analyze what exactly is the technique or thing you have difficulty with in the piece you play. Search for scales, etudes and exercises that cover exactly in that. This brings focus to your practice session.
A vague goal is ‘I want to play in tune’. A good goal is ‘I want to improve that transition to the high G in that piece’.
Know the steps to achieve that goal
Do you know exactly what’s not working and why? Do you know what exercises, scales and etudes to pick? This is where the expertise of your teacher might come in.
For example you might not get that high G because your changing positions with the wrong left hand hold. You might pick an etude with similar transitions to practice changing positions the right way. Just practicing a scale that gets you to that G step by step might not be helpful in this case.
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A lot of violin players just play scales, etudes and exercises, because they think that’s the right thing to do. Yes, it is, but you need to understand the system behind it.
How to practice scales?
A scale gets you familiar with the key of the piece your are practicing. Also you can use the scale to practice the bowing techniques necessary in that piece. If you have difficulty with the intonation in that key, you might focus your scale practice on playing in tune. Just play long notes with the whole bow and listen carefully.
What exercises should you pick?
In the above case you might leave the bowing technique to Ševčík exercises. When you’re new to that, you might grab his 40 Variations Opus 3. When you’re more familiar with bowing technique nerding, dive into the School of Bowing Opus 2. There are thousands of exercises and if you want help on which onces to do when and how to practice them exactly, I’m happy to guide you.
Which etude should you study?
Oh, did I mention to practice slowly? Ideally I should mention it a thousand times and print T shirts with it ;).
The big hairy goal: your repertoire, enjoying beautiful music!
Don’t forget we’re doing all this technical stuff to play beautiful music! Never forget that!
Pick pieces that make your heart sing and inspire you to pick up the violin.
Yes, as a classically trained violinist and teacher I know you should pick up repertoire in a sensible order, but…
Why not play that easy Over the Rainbow just because you feel like it today and want to enjoy your own sound without worrying about technique too much?
Why not try to hit some notes in the Brahms concerto even it’s far out of your reach, just to explore your limits?
Thanks to the internet you can download about every piece of sheet music for free.
What do you feel inspired to play today?
Let’s forget about serious practice for a moment. Write down in the comments below the first piece that comes to your mind right now. For me it’s the Debussy sonata. I love exploring the sound colors with my pianist. How about you?