Practice Slowly

by | Apr 19, 2019 | 2 comments

This is one simple tip gets you big results from your violin practice

Practice makes permanent, not perfect!

Do you know those 10 hour YouTube videos with a movie quote, like Hitler saying ‘nein nein nein’ for hours? I often joke to my students that one day I’ll make something similar with my saying ‘practice slowly’. Or maybe I should print some shirts with that text. Why?

Whether I’m teaching a beginner or a very advanced student, we often talk about how to practice. In general my advice comes down to this: identify which bar or couple of notes you have difficulty with, analyze what goes wrong exactly and practice that extremely slowly.

It takes your brain quite a while to learn motor skills. If you remember to put something on your grocery list, you can instantly remember it even if you forget it later. Making your muscles ‘remember’ something takes a bit longer. It needs regular and slow repetitions for your brain to process it.

Have you noticed that sometimes a piece improves overnight?

You practiced hard for hours and nothing worked, you give up, go to sleep and… next day when you pick up your violin it suddenly works! Why? Your brain needs time to process what you taught it the day before. That’s why it’s good to ‘put away’ pieces you worked on for a long time to pick them up after some months. It’s wat we call the ‘wine cellar effect’. Good wine ages over the years and gets better…

Hi! I'm Zlata

Classical violinist helping you overcome technical struggles and play with feeling by improving your bow technique.

As a child I just played the piece I had to learn three times a day

When the teacher told me to play it three times daily… I did… and after that I was ‘finished’ playing the violin. Hang on… I was just eight years old.

Playing and practicing are two different things

When you play you have to get everything together in the right moment. When you practice you deliberately focus on ONE thing and leave the rest for a moment. You practice slowly, because you want to have control over what’s happening. You want to get it right in a slow tempo. Once you got it right you can speed up and eventually fit it into the rest of the piece. Zoom in and zoom out. Still wrong? Zoom in again…

If you do a wrong thing in a fast tempo many times, this is what your brain will remember

Try to do it right just one time… very slowly. One good shot is better a lot of random shots.

Only perfect practice makes perfect

When you’re practicing, try to think about what you are telling your hand and your brain. Tell them the good techniques, in tune notes etc. 

How will YOU apply slow practice? Share it in the comments below!


  1. Carol

    I was taught “play it over and over until you can never get it wrong.”

    • Violinist Zlata Brouwer

      That’s definitely not the only strategy and using only one strategy can get you stuck, certainly in more advanced pieces. What was your experience with slow practice and zooming in and out, Carol?


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