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Practice help needed
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (5 votes) 
Honorary advisor

September 19, 2014 - 12:46 pm
Member Since: February 11, 2014
Forum Posts: 360
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As I am not progressing as much as I would like, I am asking what your daily practice might look like as you might be doing something that I am not.  Tension is my biggest concern.  I can't seem to get past it.  I can relax when I concentrate on it, but when I'm studying a new piece or working to improve on an older one, I tire quickly because I am trying to strangle the neck of the violin.
This is what I do before working on tunes.
5minutes on open bowing, mainly g to e string trying to eliminate accents and bouncing
run through 5 measures of FM finger dexterity on each string
5minutes on 2 octave major scales hopefully to establish muscle memory and clean up some intonation
5 minutes working higher up each string
Then I work on Godfather, changing everything as the mood suits
Then Irish Washer Woman, trying to get my clubs to act more like fingers.  I used to play this at 100 bpm on my wife's dulcimer but so far I am at 50 bps on violin, I'm not complaining, it's just that it doesn't sound as good.
The tune I am working on is Neil Diamonds "You don't bring me flowers".

California, the place of my heart

September 19, 2014 - 2:24 pm
Member Since: January 11, 2012
Forum Posts: 3717
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Sounds like your practice is structured well.  Sometimes there is just a bit of time where we just stay the same and it feels like we are not progressing. Many times a big growth spurt happens right after... Or the lull happens after the big growth spurt.  I used to talk to Daniel about this on the Fiddle chat, it helped me get through some of these times. 

I don't have an answer to your question, but I hope you don't mind if I participate in your topic. 

I am semi overcoming the violin strangling.  I relapse when I don't pay attention but I can see  some relief.  I have  while playing open up my hand and proceed relaxed.  I am getting better and doing this and playing through.  (by no means have mastered)

I have to come up with a new lesson strategy.  I might borrow  some from your plan. 

I hope you get some tips on your question. :)

My practice is going to change as I won't be working on Thaxted for 35 minutes a day. I think I will post my new fall plan. I won't hijack your topic though. 

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

Honorary tenured advisor

September 19, 2014 - 2:43 pm
Member Since: January 19, 2014
Forum Posts: 882
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Maybe somebody needs to invent a new variety of yoga for string players.  I can't play very well, but I have become a self-taught expert in all the things that one can do wrong.  Tension is the worst enemy to good tone production that exists.  It might be that whenever you feel tension starting to build up somewhere, whether that's fingers, arms, shoulders, neck or whatever, stop for a bit and get loose again and then restart.  Easier said than done, I know.  I'm not too bad when I'm alone, but if I hit the record button I'm stiffer than an iron beam. 

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. ~Herm Albright

Honorary advisor

September 19, 2014 - 6:54 pm
Member Since: February 11, 2014
Forum Posts: 360
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Yeah, I had to quit practicing today,,the violin was making gasping noises.

Advanced member
September 19, 2014 - 8:59 pm
Member Since: August 16, 2014
Forum Posts: 53
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hmmmm, i understand what you mean as well. normally i stretch my wrist and fingers before practice, run through a few scales for familiarization and to make sure im still in tune, i spend a few minutes on arpeggios, then a few short songs i know just to stay sharp, then i work on my current project. im about halfway through Crystallize(happy i learned the notes on the instrument). much like @coolpinkone mentioned there seems to be growth spurts then a plateau. i think the lulls are for getting used to and applying the new found technique before another burst of inspiration


September 20, 2014 - 3:59 am
Member Since: September 21, 2013
Forum Posts: 321
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I know i seem to have issues with tension. I actually end up playing in short 10 minuet sets, especially as i'm learning a new piece because i get to tense trying to read music, play the right notes, and coordinate my left and right hands. I've found that by doing as some of the other members, and when i get tensed i take a few minuets break, set my violin down and shake out my arms and relax for a second before continuing. I think tensing is something we all have issues with especially in the beginning! 

Lead me, Follow me, or get out of my way!

             ~General George S. Patton


September 20, 2014 - 1:37 pm
Member Since: May 4, 2012
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MrYikes, tension that develops while playing is one problem.  Tension you bring into a practice or playing session is another.

I deal with the latter before any practice by stretching my hands for a few minutes while I plan out the variable parts of practice.  Then some very basic things to limber the upper body.. Neck circles, shoulder rolls, trunk twists, shaking out the wrists and hands, that sort of thing.  Then pick up the instrument and bow, bring the violin to playing position, and then consciously relax and take a couple of deep breaths before raising the bow.. I find that helps a bit.

My current practice routine for violin:

5 minutes of open string bowing with long full bow strokes.  I make them slower as i start to warm up, seeing how slow I can draw the bow and still get good sound.

5 minutes of open string bowing in the rhythm of interest at the moment (one of those variable parts i mentioned).  That can be a "standard" like 4/4, 3/4, 6/8, 7/8.. Or it can be the rhythm of some song or piece where I have noted I am clumsier than I like.  

5 minutes of open string bowing as doublestops.  It can be long strokes or a rhythm of interest.  

Then I move on to practising scales of interest against a simple click or beat (like a metronome) but with a short reference note (Like a C for the key of C Major or minor, for example) on every 4th beat.  That way the drone isn't here as a constant reference, but it is often enough that I can keep checking my intonation against it while working on playing to a beat.  As I get comfortable and get the playing on the beat precise enough for my liking I start multiplying how many notes I play to each beat.  I push that a bit to see how many I can play per beat while still staying right dead on the beat and keeping my intonation decent.  

5 min per scale chosen for the day, 3 scales, so it is another 15 minutes.

Then I improvise to backing tracks where I can use those scales I just practised, but in a more creative way.  Sometimes I do 5-8 min with a backing track for each scale, or if I'm feeling gutsy, I may work out of only one scale for about 20 minutes.  That is actually a rather long time to improvise, just making melody up as you go along.  It gives your creativity quite a workout, if you are actually trying to some up with things to play that not only fit, but sound interesting and good. LOL

That's my usual minimum basic practice.  The focus/purpose of it is to do a reasonable amount of work on basic skills and techniques, but the improvisation section is for working to develop fluidity and fluency.  As I am using those words here, "Fluidity" is what I am calling the ability to move from any note in a scale to any other note comfortably.  "Fluency" is knowing what that move will actually sound like before doing it.  The only way I know to improve those is experience, and what has usually worked best for me to gain that experience is improvisation.  It is what I have found to work for me, I don't know if it would be the best choice for you or anyone else. 

So there ya go, MrYikes, I hope it helps.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

Honorary advisor

September 20, 2014 - 2:45 pm
Member Since: February 11, 2014
Forum Posts: 360
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thumbs-up  yep, that helps a lot.  Thank you for your time and expertise.

Here is a little diddy that you might like to play with.  I have been a drummer.  We use a sticking called paradiddle which is right left right right left right left left etc.  I play with that on bowing ,,,,up down up up down up down down.  Its fun.

Fort Lauderdale
September 26, 2014 - 7:45 am
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 11604

It may sound redundant, but there is good practice and bad practice. When you feel the tension coming on, do as Uzi wrote above, don't let it get the better of you. When you feel yourself choking the violin, focus on not doing that for a specific amount of time or until you forget about it again.
Another tip is to find a new comfortable position when you are feeling tense. Sometimes tension actually has to do with your posture. Are you sitting or standing. If you are sitting, try standing for a while. If you are standing, try sitting but make sure you are sitting erect and not rounded in the back of a chair. It is more relaxing to sit straight with an arched back. That will give you more support for the weight of the instrument and more freedom for your arms.
Lastly, try something different. For example, move your left arm slightly inwards, or outwards. See if something that you are doing can be perfected more. The best way to see that is to try something different. The grip on your violin can be changed slightly by dropping the neck more into the v, or perhaps less. Give it a shot and see.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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