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Ways to Practice
practice methods
Topic Rating: 4.3 Topic Rating: 4.3 Topic Rating: 4.3 Topic Rating: 4.3 Topic Rating: 4.3 Topic Rating: 4.3 (3 votes) 
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Helvetika
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February 12, 2013 - 10:55 pm
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I'd like to know how other people practice, typically what methods they use, etc.  My practice pretty much consists of playing songs over and over and hopefully the songs get a little more difficult.  However, I am still not perfect always on the songs I have been playing since the beginning. Except for the first very easy songs.  I'm ok on waltzes and slow songs.  Ideas?

Thanks for any tips.

- Helvetika

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StoneDog
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February 12, 2013 - 11:09 pm
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I start out with a certain song I want to work on but end up doing scales, scales, scales over all the strings >> sort of loosens things up > then I dig into the song I want to learn> playing it over and over >  and then I somehow end up in some crazy world of strings and sounds > gets really crazy > then I shut myself down. > knowing tomorrow is another day.

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cdennyb
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February 13, 2013 - 12:09 am
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I usually start playing on the tune I'm trying to learn, watching a solo of it on youtube...playing along and following the notes by ear as best I can. Over and over and over... till I get it right. Then I can concentrate on the bowing and all the finer details of it.

I have 4 violins and usually practice my tunes on all 4 so I get a quad-practice so to speak! lol

"If you practice with your hands you must practice all day. Practice with your mind and you can accomplish the same amount in minutes." Nathan Milstein

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Picklefish
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February 13, 2013 - 12:39 pm
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The best way to practice using sheet music (cause thats what I do) In my opinon;

1.find or figure out the key the tune is in and practice that scale to learn the fingerings.

2. look at all the different kinds of note patterns and practice those rythyms on open strings as bowing exercise

3. learn all the notes without any fancy bowings just sawstrokes (up and downs alternating)

4. Add slurs in first and then ornamentation

5. practice everything super slow using as much bow as possible trying to keep the rythym of the song just in slow motion. I use the whole, half, quarter bow lengths as a measure instead of counting. Its easier when going slow.

6. Listen to the recording of the tune all the time ad nauseum

7. play with a youtube vid of the version of the tune you like and try to keep up

8. play with others when you can, Juan and I skype jam several times a week, its fun.

9. Practice in short times with breaks in between. one bit for bowings, take a break, then intonation and scales, then another break. Its amazing how much faster you can improve by practicing smarter not longer.

http://timtopham.com/2011/06/0.....-musician/

thats all there is too it! ha ha, I wish it was that easy to stay disciplined and on a schedule but I am more random and chaotic than that. It is a goal and I have it printed and posted where I can see it to help remind me. There are other tricks for improving certain skills but I might rival Daniel in post length if I tryed to include them now. Peace- pfish.

"Please play some wrong notes, so that we know that you are human" - said to Jascha Heifetz.

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Composer
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February 14, 2013 - 9:03 pm
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I keep coming back to scales and arpeggios with a full bow stroke, introducing slurring and shifting (for a 3 octave scale) ASAP.   The idea is to focus on intonation and learn the fingerboard, overcoming general clumsiness of playing,  while praying my faulty bow will magically correct itself without doing special exercises.   I find Sevcik difficult because it focuses on finger patterns to the detriment of playing in tune. I prefer the discipline of a scale where you can always measure against the tonic at first.  If I hammer away at going through at least an octave in a diatonic scale, I can wean myself off the electronic tuner.

For the classical fan, the books by Galamian (black book 'learn to play the violin') and Fischer's 'Basics' are pretty much mandatory.  Nobody else goes into as much detail on technical problems.

But how you get good progress with no more than 2 hrs/day is a puzzle to me.  It seems the major obstacle is getting the motor patterns fixed into memory and that it takes more than 2 hours.  More than 2 hrs and it becomes a full time job with no economic justification. 

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Steve
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February 14, 2013 - 10:16 pm
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Hi Composer,

My comment only pertains to the notion of how much to practice. When I first took up the violin 20 years ago (in my middle 40's), one of the motivations was that I'd read an article that said to obtain minimal basic proficiency on any musical instrument took 1000 hours of practice. And that depending on your motivation you could obtain that proficiency over a longer or a shorter period. Meaning if you could only practice 15 minutes a day, then 1000 hours would take about 11 years, but proficiency could be obtained. For your hypothetical case of practicing two hours a day, that would then take about 17 months to reach 1000 hours of practice. Being the engineering nerdy type, I kept a log of my practice, and over the 3 years of weekly lessons I took, I averaged 56 minutes a day of practice (also remember I still had a fulltime job and other things demanding time out of a 24 hour day). So I almost had 1000 hours of practice after 3 years. And I did achieve basic violin proficiency such that I could play in the community orchestra and participate in community chamber music settings and feel like I was holding my own. But the average adult who is still working, I'd guess that trying to average 2 hours a day of practice would be a difficult goal to achieve.

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StoneDog
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February 14, 2013 - 11:33 pm
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I never counted hours and stuff, I figure chip away at it as much as I feel like chipping. I like chipping at it. > I really enjoy repetitive scales > OMG there are so many of them. Depending on where you start, where you end and all that good stuff in between. I never really considered obtaining any economic resolve from it. Although I could be doing something else that would give me that > But~~~~ that would mean not playing anymore > well, that would suck. Guess if I considered my time with my instrument a task > I wouldn't be doing it, cause other task need to be done. But~~ my time with my instrument brings so much pleasure to me, it is not a task. I usually feel guilty about spending so much time with it. I like to party, and when I am with it > ~~~>> Its just a big party.

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Composer
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February 15, 2013 - 3:58 am
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Steve, I can't escape the tension/awkwardness unless I practice more than 2 hrs/day.  I wouldn't even call it simply a strength and endurance problem.   I don't know what it is exactly.  It feels like elasticity (soft springs) throughout the fingers/hands/arms with a lot of hours/day enabling fine motor skill (dexterity) that just suddenly appears out of nowhere.   As soon as I drop the hours/day back down to something reasonable, it disappears.  Tremor in the bow stroke is a good example.  It disappears completely when I practice a lot (> 2hrs) and always reappears when I go back to 1hr/day.   At least for me, there is a burden of fitness.

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Composer
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February 15, 2013 - 4:20 am
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Something to add: if quality of tone is the primary measure of the difference between a pro and an amateur, well be damned if I can figure out why its so elusive.  The bow in general is what is so bloody hard to master.  The methodology for learning its secrets is not even coherent.  I can see the pros bowing as crooked as can be with no adverse effect on tone and yet we get the "straight bow" religion as if it is the path to the promised land.  The philosophy of angles of the bow to the string and bridge rather than rounded (loops) movements seems to me confused.  The 7 discrete levels of the bridge is another nutty concept producing sharp angular movements with a break rather than continuous.   

So far the only things I've found useful for improving the basic detache stroke is practicing the colle stroke and that french guy capet's exercise of rolling the stick with the thumb from hair on angle to flat back to angle...and so on.

Books by violists seem to be much better (a lot less abstract bs) in regards to real world problems of playing the violin.  The Primrose book has a lot of interesting stuff on bowing.

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Picklefish
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February 15, 2013 - 7:55 am
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I dont agree that quality of tone is the primary measure of the diff between pro and an amateur. Bowing is a combination of many things that must work together perfectly to control physics. Your shoulder, elbow, wrist, hand, fingers, gravity, physics of string vibration and friction vs/ slippage, speed vs pressure....its a wonder the dang thing works at all!

I think you will find that most pedagogy methodology is a progressive "beginning to goal" focused approach rather than a "copy the finished product" approach. People just learn better that way, especially kids for whom most educational material is for. "straight bowing" is one of the beginning skills to learn in bowing evolution. Single sounding point is a midpoint skill in the process of further development, kind of hard to have a single sounding point with a bunch of bow wander.

I've always understood that learning the particular "angle of attack" for each string helps avoid hitting unwanted strings, where as circular bowing in the vertical plane was the best way to accomplish smooth quick string changes. Lateral circular movements is the preferred method to maintain a singular sounding point on a singular string if you are bowing in an X pattern, ie down and out, in and up. Many are taught this to compensate for the bows natural tendency to wander while bowing, not to be confused with the windshield wiper wander used by the "marching shoulder" movement.

7 discrete levels of the bridge? ya lost me.....

I think Pierres vid on finger flexibility is the single most important skill for bowing improvement anyone can learn to develop.

The newest book Ive heard of by a violinist is Simons book "Basics" and is supposed to include all the exercises you need in a concise format to get that pre julliard education, text wise at least. Id love a copy of it. http://www.simonfischeruk.com/ but I have yet to see anything better than what is offered for free at the fiddlerman site, if we all just used it.

"Please play some wrong notes, so that we know that you are human" - said to Jascha Heifetz.

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Ferret
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February 15, 2013 - 6:08 pm
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Well, 'I' think that the most important thing that you can do, no matter what approach you take, is to practice 'every day'.

I do. I went on a cruise some months back and took my fiddle with me. I'm going to Beijing in June and intend taking it there as well. I don't want to miss the practice.

I never put my violin or viola in their cases. They sit on the sofa in plain sight all day and night to remind me not to neglect them. I believe that you have to be 'that' focused.

Well, that's what I reckon. violin-1267

Seen it all. Done it all. Can't remember most of dunno ..... What was I saying???? facepalm

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DanielB
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February 15, 2013 - 8:28 pm
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I think I could agree that quality of tone is at least one of the main qualities of good playing.  But the tone will be more than one sound, so I would think of it more as control of the tone.  "Tone" is one of those violin terms that I am not at all sure I actually fully understand yet. 

But other elements of playing like fluidity and the good use of dynamics, for example, also would be necessary, I think. 

I theorize that a lot of confusion results from there perhaps being more than one way/method of playing that can give good results.  Maybe some tips/techniques only work well with the particular playing discipline they come from.

"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

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Helvetika
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February 15, 2013 - 8:32 pm
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Wow!  Most of what you guys said is lost on me.  I am nowhere near that level and I don't even know what half of that stuff means.....such as sevcik, circular bowing, 7 levels of the bridge, the detache stroke, the colle stroke?  My teacher spoke of none of these things! He probably doesn't know them either!

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Picklefish
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February 15, 2013 - 10:01 pm
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Helvetika said
I'd like to know how other people practice, typically what methods they use, etc.  My practice pretty much consists of playing songs over and over and hopefully the songs get a little more difficult.  However, I am still not perfect always on the songs I have been playing since the beginning. Except for the first very easy songs.  I'm ok on waltzes and slow songs.  Ideas?

Thanks for any tips.

- Helvetika

 

Well I listed my practice tips above lemme know if you have any questions or are open to skype for help. As for ideas I suggest to go back to the songs you know that arent perfect and figure out why they arent. focus in on the certain aspects you arent satisfied with. we will help you.

"Please play some wrong notes, so that we know that you are human" - said to Jascha Heifetz.

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StoneDog
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February 15, 2013 - 11:26 pm
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Helvetika said
Wow!  Most of what you guys said is lost on me.  I am nowhere near that level and I don't even know what half of that stuff means.....such as sevcik, circular bowing, 7 levels of the bridge, the detache stroke, the colle stroke?  My teacher spoke of none of these things! He probably doesn't know them either!

Good stuff > > there is a lot I don't understand about what some of the members are talking about either Helvetika > but as I read their post I grasp bits of it and I look up what it is they are talking about. > Then I learn from what they have said. Apply all of it to your practice and if you don't know what the heck they are saying > just ask them > Its good to know fiddle talk  > I am still trying to figure out how to rosin up my bow > But as I read post from those that know I learn a lot > I learn how to improve my practice time , well in my case > its my party time.

 

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DanielB
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February 15, 2013 - 11:28 pm
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In my own mind, I think of practice as exercises, scales, arpeggios, etc.  Playing songs, I prefer to think of as not practice but either rehearsal or playing. 

Practice is the activities I do so my playing can get better.  One learns and develops principles in practice, like how to do a certain transition between 2 notes easier or how to get a certain sound by bowing in a certain way or whatever.. And then I apply that when I play, finding places in the songs I play to use what I develop through the practice time.

 

"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

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Tyberius
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February 16, 2013 - 2:41 am
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I don't think time per say is a requirement. Memory of the piece being played, your fingering and play memorization/learning curve, ability to keep tones, harmonics, melodies, rhythms in your head will contribute to your skill level, skill gain, and advancement through learning "Stages". Sure it does take time, but you can't say it take 5 hours or 500,000 hours to learn something and keep it stand-fast. that number is an arbitrary guideline. learning rates and muscle memory are not only a product of long arduous repetition. Its also a drive of your will, your passion for doing whatever it is you are trying to accomplish, and your general/advanced understanding of what the steps are to the final goal.

once you try something, you know in your head if it is going to give you problems. Troubleshoot your problem. Break it down to the smallest part and work on that part. Then the next part. Then combine them and try the next part and so on. People get too caught up in "standardization" in almost every aspect of their lives and they lose or forget how to be creative. Everything become regimented and mechanical. Learning does come from practice. But practice and learn how it is comfortable for you.

 

 

"I find your lack of Fiddle, disturbing" - Darth Vader

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Helvetika
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February 21, 2013 - 11:06 pm
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Hey thanks for all the ideas.  I guess the full time job, commute time, time getting ready for work, cooking, and housework kinda cuts into fiddle time.  jk, who does housework!  But I like the idea of doing a lot of scales and arpeggios.  actually I'm not sure I like them, but guess it is a necessary thing.  I bought a book by Gordon Stobbe on scales, but I just find them dreary and I haven't looked at it too much, except once in awhile if I want to look up a scale.  Something my teach suggested, was to record myself playing, then listen to it.  My perfectionist nature means that at times I get too impatient with myself. 

Cindy

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