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Second Noobhood
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DanielB
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May 9, 2013 - 12:54 am
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This is going to be one of those rather boring and likely long threads where someone prattles on about how they are practising/playing.  Out of compassion for the attention-span challenged, I will try to break it into sections over a few days so that it doesn't take too many cups of coffee to get through, for those actually interested in such things.  I don't claim it to be some wonderful "method" or anything, I'm just explaining it in case some of it may be of use to other folks here when figuring out how to practice or maybe looking for new things to try using in their own practice sessions.

 

Having survived the first year of playing violin/fiddle (as of April 18th), I took about a week to go through notes I'd made during the first year as to areas I felt needed work and to think a bit on how to go about practising in the second year.  Having taken a couple of weeks to settle into the new routine I think I have it steady and going reasonably well.

Why "second noobhood"?  Because I've gone back to the very basics and stripped my repertoire of songs I'll actually work on in practise down to just the songs that actually use the skills/notes/techniques I'm working on at a given time.  In "playtime", I'll still play anything I dang well feel like, as always.  But practise is focusing on specific parts of playing to try and get them down better.

Why so basic?  Since I've only been playing a year at this point, it's a sure thing that basic skills still need plenty of work.  I know from other instruments that it is really very hard to overdo when it comes to the basics.  Improve how well you do any basic part of playing, and you improve everything you play at least a little.   Any time in life that I've thought I didn't need to keep working on the basics, my personal progress with music has gone slower.  The basics are like the "base" of a pyramid.  The more base you have to build on, the higher you can build and still keep it stable.  So it is back to basics. 

So I start out with open string bowing, which is about as basic as one can get.  So long as you tuned up right beforehand, it is maybe the only time you can play on a violin and not have to worry about intonation.  I use a timer for the first 5 min, just easy strokes, no string skipping.  I work on getting big strong long notes that are nice and even.  Then reset the timer and turn on the metronome for practising the same on a simple 4/4 for 5 min.  Then another 5 min with a simple percussion track to work on something a little more interesting.  Currently a 3/4 waltz beat and changing to another neighboring string for the upbeats.  Boring as that all sounds, that 15 min always seems to go quite fast. 

I find it works well for warming up the instrument and limbering up the playing muscles and joints for the day.  My morning session is usually about 45 min, and that's a third of it right there.

That's about enough of the daily routine to explain in one "installment".  I will mention that I have been holding to keeping actual practice to not less than 45 min a day and not more than an hour and a half.  An hour and a half is about the point where I know my personal point of diminishing returns kicks in.  Best in my opinion to stop practice at or before that point.  Now, I may play or tinker with any song or piece I feel like in the course of the rest of the day.  But I count that as playing, not practice.  And I don't actually count playing, since I do as much of that as I feel like or have time for in the course of the day.

My practice routine is broken down into fairly small bites, since this can be a busy household and some days life just happens.  I don't always get the luxury of being able to do my practice session all at one time, and thinking of it as being made up of manageable bites helps me personally to find me a way to fit it all in even on busy days.   Keeping practice schedules to something you can actually manage to do every day, consistently, is what I have found to work best over the years.

"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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JoeP
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May 9, 2013 - 10:03 am
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Hi Daniel,

For what it's worth, I'm about 17 months in, though less than 12 taking it seriously.  My "normal" practice routine is about 1/2 fundamentals and about 1/2 music. 

Yesterday I actually spent about 2 hours just on the D scale in 1st and 3rd position.

I think fundamentals are crucial for us beginners to make progress.

best of luck!

joe

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DanielB
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May 9, 2013 - 2:33 pm
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And best of luck back at you, JoeP.

I made it a point to not be too serious for the first year.  I felt it would take that long to get a basic idea what fiddle/violin should/could sound like, since I'd never been in a band with a fiddle/violin player, never had a close friend who played it, and never made an actual study of the sound and different ways it is used in music.  You listen to an instrument differently if it is one you are learning to play than if it is one you just hear in the mix sometimes or listen to an occasional piece featuring it. 

I also have a personal belief that too many people try to get serious way too fast, and there can be things they'd miss that a child would get.  Too much of a hurry to achieve,  at the cost of taking a bit of time to just explore the instrument and what sounds it can make like a little kid would. 

So I kept reminding myself during the first year that I was officially expecting nothing from myself for the first year of playing except gaining a basic familiarity with the instrument and some of the sounds it is capable of, and some idea of what I want to be able to do with it musically.  

 

So, back to the "second noobhood".   Intonation, notes and timing.  Possibly the most basic things one can attend to with learning any instrument.  

The next part of my routine is I play some scales.  Strictly ones used for pieces I am working on in practice.  I play against a drone pitch of the tonic note of the scale, correcting my intonation by hearing the familiar intervals.  5 min of that, and then turn off the drone, turn on the metronome and do another 5 min of playing them to an easy beat while listening and feeling for the resonance through the instrument when the fingered note excites the open strings.  You can feel that where you play an octave, like the G on the D string against the open G, of course, but the A on the G string also excites the open A when you are playing it right, and the E on the G string excites the open E.  The G on the E string also resonates the open G.  That gives me enough "checkpoints" for the scales or melodies to at least make sure I don't drift too far off, and since my hands and ear are already "warmed up" from having played against the drone note in the first part of the exercise, the other notes are easier to find than if I just went into it "cold".  About 10 min of that, and then 5 minutes of things like doing the scale all with one bow stroke, and then up and back with a single bow stroke.    

And then that section of practice is done, at least for it's "minimum" for the day.

 

 

"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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DanielB
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May 10, 2013 - 6:07 am
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By this point, I'm definitely warmed up and wanting to do something that feels a bit more like playing.  This step may be a bit different from what most folks would do.

I'll put on a backing track of something like a medium fast "boogie" in A or E and basically play rhythm along with it using doublestops.  Most of it is root-5th doublestops (2 strings held down at the same spot with one finger), but I'll also use other fingers to make it a root-6th or root-7th.  Any guitar players who know the old rock and roll "boogie pattern" will know the sound I'm talking about.  If you don't play guitar, think of "Roll over Beethoven" or "Johnny Be Good'.  It's working with that sort of a sound.

I'm not entirely sure if the bow stroke I use would be called a spiccato or not.  But it's a sort of short bouncing stroke done fairly close to the frog with the stick leaned away a bit to smooth it out some.  Since it is close to the frog, it is using more wrist than the natural bounce of the stick.

The first run through the backing track, I stick to strictly rhythm part, just fitting in and supporting the rhythm section.  Then I do another run where I'll throw in a few simple "fills" and play around with the rhythm and dynamics a bit more. 

It's not always a "boogie" pattern.  Sometimes I'll work a 12 bar blues or a jazz or folk chord progression, or work against a techno track.  In those cases, I may use other intervals for "flavour"  Like the 4th or the minor 6th.  But a good bit of the exercise is done with root-5th doublestop "chords". 

This routine is maybe slightly less typical "noob" than the parts I've already explained, but it's not particularly hard, and it's a way to apply some of what I was just practising with scales.  It is also practising fitting in and making a good sound with other instrument sounds in a song/piece sort of context, which takes some intonation, timing and dynamics.  And it takes care of about another 10 minutes of the morning practice session. 

 

"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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StoneDog
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4 months in>

I somewhat follow the same practice sequence that you do DanielB. Except for the drone thing. I am still checking that out. The drone thing is something I have not done before so its not part of what I do. I tune to my tuner and check my strings per 5ths. I work scales and shifting with the metronome > I LOVE the metronome > it drives me CRAZY but I love it. > I then work on some tunes I am working on and then on to backtracks and just jamming > What I thought was interesting was that you also jam to boggie and 12 bar blues. That’s how I pretty much finish off my session. I do play every day.

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OldCrow
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May 10, 2013 - 1:42 pm
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Great thread Dan!  Lots of good stuff in here.

 

I'd love to hear a sample of your 'boogie" shuffle practice sessions.  What would it take to talk you into that?

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coolpinkone
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Way to go Dan and all!

I had that too serious part of me for many many months.  I am back to basics as well.  I am learning new songs but going over stuff I didn't want to play in the first 9 months because I wanted to "play a song."

I am not as scheduled about it as Dan or some...but I will go back to a list I made and work on that.

Sometimes opportunities come up to play songs with others and they are too good to resist, so some of the scales and stuff fall by the wayside.

But I am keenly aware of making sure to fit in the basics.. and I have a rule about most songs... I have to  play from the sheet music several times through.. hack it out reading like a first grader... and just forming the connection between my eyes, fingers, ears .  It is helping me read and play...slowly of course. 

Good luck to all.

:)

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

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DanielB
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Ok, and now for the last section of my "second noobhood" practice routine.  Songs/pieces.

Much as some people praise and some people criticize the Suzuki method, I saw one bit mentioned that seemed very sensible.  Working on a group of three songs in practice.  That's enough to have some variety to avoid burn-out and still a small enough number to give each song/piece of that group good focus.  Hearing Picklefish talk about it a bit just made it sound like good sense.

So I picked three songs/pieces that were simple, but enjoyable in their way, that I felt were good for elements I am working on at this time.  "Amazing Grace", "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" and "The Cruel War".  All "easy" pieces, where it doesn't take a huge amount of work to get them to sound reasonably good.

The selection of songs isn't particularly special, other than that they have some notes in common, really.  For every different player "the best playlist" will be unique.

Anyway, how those songs get practised.  Play them each through twice against a drone to work on the intonation.  Then twice against a metronome to work on getting the timing right and the way I want it, while working at being aware of the "feedback" or "resonance" through the instrument to help keep the intonation good.  Then twice through without any references like drones or metronome to work on getting the feel and expression I want.  That's where I experiment with the dynamics and phrasing and ornamentation/embellishment.  Working on playing the piece with good expression.

A special thanks goes out to forum member AndieKae for that last part of my practice routine.  She used a quote in her sig line..

"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression."

Algernon Moncrieff (Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest")

Funny, yes.  But true, as well.  Accuracy isn't all of what makes a piece of music enjoyable to play or listen to.  It was good to be reminded of that, and so I put it into practice.

Anyway, that's it.  The current practice routine.  It may not be perfect, but I feel it is working for me at this time, so I am working it.  Another quote that I first heard from my mentor back when I was learning the basics of tattooing.. "Plan your work.. Then work your plan."

 

@OldCrowFiddler:  Still working on trying to get a vid showing what you were asking about.  As usual, the world conspires to increase mayhem as soon as one decides to try and record something. LOL

 

"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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DanielB
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Woohoo!  I'm coming up on "first burnout".   A complete burnout is when you've done an exercise or song so many times that you really don't want to do it anymore.  But before that happens, it just quits being as much fun and you start trying to think of excuses not to do it. 

Burnouts are a natural part of any sort of repetitive practice routine.  The trick, I feel, is to catch it right before you actually start disliking the practice routine and vary the routine to go into another stage rather than letting it make practice into something you aren't looking forward to doing.   You don't have to change the entire practice routine to make it feel fresh and interesting again, and you can always go back to some of the parts later, if you think you need a bit more work on them. 

I did modify my original schedule a little already.  5 min for the plain open string bowing was a little short, since I also use that exercise to practice crossing and skipping strings.  10 min felt better.  Then 5 min of open strings against the metronome to practice some sort of a beat.  That is a comfortable warm-up so I'm leaving it alone.

Major and minor scales for a limited number of "keys of interest" have gotten a bit boring though.  So that's a good place to change.  Having worked the scales for about a month against the drones, the fingers have some idea where to go, so I decided it's time for some arpeggio work.  Now, if you've ever learned piano, then the sound of major and minor chord arpeggios are probably pretty much burned permanently into your brain from basic piano exercises.  LOL  If not, then if you have practised scales, you'd still have a pretty good idea what the 3rd and 5th note sound like compared to the root.  That is a basic "chord triad" and an easy arpeggio to practice.  On piano, you can end up doing a lot of root, 3, 5, root, 3, 5, 3 repetition.  But a kind of curious thing about arpeggios is that most people who may hear it are more likely to think it sounds like you are "playing music" than "just an exercises". 

Now, how I decided to go about it is still "stupid simple", really.  But maybe a bit different than how most folks would.  Different, interesting or just plain wierd, you can tell me.  LOL

I made a drone track that was just a recording of one minute each of drone notes A, B, C, D, E, F, G.   I practice the major chord arpeggio up and back for one minute with each of those drone notes as "root" for that arpeggio.  Then I play the track again, and do the minor chord arpeggios.  So for A, I play A on the G string with first finger, C# on the G string with 3rd finger, E on the D string with the first finger, and then back down to the third and root and up and down that little pattern for that minute.

Where it might get a little odd/interesting, is for the B, I don't play it with the second finger, I slide the first finger up to the B note.  So I can do the arpeggio with the same fingering pattern by shifting to a higher "position".  For the C, I slide the first finger up to the C on the G string.  Then the D on the G string, and then shift back down to the E on the D string.  Back when I was learning to play bass guitar, many moons ago, we called such patterns "movable patterns".  They're a very quick way to learn how to play arpeggios for pretty much any chord, and to be able to play arpeggiated accompaniment for the chord patterns of a song in any key you need to with only having to memorize one set of patterns.  I don't know as that concept is applied much in the same way with violin/fiddle, but it seems logical it would work well enough for dressing things up a bit when playing accompaniment.  Maybe not a big thing in classical/symphony playing, but useful enough in other genres where improvisation is used more.

I would rank that exercise as "mildly challenging", since it takes knowing a few basics and having done at least a little ear work.  It also takes some shifting, but I think that is good.  I do not feel it is good to stay stuck in "first position" too long.  I don't think of "positions" on the violin much, personally, but I believe that the longer a person stays playing in just first position, the harder it will be to move out of it and use more of the instrument.  But with drone notes to work against for the roots of the chord arpeggios, it isn't really as hard as it sounds. 

At this point, about the first half hour of practice is "in the can".  The rest of the new practice routine also has some odd bits, so I'll call this post long enough for now, so folks can refill their coffee to stay awake. LOL

"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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Fiddlerman
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Interesting ideas. Thanks for sharing. :-)
New practice routines are a must if one is to make learning interesting.

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

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DanielB
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Ok, the rest of the current "practice schedule"..

Having just practised the arpeggios, I do the same notes again.  But this time as doublestops.  So through the 7 minute drone routine for major and then again for minor "chords".   I work on controlling which of the strings being bowed gets the most pressure to emphasize root, 3rd, and 5th on different beats.  Then pick a backing/jam track from whatever genre I feel like and play along with a combination of arpeggios and "chords". 

Then another weird bit, where I stumbled across it while messing around and liked the sound of it and it happens to work something I think useful.  While playing drone on the G string, I play part of the melody of "Amazing Grace" using only the D string.  Up through "how sweet the sound".  That takes a shift.  I end up shifting between the "first position" and the first finger being on the G note on the D string.  It's just a wider shift than I use earlier in arpeggio practice, and is against a drone being played on the violin instead of a pre-recorded drone.  Nothing astounding, but I think it sounds neat and it's kinda fun.  The trick is to get it to sound more like part of a song than just an exercise.  Not sure yet if I'll work on developing it further right now, but it is an entertaining way to practice a shift up that is a bit wider than the ones I did when doing arpeggios.

After that, I work on the current 3 practice tunes and then practice is officially done for the day and I'm back to playtime.

 

@OldCrow:  I put up a vid showing how I do a boogie pattern on violin.  http://fiddlerman.com/forum/pl...../#p45308 

It is super easy, hope it was what you were looking for.

 

 

 

"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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DanielB
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Ok, the newest changes. 

I've replaced the drones in practice with intermittent drones.  Basically the pitch cycles between being there for two seconds and not there for two seconds.  That allows me to check the scales and melodic bits to make sure I'm not drifting any when the drone is off. 

The logic on that is not wanting to be too dependent on any training aid.  "Training wheels" can be good, so long as there is a plan to rely on them less over time.  Any training aid can become a crutch if one gets too used to it being there.

Arpeggios were getting to feeling a bit stale, so I've replaced them for the time being with playing 3 and 4 note chords.  Easy ones, mostly.  With the guitar and piano background I've never been good with thinking of a doublestop as a "chord".  Chords need at least 3 notes. LOL  So that's been good, and chords on violin are actually fun and they sound cool.

For scale practice, I've gone to doing the notes with glissando (slides), since scales were feeling a bit stale too. 

I'm thinking about bringing in some vibrato exercises, but I'd have to think of what to cut back on to make room for them.

I am trying to stick to practice/exercises/drills not exceeding 45 min per day.  I feel it is time to work smarter, not just work more or work harder.  45 min of practice/exercises isn't so long that I can't keep good focus and energy going for it.  Then I actually play, in the sense of playing songs.melodies for as much as I want throughout the day, and I don't track how much time I spend on that. 

"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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Ferret
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@DanielB 

 

Thanks for your compassion for we of the 'attention-spanned' challenged hats_off

 

I've been at it for about 14 months now and still practice every day. When I went on a cruise last year I took my violin with me. When I went to China a couple of weeks ago I bought one while I was there.

I  sometimes sit down and look at the basics again. But most of the time I just play. My practicing is made somewhat less complicated by not being able to read music rofl. I mean yes, I do know about the good boy and the fruit and the face, but I seem to play better with my ears than with my eyes.

My learning is rather unstructured but that helps to keep it interesting. I'm rather easily distracted from the exercise that I am doing to doing something else (It's that attention-span thing againfacepalm)

And when it comes to etudes and the like. Why play 'pretend' tunes when you can play 'real' ones. rofl

It would seem that approach to learning the violin are poles apart. But I think that if we   shout loudly enough, we will be able to hear each other. thumbs-up

 

 

BTW... The opinions expressed above are subject to change at any time without any reasonable explanation.

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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I'm not using any reading of music so far in my practice, it's all done by ear.

I do "practice", as in exercises and etc, because I feel it improves my playing overall.  Kind of like how doing calisthenics or a bit of weight training can help a person's performance in most sports.

Then, I play.  LOL

But yeah, we all have different ways of going about learning fiddle/violin because "Different folks are different"  LOL

 

"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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Ferret
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What you say is too true. But, disregarding  our approches to learning, Go for it thumbs-up

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

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Ginnysg
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Thanks for posting this Daniel,  I am so new I'm still trying to figure out how I need to practice.

I usually get up way too early I the morning so I can get 1-2 hours of practice in (I'm definitely sharper in the AM) before work.  I go through my lesson book,  then I go through the major scales.  Then I play the two or three songs that go with the current lesson.

I'm trying to get better at reading music (and knowing where to find said note on my violin) so I have an app on my iPhone that I can play with at odd times throughout the day. 

Then in the evening I try to play for about an hour or so, and this is usually a few times through the scale then just a couple of easy songs I play for my own amusement. 

I have some "target" songs that I want to learn, but I keep reminding myself that I need  crawl before I can start running marathons.

I'm enjoying hearing how everyone approaches their practice time

“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent” 

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DanielB
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@Ginnyg:  Good point on being sharper in the AM, Ginny.  I tend to be better focused in the evening, so I do the part of my practice that I think of as exercises in the AM.  My focus is good enough then, but I save the best for evening/night playing. LOL

 

******

Changes to my routine..

I've gone from drone and metronome exercises to what I am calling "intermittent drone and metronome" exercises.  The drone sound, for example will be on for 5 seconds and off for 10 when I do drone work, so I am relying on it less and being able to check my intonation against the drone when it comes on for 5 seconds again.  Basically working at being able to keep my intonation that steady without the drones in that part of practice.  Same for metronome, to sharpen my sense of timing rather than just practising playing well against the metronome.

Playing more with backing tracks.  Backing tracks do have some qualities of both drone and metronome work to tighten up intonation and timing, but also move towards more of a performance oriented mindset.  One can focus more on making the song/piece sound good, rather than just not messing up, I think.

"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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