Tips for good at violin for beginners

I wonder if this ethereal quality of music is why musicians-spend-a disproportionate amount of time practising compared with actual performing for live audiences. In a way, like dancers and actors, we are the product.Yes, we study and train for our art, but more-than-anything else, we just practise. Love it or not, the not-so-gentle Art of Practice is a significant part of musicians’ expertise and life.

1. Slow Practice or Fast Practice

Every musician knows the necessity and value of practising slowly, learning to perfect a piece at an achievable speed. Making the connection with the music at the normal tempo is not as simple. It requires a different kind of practice: fast playing is not just slow playing speeded up. Performing a passage quickly requires additional skills, such as finger preparation, economy of motion, thinking ahead and learning some new ways of playing. Many techniques take on different qualities at speed. Certain types of staccato bowstrokes, for example, must be executed with the rapid springing of the bow rather than deliberate finger pinches originating at the bowhold.

Posture, bowhold and left hand skills that appear adequate for slow playing may not work well for quick playing. Stiffness in the elbow or fingers and excessive movement of the bow arm hampers fast bowstrokes and string crossings. Habitually raising fingers too high above the fingerboard limits the speed with which they can be accurately placed and causes poor coordination with the bow.

2. Only Work on What Needs Improving

A little story… In the early days I was perplexed by the unusual progress of two of our young students. Despite learning new pieces quickly and keeping up all of the preceding pieces, their playing style and technique constantly lagged behind. Each week at lessons I  had to go over one of the fundamental techniques with them again – often the identical one. Correcting the same problems over and over is discouraging for everyone. I couldn’t work it out: their lovely dedicated parents, well-educated professionals, worked conscientiously with them every day at home. No matter how carefully and thoroughly we went over the point with the mothers and students in the lesson, things didn’t really get better in proportion to the practice they were doing.

Eventually through trial and error, we discovered a solution. Notwithstanding the consternation of their parents, I resolved to feature both students as soloists in a concert later in the year. So each week after the group class several of our teachers and I conducted a rehearsal-masterclass for them and other students. In this friendly public setting we identified a specific point for each performer to practice during the week. Over several months, the combination of focused attention and the irresistible power of social proof – watching other students improving – had the desired effect. Their solos at the concert were delightful!

Children naturally enjoy practising the music they already know and play well. It’s the means by which we learn musicality, freeing the attention to focus on expression alone. New skills are a different matter. Finding and working on challenging parts is the pathway to real progress in technique. I joke with my students that good musicians are happiest when they discover the really difficult passages. And it’s true. As frustrating as these parts can be, they are the cutting edge of our skills and abilities, providing a clear vision of what needs to improve in our playing.

I teach parents and students to identify and isolate the part that needs improving as precisely as possible. Is it difficult because of an awkward shift, a tricky string crossing, a speed problem, troublesome intonation or a particular bow technique? Correctly solving these problems makes students better players and fixes future pieces.

3. Practise with Recordings

Unless you can go to live concerts regularly, recorded performances of the great players provide us with golden models for study. On a good audio system you can listen again and again to great interpretations from the world’s top musicians of the music you are studying, a feat that was impossible just a few generations ago. Suzuki took this a step further by teaching students to play along with these recordings, absorbing the styles, phrasing and tempos of professionals, much in the same way as Leonardo da Vinci’s apprentices absorbed his painting styles and techniques by imitating and replicating his masterpieces.

When done correctly and consistently, this daily practice habit produces the fluent ability to perform securely and confidently – without stumbles.

4. Set Time Goals for Your Practice Sessions

I often hear this advice: “the quality of practice is more important the quantity.It’s true, of course. Half an hour of good concentrated practice is more valuable than an hour of sawing mindlessly away without a clear purpose. Nevertheless the reality is that we can fool ourselves into thinking that our short sessions are sufficient because we practised the important things. I’ve done it myself – all too often.

The quantity of practice is important too. The first hour is essentially warming up – maintenance. In the second hour you can start to make progress, and after another hour or two there comes a point when you feel like you can play almost anything. The strings begin to feel silky smooth, the bow moves freely and you become able to create subtle and minute differences in pitch, shape, colour and rhythm.