Violin For Dummies
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After getting down the basics on playing the violin, focus on making your moves as effortless and clear-sounding as possible so that you gain a sense that they really belong to you. Get to this next level of playing with productive practice sessions. Here are some ideas for making your practice time as engaging as possible.

Tune in

Make sure your violin is really in tune at the start of each practice session. This alone makes for the best-possible results! ’Nuff said.

Pick a spot

Have a special spot in a low-traffic area of your home dedicated for practicing, and keep everything there that you need. If you’re organized, everything happens with good flow. Have your music stand set up and your instrument, books, and accessories nearby.

Watch or listen before you play

Listen to recordings of your songs, or watch them online in videos to have an idea of how the music should sound — and look.

Using one (or two) of your senses that aren’t directly involved in the physical actions of playing can really help to create an idea of the whole of what you’re aiming for before you begin fitting the individual pieces of the intricate jigsaw of violin-playing together.

Build up speed

Start playing the music quite slowly and steadily, then build up gradually towards the speed you want. Each action and idea may be quite clear to your mind, but you need to allow time for your body to have a chance to line up all the simultaneous and sequential actions without them tumbling over one another!

Practice right-hand and left-hand moves separately

If you just hold your violin in guitar position or regular playing position, no bow at all, and practice landing and lifting the fingers you want to play in a song, you can get these moves nicely lined up. You can do the fingering moves silently or pluck each note to hear the tune. Similarly with the bow, you can practice the bowing you’re aiming for on the open strings to gain a sense of the to-and-fro gestures, rhythms, and articulations before you put the hands together.

Go for quality, not quantity

The focus in practice should be on quality, not quantity of time. When you begin playing the violin, you don’t yet have many areas of playing to work on, so 10 to 15 minutes are plenty of time for one practice session At all stages, you learn better and maintain progress if you practice for a regular amount of time each day rather than in one big guilty glob the night before your lesson! Practice until you see progress, make sure the progress is as secure as possible, and then pack up the session and have another try later, or the next day.

Keep a goal in mind

Have a particular goal in mind. For example, you can prioritize rhythm and work towards that goal, with everything else taking a back seat to your main goal. Other aspects of your playing will gain too, as you focus intently!

Find your best practice time

My best time to practice is first thing in the morning, before the busy day creates too many distractions. You may be more of a night-owl. Where possible, organize life to accommodate your best practice time.

Take notes

During lessons, take notes in a small notebook you keep with your music. You can remind yourself of useful advice when you’re alone working on your violin. Later, you can use the book for practice ideas — as well as to see how far you’ve progressed in the year.

Film yourself playing

When you watch the video later, you can see if the bow is travelling on track, or if your violin hold is well-balanced, for example.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Katharine Rapoport is an accomplished violinist and violist who taught violin, viola, and chamber music at the University of Toronto for over 25 years. In addition to authoring teaching manuals and syllabi—as well as articles for Strad Magazine —she has performed live in Canada, the USA, and across Europe.

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