Tagged: improving your playing
April 20, 2016 at 12:58 am #15090
Is it possible for someone to be good at the violin when only playing for a couple of months compared to someone who has played for years?April 20, 2016 at 1:03 am #15091
Some people are very gifted. Not me: I am justed averagely gifted with musical ability.April 20, 2016 at 5:56 pm #15131
Depending on your definition of “good”, I believe someone can be “good” after playing for only a couple of months. But… the more time you put into regular practice and playing, you will certainly become BETTER. I recorded myself when I first started taking lessons. I thought I was “good”. Now, almost 2 years later, I listen to that earlier recording and can hear how “not so good” I was, but also that I’ve improved immensely. Our playing skills definitely grow and develop with time…and practice.April 20, 2016 at 10:04 pm #15163
Hi all, I strongly believe that talent is earned, not gifted. I have taught the Suzuki method for over 30 years, and taught students from 2 years old to 65 years old. In every case, if a student doesn’t thrive and progress, I believe it is a teacher’s failure, not a student’s failure. When a student is very young and up to about age 10, the parent must be the home teacher, and guide the practice. Depending on the maturity of the student, they can begin to take responsibility for guiding their own practice around age 10.
No matter what the age, though, the practice must be correct. So when you ask whether someone can become a good player in a couple months, I would have to take into consideration the age and maturity of the student, and whether they were practicing effectively. No matter how ‘good’ a student is, you will find as Christie said, you can always play better! But we have to accept that we are individuals, and will have individual paces of mastery and achievement.
So here are some tips on making sure you have the best chances of reaching your full playing potential.
1. Practice what your teacher tells you.
Very often beginning students practice more on what they like and less on trying to improve technically. It’s more fun to practice new pieces than it is to refine older pieces. It’s more fun to spend most of your practice playing what you already feel you play well than to explore a deeper, more challenging level of performance. It’s easier to skip over problem areas than to stop and work out the kinks. Let your teacher write your assignment in a notebook and follow the instructions carefully, making your practice time focused on issues he/she has pointed out to you. You’ll notice improvement comes more quickly if you follow your guide.
2. If you are self taught, develop effective practice habits.
It’s important to practice, but be sure you’re spending your playing time effectively. I wrote a blog piece on effective strategies for practicing. Please check it in the blog.
3. Practice regularly and set small, short term goals.
It will be much more rewarding to set goals you can achieve in one or two practice sessions than looking at the big picture. So while your dream may be to play the Mendelssohn Concerto in E minor, it will be more reasonable to do one line of Schradieck Violin Technique and work on intonation and tone production. It will have better pay offs and sooner, than reading through an extremely difficult piece that is still technically out of reach. There are no short cuts. So do the ‘woodshedding’ practice for small amounts of time, rather than bumping your way through music you haven’t really worked up to yet.
4. Listen to good examples, then listen again.
Listen to good players play. Listen to the masters play what you’re studying. Listen to and watch your peers play. Listening to good examples of music train the ear for intonation, and tone quality, vibrato, musical expression and so much more. When you advance in your playing, going back and listening again, you gain deeper understanding and hear with more nuance, aspects that you didn’t and couldn’t catch before. When you listen, you don’t even have to be paying attention. Turn the music on. Have it just at hearing level, then do what you want. You can even be asleep and you gain the benefits of listening to good music.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions here!
Use this website, and this forum to discuss problems and ask questions. Submit videos and talk to other players who can share their experiences with you. Having a community, some of us professionals, some of us are beginners but all of us love violin and strings music and all kinds of styles of playing, so share with us and learn from us!April 20, 2016 at 10:17 pm #15167
Personally, it can go both North or South. I always teach my students to practice effectively. That is a large part of it as well. However, the violin takes time to adapt to since it is such an unnatural position, and I think it might be different for each person for how quick that occurs for them. Anyone have any thoughts on that?April 21, 2016 at 6:49 pm #15215
I notice that I advance when I practice mindfully, paying attention to what I am doing and what I am supposed to be doing. I break down problem areas in a piece sometimes just repeating the same few notes, or a phrase, over and over again until I get them right… Then I can assemble the pieces. To play a whole piece over and over again doesn’t work for me… I need to break it down into smaller parts and practice repetition on the technically difficult parts (for me). If I were to just play, I don’t think I would advance quite as well as I have been. When I have practiced until I have all the technical kinks ironed out, then I can put all the parts together and play.April 21, 2016 at 8:47 pm #15221
William, so well said! You’ve described an ideal way of approaching practice. Fact is, no one can make much progress if they just play through entire pieces without working on the smaller bits. Funny that it takes MOST students years to figure out that practice must involve detail oriented, mentally focused, strategic methods just like yours.
Arlene, I was thinking about your comment about playing violin being ‘so unnatural’ and I suppose you are right in many respects about that. We don’t usually hold things between our shoulders and heads (well…. besides telephones, ha ha ha) but I think we should strive to make the hand positions be in as natural as possible positions, and to function as ‘anatomically’ efficient way as possible. Over lots of years, I have made this a study of sorts. Lots of my colleagues along the way have totally ignored stressing the importance of using the hands and arms and body efficiently. They are only concerned with the notes on the page. I advocate separating the hands during practice at all levels. This is a principle part of my teaching students how to practice. I find that, and memorization, so the student can become aware of what the body is actually doing, are key in becoming comfortable with holding and using the violin and bow.April 21, 2016 at 9:17 pm #15223
Nicely put, William. I’m with you. It wasn’t always this way though. When I first began, I would play only the songs that sounded familiar me. And back when I took piano lessons, I would play the pieces that I liked repeatedly until memorized. I thought I was good at piano doing it that way. Unfortunately, it did come to bite me in behind. When my piano teacher would stop me for a correction, then ask me to start again…I couldn’t do it. I had no idea where I was in the piece because I had memorized it instead of actually learning the notes and their values. Now, as an adult taking violin lessons, I approach my practice sessions much differently. I told my violin teacher that I wanted to learn to READ the music, not memorize it. Not that memorization is bad, but in my case it had become a huge crutch that actually hindered my learning.
As William stated, I focus on one technique at a time, breaking down my pieces into bite-size chunks. A goal I set for myself when learning a new piece is to learn just one line each day and continue to build on it. I also spent 10 minutes on just scales, and now I’m adding etudes. My practice sessions are becoming longer, but I’m loving it because I’m actually learning the music the way I should have 30 years ago AND I’m learning another instrument. Efficient practice makes for steady progress!April 22, 2016 at 2:34 pm #15261
Diane, could you post the link to the blog that you wrote, mentioned in your first post in this thread?April 25, 2016 at 2:39 am #15341