How I Practice

I’ve been playing violin since I was six and while I’m certainly not the best or most dedicated musician in the world it’s taught me a lot about hard work and how I learn. The core of mastering any skill is practice and dedication and while people usually seem to know this there are some prevalent myths about how to practice correctly. So I thought I’d share a little bit about how I personally like to practice violin.

Usually I start my practice with a warm up. This literally warms up my hands and lets me get used to the quick and precise movements needed for violin. Warm ups can be anything from an old piece to improv. As long as it gets you used to the instrument and ready to work it’s good.

After my warmup I do my technique work for about 20 minutes. This includes general technique practice such as scales and etudes (a song to teach you a certain technique) as well as exercises specific to the piece I’m currently working on. For example I might practice a scale in the same key that the piece is in or play an etude with a similar bowing pattern.

When I finish both warmup and technique I finally begin working on my piece. I’ll either have specific sections marked or play through it once quickly and see what needs work. I work on these sections very similarly to the way I do my technique. I break each section up into even smaller sections and create my own technique exercises specifically based on each section. After I’ve figured out the proper way to play the section I’ll play it over and over again to build muscle memory. Each section takes a different amount of time. Some I could be working on for 15 minutes and others for an hour and a half. Since this is the most draining and intensive part of the practice I usually only do one or two sections in one practice.

By now my practice is beginning to wrap up. I go back and do a few more technique exercises based on what needed improvement today as well as playing through some pieces I’m polishing up. In all, a typical practice session takes anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours.