We’re all familiar with the age-old saying ‘practice makes perfect’.
But just how true is this?
When you’re taking violin lessons, regular practice is important for a multitude of reasons.
If you’re serious about making good progress and becoming a proficient violinist, knowing how to practice your instrument properly and effectively is essential to your success when learning the violin.
Adopting good habits early on in your musical career will set you up for rewarding practice sessions in the future, as well as helping you develop useful transferable skills.
Learning how to play the violin is about much more than practicing the pieces you are given by your violin teacher; you’ll also have to work on your musical ear training and your knowledge of music theory as well as your playing technique and producing a good sound.
Becoming a well-rounded musician is a large part of learning to play a musical instrument, and it is also the result of going the extra mile with your violin instruction.
So, if practice does make perfect, pushing yourself definitely speeds up the process!
To find out how to get on the right track with your violin practice and take your training to the next level, you're in the right place to learn to make your violin practice count.
Violin Playing: Practice Makes Perfect
Routine is a fundamental aspect of practicing a musical instrument.
Taking on healthy habits will not only reward you with achieving the goals you’re aiming for, it will also make it easier for you to accept your violin practice as an essential part of your day rather than a chore.
Here are our tips on getting into good habits with your practice sessions:
- Practice at the same time every day
Making your violin practice as regular and as normal as getting up in the morning on days when you don't have a violin lesson is the key to making good progress as you learn to play the violin.
Allocating a specific time for your practice sessions every day will serve you well.
In order to decide on which time of day this should be, have a think about your current daily routine.
When are you at home? When do you usually have your evening meal? What are your other commitments?
Choose a time when you’re confident that you’ll be able to focus fully on your practice.
This means practicing at a time when you’re sure you won’t be hungry or disturbed by other people, and make sure you are in a comfortable position.
Practicing your violin at the same time every day will help you to integrate your practice into your day and make it as fundamental to your routine as showering or brushing your teeth, making it difficult for you to miss a session!
- Practice for the same amount of time each day
In addition to practicing at the same time every day, making yourself practice for the same amount of time will add to the regularity of your training and improve your self-discipline when it comes to playing violin.
It’s recommended that musicians practice for different lengths of time according to their level:
- Beginner: 20 mins per day
- Intermediate: 30-40 mins per day
- Advanced: 60+ mins per day
Whether you're getting to grips with using your bow and playing the right strings as a beginner violinist or you're perfecting your Vivaldi, knowing how long your practice sessions are will also help you to use your time wisely as you will be able to better allocate time for each aspect of your practice.
- Warm-up properly
Just like in sport, warming up before you start practicing your violin sheet music and pieces will help with injury prevention and getting your head in gear for practicing.
Playing the violin requires a good deal of strength and flexibility in the arms and fingers, so going through a set of warm-up exercises will help wake up your finger muscles and wrist before you attempt to play any pieces.
Warm-ups are also a good opportunity to practice scales, arpeggios and technical exercises – which are essential for every musician.
Running through the notes in scales and arpeggios for upcoming exams is a great way to warm up your fingers whilst practicing your bowing and developing the muscle memory for each key signature.
Other warm-up exercises can be targeted for improving a specific skill such as intonation, fingering, vibrato or pizzicato. I
f you find the right violin tutor, he or she will show a series of warm-up exercises tailored to your skill and needs, and you will be hitting the right notes in no time.
Practicing Pieces Set by Your Violin Tutor
Whether you’re learning for pleasure or you have specific goals and private lessons to help you achieve them, playing violin music is often the most enjoyable part of practicing a musical instrument, as well as the segment that should take up the majority of your practice time.
Practicing your violin pieces outside of your music lessons isn’t just about playing through your repertoire until you can get to the end of your pieces without any major hiccups.
As a musician, it’s your responsibility to practice your pieces in a way that improves them and showcases your level of musicianship.
Playing a piece well is not just about playing all of the right notes, it’s also about observing the correct speed, following dynamic markings and using the correct intonation whilst maintaining a proper posture.
There are many things you can do to push yourself to improve the quality of your performance.
Remember, violin lessons cost money and if you arrive at the lesson unprepared, you are simply throwing your money out the window.
Here are just a few things you can do to optimise your practice sessions:
A metronome is a piece of equipment that is used to set and keep the beat throughout a piece of music.
Using a metronome while you practice your own pieces will not only help you to stay in-time, but it will also prevent you from rushing or drawing out notes too much.
Keeping a pencil in your violin case is recommended for marking parts in orchestral rehearsals, however, it’s also a good idea to have one to hand during your practice sessions, too. In fact, a pencil is an important piece of equipment for playing the violin.
When you play a piece for the first time, there will be certain parts of the music that you miss. For example, if you’re sight-reading a particularly technical piece, you may be concentrating so hard on playing the correct notes that you fail to notice a change in dynamic.
Violin teachers near me almost always use a pencil to mark pieces during music instruction to remind players of what they should try to do during their individual practice.
Using a pencil to mark your music during your personal practice time is a good way of setting reminders for yourself so that you remember dynamics, key changes and accidentals next time you play the piece.
- CD accompaniment
Another great way to see your pieces in a different light is to play them with a CD accompaniment.
Most published violin music comes with a CD with either a piano or an orchestral backing track to each piece.
Playing your pieces with an accompaniment will help you to put your part into context and get a general feel for the piece as an ensemble performance.
How to Get More Out of Your Violin Practice
Practicing a musical instrument alone day in, day out can get tedious without a teacher and can even cause playing to become a chore.
Playing the violin, though it requires a lot of hard work and determination, should be a joyous hobby, and practicing should provide an artistic outlet for musicians.
In order to prevent your violin practice from becoming a source of frustration, there are several things you can do to keep classical music interesting for yourself.
Here are a few tips on how to get more out of your violin practice:
- Record yourself
Recording yourself while you play your pieces and listening back to them is a great way to look for room for improvement without having to concentrate on playing your violin.
Listening to recordings of yourself playing will give you a new perspective on your pieces and help you understand where your violin teacher’s comments are coming from. Use a note pad while you listen to jot down any areas you think you can improve.
The result of making improvements to your pieces based on recordings of yourself is performances that have been fine-tuned and which are delivered to the best of the player’s ability.
- Group practice
If you have any friends that play the violin or other stringed instruments, you can keep your music practice entertaining by arranging to play together.
Whether you’re working towards passing the same exam or you enjoy working on duets and quartets together, playing your violin with other people could help you see your pieces played differently as well as giving you the skills to play in an ensemble.
- Join an ensemble
Being able to apply your music education in a group setting is one of the most thrilling experiences any musician can have.
Hearing the rich, colourful sound of an orchestra in tune is a brilliant reward for all the hours of individual hard work that goes into your tuition and learning to play the violin.
This is why many music teachers recommend that their students, even beginners, to enrol in ensembles, bands and symphony orchestras where they can play their instrument as a different form of group practice.
You will be able to find suitable ensembles to join at your local school of music or community music centres, where you can study the violin as well as learning about other instruments including the piano, cello, flute, clarinet, saxophone, guitar, trumpet, percussion and ukulele. In addition, you can also take workshops in singing, improvisation, composition, classical music, jazz and get a taste of performing in concerts!
Whether you join music classes exclusive to string instruments or even violinists alone to play chamber music, or you enrol in a philharmonic symphony orchestra, expanding on your skills as a performer as well as a team player will help you improve your recital and sightreading skills as you learn to read music from a part, relying on the rhythm of the music on the page to guide your placement.
There are many helpful benefits to playing in musical ensembles such as gaining confidence, overcoming stage-fright, joining in the local music community, gaining performance skills, learning more about other instruments and practicing an instrument with a different objective in mind.
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