Ask the Teacher
From a String Student in California:
"Do you have any tips on effective practicing?"
Professor Fritz Gearhart
University of Oregon
Practicing the violin is like playing basketball. O.k., sure...what?
There I got your attention. Yes. Just like basketball. Let's practice making a basket.
1) Choose how far back from the basket you will stand
When you have something to practice,pick a starting and an ending place.This is very important. Start BEFORE the difficulty in your passage. Don't back up too far, just a comfortable distance from the basket. A common mistake is "STOP-CORRECT-CONTINUE" practice. This is when you make the mistake and THEN correct it. The important thing is to eliminate the mistake, not correct it once it has happened
2) Bounce the ball and look at the basket.
When you bounce the ball, what are you doing? You are feeling the ball and looking at the basket. Do the same with the violin. (No, don't bounce the violin, silly!) Feel the violin in your hand and look at the passage. Imagine the passage in your head.
3) Lift the ball into the air with both hands.
Lift your bow and prepare to play the passage. Imagine the ball arching through the air and swishing through the hoop. Imagine the passage.
Breathe. Did you get that step? No, you cannot skip this step. Breathe. Oxygen travels to your brain. You see things clearly. Your heart slows down. You are relaxed.
5) Make the shot.
Play the passage. Don't stop. You can't stop the ball once it is in the air. Once you start to play the passage, don't stop.
6) Observe the ball, see what happens.
The ball curves through the air and lands on the rim and bounces off to the right. You played your passage, but you missed the c-sharp.
7) Go get the ball and and come back to the line again.
OK, you can skip this step.
8) Bounce the ball and repeat from step 1.
So, you observed what happened. Don't get angry or tense, because that won't help. The ball curved to the right? Throw it slightly more left this time. This time, we aim for that c-sharp. Breathe. Don't forget to breathe. If you don't, your practice resembles the gerbil in the cage running crazy on that wheel-thing. Don't be a gerbil.
Have a question for Ask the Teacher? Email your questions by clicking here!