One of the most important skills any violinist can have is knowing how to practise! This one single skill can transform your progress, because if you always know how to improve then you'll always be getting better and better!
A big part of knowing how to practice is being able to create a useful structure for each practice session that you do. A good structure should be a simple, solid framework that you can rely on to help you decide how to plan your time and what do do during that time.
But it should also be flexible. No-one should ever dogmatically add things to their violin practice simply because they think it's 'the right thing to do' or 'because my teacher told me to'. Instead, you need to be creative and switch around the tasks that you do from day to day, week to week -- according to what will help you get closer to your goals... faster AND better!
Introducing... The Practice Menu!
One of our favourite analogies for this is The Practice Menu. Think about how a restaurant would compartmentalise their menu according to different types of food. It's necessary, isn't it? If the chocolate cake was next to the vegetable tart which was nestling between the coffee which was next to the soup... well, you'd just end up confused!
You need a structure that makes sense. And just like with food, where there can be infinite recipes and dishes - just as there are infinite variations in technical exercises and pieces of music for the violin - there are some useful guidelines that are broadly correct whoever and wherever you are.
In most restaurants you'll start with savoury starters and mains, some with sides. A sweet dessert will usually follow the main course. Drinks will often be available on a separate menu. It's clear, it's organised, and it's easy to choose what you'd like.
In your violin practice, try following a similar structure.
First begin with the STARTERS. This is where you get your warm-ups done, but it's also a time for building your technique (for example, practising new techniques that you haven't mastered before) and maintaining (making sure that everything you already know is in really good shape.
Then you can move on to the MAIN COURSE. This is usually the biggest part of your practice - working on repertoire (pieces of music). What you're looking to do in this part of your practice is to analyse and improve the technical and musical issues that will make a big impact on how you play each piece.
When you're having a meal, don't forget the DRINKS! In our analogy, that's the equivalent of performing. Your performance practice is absolutely critical if you're going to get used to playing to other people, but you'd be surprised how often people forget about performance practice entirely. It's also a learnable skill, so with the right training you can eliminate performance anxiety completely. We go into this in great detail in our practice resources and training courses in the ViolinSchool members area.
Finally, don't forget to reward yourself with some DESSERTS! Whether it's composition (creating your own music), improvisation (creating music by playing it in real time!), sight-reading, music theory or any other musical topic that improves your overall musical experience, make sure you leave time to have some fun! Being really creative in your practice is a great way to stay motivated and make sure that you're always excited about your playing.In ViolinSchool's online learning programs, we go into great detail about how to approach practice, and to create a structure to your practice time that gets you great results. Our online courses include the How to Practice training and a section dedicated to useful practice resources.
If you'd like to give your practice a boost then check out the benefits of ViolinSchool Membership to see how we can help you to transform your violin playing! We'll also help you to review your learning and put together a personalised practice plan for you when you join!
Would you like a copy of THE PRACTICE MENU?
Just email us at [email protected] and we'll send it to you as a printable PDF!