Be a musician and a student could be not easy, especially if you decide to be a violinist. In fact, things were quite tough at the beginning. I struggled a lot, but I had a vision. A clear vision of myself playing the violin in the future. That vision never faltered. The truth is, however, that violin and I have not always gotten along.
When I started playing the violin, I remember that I wasted a lot of hours playing, again and again, the same passages, and at the end of the day feeling uncomfortable and exhausted. My mood was insecure as though I didn’t fix anything. I felt confused.
Today, I would like to talk about my Violin-learning struggles, how I persevered past them, and what I have learned from the process. I’ll also tell you how you can benefit from all this, too.
1. Learn every day
It’s a simple rule to play any instrument, but it’s the only way you are going to make it happen. This is no secret to learn anything, Learn Every Day.
Most of you could reply that It’s pretty obvious to play every day for a classical musician or a student. It’s true, of course. It’s impossible to reach results without efforts and study, but what I meant when I said “Learn Every Day” is not just play the violin for hours but learn something new about violin technique every day. It means that the quality of your time is essential to achieve this goal.
A lot of students tell me that they study a bunch of hours per day and they expect more results than they reach.
My answer is quite easy. The quality of their study sessions is not optimized on their needs. Hours and hours of passage repetitions (mostly from the beginning to the end of a piece) is not the right way to learn better and save time. Concentration is limited and we have to use it carefully.
For this before playing, have a seat and take a few minutes to mark difficult passages reducing them at very few most technical difficult bars. Then start to play slowly and check the fingering more adapt for you. Repetition is important but it’s more important don’t blow up! Don’t stay too much time on the same passage in a row. Brain (and body) needs breaks!
2. Find good sound from the beginning
This is a paramount especially for a total beginners. In fact, their first steps are always featured by total negligence for quality of sound. Posture, bowing and all the rest take over the whole place.
But a good sound is possible from scratch if we put attention on it. Teachers have to spend time on it and also for open strings from the first lessons.
An unpleasant sound makes bad musicians.
3. Develop different skills
During a lesson, I gave an Etude to my student in which there are different difficulties and skills involved. I noticed that my student used most of his time improving one problem: intonation. When the time was over intonation wasn’t fixed and the other aspects were a little overlooked. Result: problems were there.
My advice was the following: use your study time to fix globally a piece. Don’t pay all your attention to one thing too much time, but try to enhance as much as possible more skills. Don’t neglect the bow technique while you study intonation; don’t forget interpretation and colors when you fix intonation. Think about a piece totally, always.
4. Do comparisons and take inspirations
When I was a student, the Internet didn’t exist. If you wanted to listen to different interpretations, you had to buy CDs and concert tickets. It’s not a problem, mind you. But nowadays, the Internet simplified everything and you can listen to loads of different executions by amazing professionals.
Choose some interpretations and listen to them carefully, paying attention to details, listen to sound and phrasing, try to find what you like and dislike and try to learn and imitate. I don’t think that’s a lack of personality but chose what you like and make it yours.
5. Keep a Practice Journal
My good habit during these years is to keep a practice journal with me during my sessions, definitely. Most of you just known my addiction for journaling and music is no exception. I found several benefits tracing my duties and at the end of every session check my list as “done” with a green check. Start with simple annotations and make a plan for multiple sessions, few things gradually, and every week end make a tracker to keep trace of your results.