Just like almost any skill that we acquire, when it comes the playing the violin, it's true that 'practice makes perfect'.
This is true whether you are just starting out or whether you are already a seasoned violinist. Practicing every day takes a great deal of commitment but it definitely pays off when you see your skills improve.
But practicing for hours incorrectly can also be a waste of time. In order to make sure that you are making progress and making the most out of the long hours of practice, you'll want to make sure that you are practicing effectively. By developing good practicing habits early on, then this will allow you to become proficient in the violin and develop your skills more quickly.
When you are learning how to play the violin, remember than this means much more than just being able to play your favorite tunes. You'll also need to work on your musical theory, musical technique and ear training in order to become a truly proficient violinist.
Regular Practice as the Key to Success
If you are just a beginner, it's a good idea to develop excellent practicing habits in order to get into a rhythm and truly develop your talent. That way, when you become more advanced and as you require greater technique you'll have the dedication and habits necessary to commit to playing. But practice should also be enjoyable and shouldn't feel like a chore. In order to main a good practicing habits, here are a few basic tips from some of our best teachers:
- Try to practice at the same time every day
By allocating a specific time in your day to practice, eventually this will feel like a routine (like brushing your teeth). You'll get so used to practicing at this time that it will feel like second nature to you after just a few weeks. By setting aside some time to practice every day, this helps you to reach your goals and advance more quickly.
When choosing a time to practice, think about a time when you'll have enough energy. It's probably best not to practice first thing in the morning while you are still half asleep or right before bed when you are already feeling sleepy. You'll also want to choose a time which will have the least likely distractions or changes in your schedule preventing you from practicing.
- Try to practice for the same duration each day
Again this will help you to develop a more regular daily routine when you practice the same amount of time every day. The length of practice will vary depending on your level:
- Beginner: 30 mins per day
- Intermediate: 45 mins per day
- Advanced: 60+ mins per day
Bear in mind that you may need to adjust the length of your practice for different reasons. For example, before a recital or a performance, you may want to put in extra hours in order to perfect your pieces.
For beginner violinist or more advanced musicians, staying committed to your practice is sure to bring you a great deal of benefits as a violinist, and will help you to allocate your time better when practicing.
- Take the time to tune and warm up
Many people don't know this, but similar to professional athletes, musicians need to warm up before getting into the more difficult parts of their practice. When warming up, you'll be able to develop the strength and flexibility in your arms and fingers that you'll need when playing complex pieces like Vivaldi!
A warm up can consist of many different things, from playing scales and arpeggios, to other technical exercises based on your level. You can also take this time to practice things such as pizzicato, vibrato and other technical aspects of playing the violin.
Your violin tutor, will be able to help you develop exercises adapted to your own individual level.
Playing Violin Pieces
Now that you've gone through your scales, arpeggios and musical theory, it's time to get to the fun part... playing actual music. Playing violin pieces is often one of the most enjoyable parts of the lesson as you'll finally get to put all the theory and technique into practice in order to play something beautiful.
When playing a piece that you've selected with your teacher, you'll probably being reading sheet music. Always try to keep in mind what you've learned from musical theory, including the correct speed, the correct rhythm and tempo and the correct key. In addition, while you are playing you should pay attention to your posture and to make sure that you are holding your violin and bow in the correct position.
It's important to remember that violin lessons cost money, so it's important to optimise your time and practice as much as possible.
When practicing, it's important to use the right equipment:
A metronome will help you to ensure that you are maintaining the correct time and rhythm during your practice.
Don't be afraid to mark up your sheet music with notes and the correct fingering. As a general rule, always have a pencil handy when attending lessons, orchestra rehearsals or even during your everyday practice. A pencil is just one of many important pieces of equipment you'll need when playing the violin.
You'll also want to use a pencil to highlight certain passages or any areas that you'll need to go over and practice in further detail so it's important to use this to improve your practice.
- Musical accompaniment
Another great way to see your pieces in a different light is to play them with a musical accompaniment such as a CD or any music player. It will be helpful to listen to the music before and while playing to make sure that you have the right tempo, rhythm and key.
Get the most out of your daily violin practice
No matter how passionate you are about the violin, practicing every single day can of course get tedious for every violinist. It's true that the violin requires a great deal of commitment and determination, but at the same time it can be extremely rewarding and allow you to express your creative and artistic side.
Here are a few tips to help you make the most out of your daily practice and help to prevent you from getting bored when practicing every day.
- Keep things varied
Instead of following the exact same structure and routine every single day, try something new each time you practice. Try out different scales each day and try to vary the pieces and techniques that you learn. Maybe dedicate one day of the week to focusing on musical theory and another day to practice something more creative like musical composition. This will help you to practice a range of different things and prevent you from getting bored by practicing the same thing every single day.
- Record yourself playing the violin
Every teacher will recommend to their students to make a recording of themselves playing the violin. This will help them to identify any problem areas that they need to improve, such as issues in pitch or technique. By making a video recording this can also be useful to identify any difficulties in positioning of the bow and violin. By making a recording this will help you to identify any issues and correct them as quickly as possible.
- Practice in a group
By practicing in a group or with a musical ensemble, this is one of the most fun and rewarding ways to practice the violin. Not only will you be able to share your playing with other students, but you'll be able to play beautiful duets and pieces together. There are a number of different pieces on the internet which can be played in a duo or an ensemble. By playing with other violinists or other musicians, this is one of the best ways to improve both your musical and performance skills.
There's nothing more magical then hearing the beautiful melodies of an orchestra. This is why many violin teachers ask their students to join an ensemble or an orchestra once they've reached a certain level. It is a truly rewarding experience for many students that only reaffirms their commitment to play the violin.
Finding a musical ensemble for your level is relatively easy. In Canada, you can find ensembles at your local schools and community centres, as well as music schools, music groups and universities. You'll be able to find groups in every style from jazz to classical and contemporary music!
There are countless benefits to playing in a group setting, such as improving your performance skills, gaining confidence, and overcoming stage-fright. Additionally, you'll be able to meet friends who are just as passionate about playing the violin as you are!
So what are you waiting for? Get practicing!