Practice Tips

Most of these tips simplify things down to core root skills and foundations so as to unpick problem areas. The idea of some of these tips is to make life harder than it  needs to be so that when you play what you need to play it seems easier. 

1/. Rhythm - on semi quaver passages with a regular rhythm play them with a syncopated rhythm rather than regularly as written  (its easier to come back to a regular rhythm - try long, short, long, short  and then short, long short long , accent  first note with vibrato, try a firmata on the first note with a flurry of next 4 notes - improvise, have fun, push the boundaries etc)

2/. Clean Planes - the bow has 7 different planes to work precisely .  If you get unintentional double stopping or hit an adjacent string then work is needed. To clean up string crossings insert a pause before changing strings to accurately get dialled into the new plane. If there is nothing but pure clarity then great. Listen out for your tendencies - i.e is there always a string or a note that grins out as being poor?  A correction is required or you will always play it that way as default learnt way of doing things. Unlearning requires intervention and inhibition of the 'not playing it that way'.

3/. Left hand elimination - simply forget about the left hand and play the pure bowings and listen to what is going on. Can throw up reasons why a passage is not working i.e. because the right hand hasn't figured out the bowing yet. Particularly good when difficult string crossings are involved. The focus here is all about the right hand. There may be work needed on clean Planes

4/. Bowing elimination - simply forget about the right  hand this time. Sometimes the issue is about figuring out shifts, position. ON quiet passages think about the upward motion of the fingers lifting off the fingerboard rather than slamming down. Practice slowly at the speed that you can do the shifts and work up from there. Hear and visualise the sound.

5/. Singing - simply sing the passage.  The tendency is to play notes that are shorter than are actually written. Singing takes away the diversion of the brain activity of the right and left hands and interrogates the musical idea and particularly the flow of the piece ( which gets immediately interrupted if you hit a bit that is left/right hand 'tricky') - helps shape the contour of the phrase and lets the phrase sing. Then go work on technique as to how you will achieve that. 

6/. Anchor navigation note - finding the correct note on a big shift or atonal note can be helped by thinking of an easier note to hit as an anchor ( say a fifth or an octave below the actual note, or a note where it is natural to move  either up or down the finger board. 'Find the F# and the fast  G run done the fingerboard is easy').

7/. Whistle while you work - finding a high note  can be helped by pausing just before you make the move and whistling the note out loud then going for it. Great way to measure if you are spot on with intonation ...or not!

8/. Reverse engineer -  passages usually  starts  easy and then get harder. The tendency can be to stumble and then go back to the easy bit thinking that this will unlock the hard. So start with the hard part and isolate why it is hard. Figure that out and then add the previous  bar working backwards. The easy bit will always be easy and doesn't need your attention.

9/. The Skeleton - difficult passages are sometimes due to difficult or bit shifts. Strip it back and practice just the shifts - these are the structural bones of the piece that all the notes are hung from . A really difficult seeming passage may actually just come down to figuring out how to secure just a couple of shifts. Once you have the shifts in place add the notes in that position.

10/. Allegro spiccato - figuring out the left hand shifts with a hyperactive right hand is a challenge. So divide and conquer. Play the left hand notes but with slurred right hand ( in effect temporarily switch off the spiccato stroke). Get the left hand sorted and work separately on the right hand before adding back together. Spicatto  with a sloppy left hand is never going to sound good!

11/. Slurred notes - Play slurred notes with separate bows rather than slurred to challenge whether the left hand is accurate enough and each note is sounded. With Slurring there can be a tendency to 'gloss over' fast runs  without the notes being clear and transparent. Work out what is needed to ensure that all notes are there.

12/. Play double stops - Picking  out harmonic intervals  - on a stepped run over two strings where the melody rises in say thirds (alternating between two strings) try just playing the double stops for intonation and position.

13/. Gnome  - think of a metronome as a fellow musician that you are going to lock into ( its always easier in a section where there is a strong leader keeping the  timing in order!). Really focus on being perfectly zoned in with your fellow 'musician' rather than accepting that your are late or early. This improves your listening skills immensely when in real life playing with real musicians. You can always tell someone who works with a Gnome - they have an awareness outside off the bubble of the written dots! Use the Gnome as coach with the idea of training at different speeds.

14/. Piano Forte - the secret to playing a beautiful piano piece is to first play it really well Forte. Think of the contour of the phrase i.e. when a passage is played loud there can be greater contrasts in light and shade to pull out the contour. Playing piano can then be flat as theres little head room  - unless you have a clear idea of the musical core  and flow in the phrasing  - when that is present in a Piano phrase , the phrase sings.

15/. Play the subdivisions - on a tricky passage with lots of varying rests populate the score in practice with all 16th notes and then cluster them says into a dotted crotchet , quaver once the 16th notes are sorted etc.  A really good way of unpicking complex rhythms.

16/. Reverse Gear -  some passages  become really clear when played in reverse - just like playing a new scale in both directions the intervals and musical intent is heard in a different context but the same notes. 

17/. Mirror hands-  sometimes the left hand needs help memorising passages. Mimic the left hand with the right i.e put the bow down and play the same fingering on the fingerboard with the right hand mirroring the fingers of the left.

The above is a summary from the web site Violin Excerpts 

SCAT Practicing & 17 Creative Tips.pdf SCAT Practicing & 17 Creative Tips.pdf
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