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Violin Lessons: Practice is Change

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Yet another way to think
of practice is as change.
Change of habits, because we all have
even when we first start to play a new
The habits of our left and our right
hands, our fingers,
the pattens of the bow that we're
comfortable with.
Those come into a new piece even before we
start learning it.
I once read a fascinating example of what
it means to change a habit and
it involved imagining an inclined board,
let's say and
there's a track that's carved in it.
If you drop a marble at the top of that
track, it runs straight down.
Now, imagine that you wanted to carve a
different track in that board midway
through, you wanted it to curve off to the
If you made that new track, the new curved
track exactly as deep as the old one,
there's no way the marble would roll to
the side there.
It would still continue to go straight
Gravity would take it there, but if you
made the new track much deeper,
then that would cause the marble to roll
of the side and
follow the new track and it's the same
changing of habit.
Its much harder to change a habit than it
is to simply form one in the first place.
So what you have to do is to identify the
point at which you want to make a change.
Let's say, the point in a piece.
It's a note that's out of tune.
You have to identify the point where you
want to make the change,
which would be the point where you wanted
to carve the new track.
And you have to practice before that point
to after that point and
you have to practice it in a new way.
Remember that it's easier to make a big
change than it is a small one.
Sometime when we make small changes, they
tend to snap right back to the old way.
So better to make a really obvious change,
something definitely different that your
Not something difficult, but
something that you're choosing to do
differently that's going to make a change
right at that point and you practice
before it to after it.
And you do that over and over again.
That's carving the new track more deeply.
Think of it as well,
you want to change something that's
difficult to something that's easy.
Many of the times when there's a difficult
it's because there are a combination of
And what you need to do is separate those
problems, so
that you can solve them one by one.
You can do that, for example, by
eliminating vibrato for a time, so
that you can hear what's going on exactly
with the bow.
Now you're solving issues with the bow.
When you add the vibrato back in, now
things work differently.
There may be multiple problems with the
Maybe the bow is not tracking straight
[SOUND] and
the arm is not on the right level for
string crossings.
Those would also have to be solved one by
one, but you can do it,
once you identify what the problems are.
If you can't identify what the problems
that's what I'm here for.
So, it's good to practice slowly, of
We all know that practicing slowly can
make things easier, but
that's not the only thing, that's not the
only way to make something easier.
I love practicing in tempo, but in smaller
So, if there is a passage that I just
can't play in tempo,
maybe I can play the middle of it.
The middle four notes in tempo.
So, I do that.
Then I add the next two notes or the next
four notes, I've got eight.
I add the four notes before that and now
I've got 12.
So, I'm starting in the middle and
expanding outward, but
it's always in tempo and that saves me the
trouble of having to
raise the tempo at the very end after I've
worked everything out,
because it's often not really tempo that's
holding us back.
You may also practice from the end and
start adding notes from
the end as I love to do with runs that end
on high notes.
Finally, you can overlap these chunks, so
that you can practice the middle eight
notes and then move forward four notes.
Still playing eight, now four of them
Then you go back and you overlap four
notes in the beginning.
In this way, you can make actual changes
and you can ingrain them to form
new habits that are more beneficial to the
piece you're working on and
more beneficial for your violin playing in