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Practice time for an aspiring professional soloist


djerzy
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Hi all!

I am sitting here now with one of my students who is thinking about becoming a professional soloist. For his sake, and the sake of others with the same goals, I would like to ask those of you who are persuing a career to post the amount of time that you practice each day. Sort of a reality check!

Thanks for your participation!

Regards,

Jerry

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Private work - about 3-4 hrs.

Other stuff.......hmm.....2 hours (Orchestra + up 'n' coming Chamber rep)

Pupil related work.....1 or 2 hrs.

The total time spent can get up to 8+ hrs playing in a day, if I only did solo concerts I'd still want to get near to that. Some folks manage on relatively little, I see ALL the things I do daily as 'relevant' to maintaining my fluency and keeping 'in trim'.

If you are learning new pieces all the time - a lot!!!

Once you start recycling stuff.....could be far less.

T_D

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Being a professional soloist isn't really up to the student, usually. An aspiring professional musician, soloist, chamber, ochestral.....would require similar dedication. Whether one becomes an established soloist is an issue of demand based on many factors.

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Stern, Menuhin, Heifetz and others were withdrawn from regular school at early ages - usually around the age of 8.Michael Rabins' father locked him in a little practice room for hours on end before he was 8.These kids devoted themselves to the violins' study for from 6 - 8 hours a day .

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Son just finished his freshman year at Eastman in performance. He practices 3-4 hours/day 6 days a week. Then he has rehearsals - orchestra, chamber music, other ensembles - in addition to that time. It is not unusual for him to actually be playing 7-8 hours each day during the school year.

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I remember someone (was it Andrew Victor?) calculating that a rough estimate of the number of practice hours needed to attain proficiency on a string instrument to be approximately 10,000.

That would break down to daily practice of 5 hours + over a 5 year period, or about 3 hours daily for 10 years.

Guess that's why I still struggle technically

I have an older late-starter student who is finding it hard to motivate himself to progress to higher standard of playing. I am in two minds. Should I challenge him with some very serious studies, some Sevcik and scale work, or whether to try to cajoule him with some pieces he would really like to play. Either way it's hard work and you really need both to make it satisfying.

Omo.

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If I remember correctly, the 10,000 hour figure came from a study done of successful professional musicians (don't remember what the range of instruments was, but it included violin), which found that most of them basically practiced the same amount of time to attain professional level technique, and that that time was roughly 10,000 hours of hard practice. Someone can please correct me if I am mixed up on this.

I was a late starter student, and I would say that you have the best idea already, give him a little of both. If there is some small piece that will be a stretch for him, and that he really wants to play, I think that would be perfect. It is difficult whent the 'stretch' constitutes a whole dang concerto! (been there)

--Alistair

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QED. Student or professional, total time can easily reach 8 hours. Whether one takes anything useful out of Orchestra/Chamber music etc. depends on the individual attitude. Once I approached these activities with my 'brain in gear' with consideration of technique basics, intonation, quality of sound, rhythm etc. then they became 'in addition' to my private work.

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It's a good point, but how do you account for those players that do so little at Conservatory and still walk into top Orchestras? - one can only guess that they had done all the important work before their undergrad.

If you are good and have little ambition, then maybe only a small amount of time would suffice.

And of course, practice alone won't get you even close the 'golden egg' of Soloist work......even I have trouble appreciating some of the musical factors that give *these* players the edge.

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In reply to:

Whether one takes anything useful out of Orchestra/Chamber music etc. depends on the individual attitude.


i disagree with this... it's true, the additional hours of playing can be very void of purpose sometimes, but i think orchestra and chamber music rehearsals, regardless of your attitude, do have a purpose in individual playing. both of these ensembles work on completely different violinistic skills than solo playing, even with the smallest amount of effort put in.

orchestra, for example (given that you have a good conductor): work on intonation within a group (ie. the you-are-always-wrong concept), work on following a leader, work on leading, learning to blend, the list goes on. many of these i find to be things that build themselves innately while i'm playing in the ensemble... perhaps this is just because i've been doing youth orchestras since the age of 7, but i think there's an element of learning in them, regardless. (of course, if you have a bad orchestra, we also can't forget the element of learning to sight read... )

chamber music has the same sort of idea, but it's more intense as you obviously can't hide your mistakes and shortcomings behind a section.

even though these areas are perhaps not directly related to a soloistic career, i would say they are still very important to any musician's development. chamber music is something that all great soloists get involved with at some point or another. orchestral work is important, if for no other reason, to learn to work effectively with people and to play with them.

i'm seeing more and more people whom one would think would be bound for the solo stage jumping into orchestral work first. there is definitely something to be said for a bit of financial stability when you're young... in the National Arts Centre orchestra here in Ottawa, for example, Pinchas Zukerman has hired within the last few years a few people right out of school (just finishing Curtis, or finishing a post-Curtis degree) that everyone here would have thought would be bound for the solo stage... and they do play solo recitals, concertos, etc. in the city, but they also have the job of playing in the orchestra.

anyway. just my two cents.

-liana

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Talent is the first requisite. A great teacher is the second, and an efficient practice system is the third.

Efficient practicing should streamline the amount of daily individual practice needed to become a pro. Students should be taught how to practice as well as what to practice.

When my daughter began with her current teacher, he would "prescribe" (in writing) a practice regimen--X minutes per scale, etude, solo, concerto. She was not allowed to exceed the prescribed allotment. He also prescribed a break period. This system was intended to instill efficiency and structure into the practice session, as well as to avoid injury.

Today, she doesn't practice as much as some kids do, but achieves a great deal during practice. When I hear these "seven hour a day" stories, I suspect there's a lot of inefficiency--a lot of head-banging--and probably a lot of injury, as well.

J.

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Hold on a minute......there is no disagreement Liana.

Maybe my wording gave the wrong impression but what I was trying to say fits your reply (which is well put). If a student/aspiring soloist doesn't go into Orchestra/Chamber music with the right attitude (i.e. - getting something out of it) he or she is missing out on a very useful experience.

I used *other* activities to complement my solo studies, in fact most of my technical basics, which were changed on arrival to Conservatory, were honed in otherwise 'less interesting' rehearsals.

If I got it back to front, sorry.

Anyone out there looking to better themselves needs to take advantage of every activity/hour or work.....of course. More fool those that think it is beneath them or not worthy of their time.

My students that shun Orchestra and Chamber music find me most unhappy about it.

?????

T_D

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In reply to:

Talent is the first requisite. A great teacher is the second, and an efficient practice system is the third.


Hmmmm..........Nature or Nurture, Talent or Determination, Inspiration or Dedication.

One needs all......talent alone is not enough....(a quote perhaps??). Some of my most talented students are prone to be lazy.

'Efficient practising' - absolutely!.....most probably learned from the Teacher.

'When I hear these "seven hour a day" stories, I suspect there's a lot of inefficiency' - maybe in some cases but those that combine efficiency with time......well..... those are the ones. If you learn to practise properly, you improve twice as fast. If you practise twice as much, improving twice as fast.....I think that makes a four fold gain over (some of) the competition.

T_D

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ahhh okay TD! sorry, i guess i completely mistook the intention of your statement. i was wondering about that a little bit, because your comments generally seem very experienced and educated, or at least are usually in accord with my own thoughts (which i guess doesn't necessarily mean terribly experienced or educated, but at least i like to hear my concept of sense coming from elsewhere than my own brain )

-liana

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Hehe, yeah, supposedly Milstein only practiced 2 hours per day in his youth, but Auer said that was all that was needed for a talented pupil as long as they started young. Kreisler, of course, is famous for never practicing at all during much of his concert carreer (dunno how much of that is legend, though).

Ok, here we go, did a quick google search so now I don't have to rely on my poor memory anymore:

http://www.musica.uci.edu/mrn/V8I2S01.html

Scroll down to the section "Effects of Practice" and they cite some studies on practicing, including the (one of the?) study that the 10,000 hour figure is rooted in. These studies of practicing have tended to indicate that sheer hours of practice is a lot more important than most people realize, and sheer talent is a lot less. I think that argument goes right out the window when we talk about aesthetics, and obviously some people just have more natural technical felicity than others, but it is not as big of a difference as many people think (imo, and according to these studies).

--Alistair

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Since I'm not a world famous soloist get a few grains of salt ready for what I'm about to say...

I think to become a professional violinist you need at least 4 hours every day of practice with the violin under your chin, and the rest of your conscious day thinking about the violin.

I'm hoping to post some of my Bach on here if I can figure out how (warning...I'm not a professional soloist!)

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For a soloist? Well... Generally, I believe that violin soloists practice from 6-8 hours a day. Towards the 8 hours when they're younger and towards the 6 hours when they've already made it big.

If your student wants to "just" be a violinist in a professional orchestra probably closer to 4-6 hours a day. Of course, unless the student is quite talented, there's always the chance that s/he won't ever get a job. Auditions are tricky.

PS- becoming a soloist is a shot in the dark... it'll either happen because you make a good connection or because you win a major competition... they have merit and then some.

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Thanks for you participation in this thread. It has proved to be a strong reenforcement to my argument for sufficient practice.

I have a few students that show promise for a professional career, and they strongly desire that, but it is mostly the PARENTS that need convincing! They can't believe that their child must spend so much time. It seems that my telling them alone is not convincing enough. Your posts have helped support what I am telling them.

Regards,

Jerry

Conservatory of the Arts

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O I want to believe the 10,000 hours one. I reckon by the age of 18 I had practised for a total of .... 500 hours ... that's including orchestra rehearsals in the practice time. Without those it was nearer 100 hours.

It's comforting to think I could have made it if I had practised 100 times as much

Liz (who at the age of 40 now has totalled perhaps .... 400 hours or 2000 hours, depending on whether you count rehearsals or not ...)

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This is an interesting but naive question. EVERY young violinist is an aspiring soloist, and is similarly trained. Wind and brass students are more realistic and understand what an honor and good fortune it is to win an orchestra job.

I agree with your statement re "efficient" practice. I started late as well, and when I was told that I had to practice x hours a day it was incomprehensible! Most of the time I had a book on the stand, so you can imagine how much attention I was paying to acquiring skills! It was only later that I understood how to use my practice time, whether I had a few minutes or many hours.

TOday, I often suggest a "two-minute" practice for my over-worked young students. I suggest that picking up the violin FREQUENTLY and with utmost concentration will go farther than two hours of meaningless noise. BUT...it is essential to spend as much time immersed in the instrument and music in general to succeed in any way.

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I don't think quoting famous artists who practiced considerably less than the "norm" is going to do much good. After all, how many Rostropovichs, du Pres, Kreislers and Milsteins are there? Only one of each, right? They are exceptions, and it means, that is not how it works for us "mortals."

I don't know much about Rostropovich, but I am reading Elizabeth Wilson's book on du Pre and she notes that du Pre practiced with enormous concentration. As for Milstein, several of his colleagues (Piatigorsky, Primrose and Gitlis) noted that he played on the violin and with the violin, which, if used effectively, can translates into "practicing." He must have been always thinking of new possible solutions, be it be technical or musical. Kreisler (along with Gieseking, Rubinstein, Enescu etc.) apparently had photographic memory which enabled him to memorize the Sibelius concerto (!!) without touching the violin. Kreisler also had superb muscle reflexes that were developed very early in his life (after all he received premier-prix from both Vienna and Paris conservatories at the age of 10 and 12, respectively). Lack of steady practicing did cost him from time to time, especially at the beginning of concerts, according to Henry Roth.

Back to the original question. I also think that trying to be a soloist is a blind shot. There are so many "would have been" soloists who never quite made it. But if one means a "soloist calibre", then while developing technique, one should practice as much as necessary, until the violin becomes almost an extention of one's own body. For some, it takes more hours, for others, it may take less hours, depending on natural talent, efficiency of practicing etc.

T.

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