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Practice time for an aspiring professional soloist


djerzy
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Dearest Tobychaos,

In reply to:

This is an interesting but naive question. EVERY young violinist is an aspiring soloist, and is similarly trained


That is an interesting, but naive response. My 28 years of teaching have shown me that NOT every young violinist is an aspiring soloist. Some are forced to play by their parents, others do it for social reasons, and some love to play as part of a large group. There are a very few who love the limelight, and want to be the center of attention. And as for "similarly trained", there is a great diversity in the way violinists are trained. I am constantly reminded of that fact every time I receive a new student at the conservatory.

I asked this question not for my own education, but as a way of showing my student, and others who may wonder on this board, the general opinions of violinists from around the world.

Regards,

Jerry

Director, Conservatory of the Arts

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I agree. I have no ambition to ever even play in informal recitals, but I would love to be in a quartet or other chamber group. I would also love to play in an orchestra. Playing solos is too hard on my nerves for me ever to want to do it as a career! (This is not just because I am not capable of being a soloist, I have never wanted to be.)

Carlo.

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Yeah, I did the book thing too. Just my mother breathed down my neck so much that I had ways to hide it... I'd stand by the bed and hold Harry Potter down with my foot and turn the pages with the foot and shove it under when my mom came in... And she wondered why I didn't make any progress... I grew out of that when I was 11.

Heather

Ps, the art is perfected! My feet and hands are totally independent and have been since I stopped ripping the pages out! Yay!

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I think we only mentioned those exceptions to show that there are exceptions and hard rules or numbers about practicing are unrealistic. Some people need more practice than others, and some people need less, and it IS possible to practice too much (as Auer and many others have said). I think part of Auer's point when he wrote about practicing, was that two hours (or four hours for a less felicitous pupil) per day adds up to a lot of time if one starts at a young age (five or younger) and that if you don't have the talent in the first place then you aren't ever going to become a successful soloist anyway, so no point in killing yourself practicing 8 hours a day. Two hours a day from the age of five will get a body quite close to that golden 10,000 hour figure by the time they are 18, and that doesn't include time with orchestras, chamber groups, etc. On the other hand, someone who picks up the violin at age 14 and gets very serious about it, will probably NEED to practice more and more intensely than all the people who started at age 5. But if someone says that all soloists practiced 4+ hours a day to get where they are, well that's just not true. Sometimes less is more.

--Alistair

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A titled player in my orchestra said that when she was young, she saw Meadowmount as a great vacation, since she practiced so much more the during rest of the year. This is just something I thought was funny, and perspective.

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I am going to try and bring this thread back to life.

I have been really down, I took an enforced week off and now am struggling to get back to form. I hate the sounds, the notes are like sliding around on an ice-rink and I have to play solo avec l'orchestra in under 24 hrs. Listening to Liljustin's thread on tone made me realise just how fragile things can be and small changes (in my case for the worst today ) can make a difference.

I was reminded of a conversation with a pupil not so long ago. She came off stage after a big concerto and we went to eat. I asked her what (if anything) she considered to be the secret to her consistent improvement. She replied that she'd never stopped practising for more than a day or two, had put in 'all the hours' and then done more as 'light entertainment'.

If I'd not had a break, I'd be where I was 3 weeks ago, every 'thoughful' hour you spend can only be maximised if you keep going - surely? I know some great players *stop for the summer* and things, but essentialy one has to keep going. Like an althete, small changes can make a whole load of difference, but you need to be in the kind of good shape to effect those improvements......otherwise

I think I going to cry....

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Odd... I find that when I come back to the violin after 3 days or so break, it takes an hour to warm up, but then I find myself having overcome problems that I couldn't hack at all the few days before the break. This is why when I have a performance, I practise like crazy for months then have a week break from the piece, picking it up again a week before the performance. This also stops the music sounding dry - just notes in a row.

Maybe people just function differently - a psychological thing perhaps? I heard Heifetz said if he misses a day's practise, his wife notices, two days and the critics notice, three days and everyone notices. On the other hand Kreisler or Milstein could leave the violin alone for a summer and still play like Gods afterwards. It obviously has nothing to do with talent!

Carlo.

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Thanks Carlo.

I know what you mean about a break sometimes helping, a passage can be overdone certainly. I'm just going to take a deep breath and go for it. I'm sure that no-one will know I'm 'off colour', I've enlisted two of my students to play (in the pro band) they'll know

I can imagine it now....the audience are cool, so's the conductor but the T_D 'disciples' will be pulling faces and ready to take the mickey after the concert!!!

'It obviously has nothing to do with talent!' thank god, or I'd really be up the creek........

T_D , scared but still alive

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Dear all,

I thought I'd add an idea I recently came across in a book on child Psychology and learning theory: Entrainment. It is basically illustrated by a two year old banging on pots and pans over and over again with sheer disregard for his parent, who is on the phone, and pleas for silence. When the child is 'entrained' in the activity, he is completely absorbed in the action, effortlessly concentrated and concerned--he isn't just "banging" he "is banging." The child doesn't even consciously hear/see the parent because it is so totally involved in "banging." Forgive me for drawing an analogy between a child banging on a pan and a highly polished adult playing a violin, but the constant in the equasion is a human being (and that hasn't changed much since the upper paleolithic).

I digress, entrainment happens often in early childhood, but tends to become less frequent with age, so that by the time we hit adulthood, entrainment often requires effort unless we are doing an activity we have been habitually able to give our total concentration to. This state is outside of time completely; the two year old could bang on the pot until he turned 8 if it weren't for his biochemistry telling him to seek novelty after a number of repetitions.

Have any of you become so engrossed in practicing/performing that you didn't realize many hours had passed? When the non-task physical world disappears, that is entrainment. It seems to be one of the most powerful ways we facilitate learning in ourselves, even beyond childhood. I'd suppose that the astounding players of any instrument are able to reach entrainment faster&deeper in their practicing than other players.

I hope this helps.

Sincerely,

Scott

P.S. Be the ball.

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Fascinating.

I think I can suggest a similar 'mindset' to this, the 'zone' of practice in Violin, Golf, whatever. When one passes into a new dimension where all else is excluded and the focus becomes almost hypnotic, I feel this is similar.

On the golf course or even practising, this happens frequently. I have played a round in the driving rain in only a shirt and have been unable to tell even who I was playing with. Or, like last night - I did whole concert completely oblivious to everything other than the conductor, pulse, quality of tone, dynamics and rhythm of those in the near vicinity. Total submersion (? if that's a good term). What I do know is that my section say it's like a cyclone 'pulling' them all in - if they follow me and try to match my level of concentration we all do much better.

I know these are performing situations but I do the same in practice also. When I was kid I would play snooker in the evening, I could spend hours totaly 'entrained' in cause and effect, polish of technique (mainly by establishing the 'correct' way and then developing with trial and error) and becoming a 'manic' learner. I would often finish at 3 in the morning, same with Violin, and hour could become 3,4 or 5 easily, with a focus that would be twice as beneficial as normal.

T_D

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T_D,

That's exactly it, The ZONE. I'd wager that I'd not want to wager at snooker with you.

In the very young, entrainment is a way for the brain to build connections between fields of "knowledge," to make the brain's neural structures more efficient, more entrenched, and more plentiful. Perhaps soloists who start very young create a huge number of these pathways in their brains specific to music. That hypnotic state has very real, and beneficial, consequences internally. "who can tell the dancer from the dance?" --WB Yeats

For interested parties, the book I'm paraphrasing here is "Evolution's End" By Joseph Chilton Pearce.

Scott

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I shall get the book.

There is also a very interesting chapter in a book I read for teacher training (class music, not violin) which presents a hypothesis about the important conditions for learning - it was a revelation and equally suited to Violin.

I'll post the summary when I have time to type it up - parents and teachers should find it rings a few 'cathedral sized' bells!!

T_D

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T_D

I know an article regarding "conditions for learning." Dr. Resnick and Dr. Cambourne were drilled into my head in Pedagogy class. They're maybe not the same authors you're referring to, but those conditions for learning might have different appliers in each of the disciplines. I think those ideas would be a fine thing for violin teachers (and students maybe more importantly) to know about.

Scott

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Recently, I've been practicing between About 1-3 hours a day, scattered around the day (and night).

I'm in fact on a very serious course of making a last go at it. I'd like to see if I get up to virtuoso/soloist level even now. I believe it may be possible, which might be to do with inborn talent, not yet unleashed. But I'm really not going to be trying for much longer if it doesn't come off like that very soon.

I'm in the finishing touches of all Kreutzer, and if I see that it really did magic, I'll surely make a new thread about it.

I have the feeling that the aim should not be to do many hours, or not to take holidays (from the violin). But if it works out like that naturally (to do many hours a day, and never to want to take a rest), then that is probably the right thing, as long as you focus your life mainly on being an ideal human being, at the same time. If you lose touch with that, take a break.

When I was a young child, I used to practice up to 10 hours some days. It was mostly wasted focus. I did it only as a challenge in itself. It happened to be quite a bit of Sevcik, and that certainly made me whatever I was. But all in all, I didn't have the mind I have now, which would have done much more for me in even a fraction of the time.

Actually, Piano was my main instrument, but I didn't have access to a piano for quite a time.

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