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What is the best tip you have ever learned?


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All the tips here are good ones! I think the most useful one I have received, in my short tenure as an adult 'boomeranger' (left the string-playing flock as a teenager, returned 2 years ago), is to relax. Violin playing posture is so unnnatural that there is a tendency, especially for beginners, to apply a death grip. As one teacher put it, "Can you sing with someone's hands squeezing your neck? Relax! You strangle the instrument, you strangle the sound!" She also asked me to try practicing in a dark room or with my eyes closed, as I had a tendency to watch my fingers as I played; closing the eyes helps a great deal to hear intonation, and to rely on hand-ear, rather than hand-eye, coordination.

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This is a very good thread and one I will print for future reference. So far, in my mere four months of violin playing, the best tip I learned, as was mentioned here by MsMazas, was recording your playing. It is easier for me to pick out my areas to work on when I don't have to concentrate on playing, and the recording never lies!

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I was kind of hoping that perhaps if I keep listening to these recordings, maybe some of their beautiful sound will transfer to my playing, sort of like through osmosis. I can dream can't I?

I am a firm believer in osmosis. If I can't practice because I am not at home I will (a) go to a concert, or if that is not possible (:) listen to my walkman.

I think if you can hear the sound you want to make in your head you are part way towards making it.

Oh and a funny story....I was having my lesson and I had suddenly acquired a vibrato out of nowhere. "Where on earth did that come from?" my teacher asked. "I don't know" I replied "but I shook hands with Josh Bell last night". We always reckoned I "caught" my vibrato from Mr Bell!

Sure hope nothing transferred the other way


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So many have suggested a mirror - I've been practising at night a lot in my room and with my light on, my window makes a pretty darned good mirror.

Tips - I've had many, but the one that popped into my head right away was one about the contact that your hand has with the bow. It doesn't matter what else you do with your bowarm if you can't transfer what you're doing into the bow. (However, bowhold is an individual thing - there are guidelines and there are a few definite don'ts, but, as my teacher says when I've asked a lot of questions and still can't get somewhere, experiment!)

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A grain of salt for the advice on playing fast, in case any of my students happen to be reading: a little fast practice might work for you if your rhythm remains impeccable and you maintain a nice solid tone. If fast means skim tone and collapse of the longer note values, please confine it to the bathroom late at night, when no one else is home.

P.S.: In most cases, thinking does more good than harm.

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