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Looking for advice on practicing


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I’m posting on this site with the hopes of obtaining some
advice.  First some background:  I have wanted to play
classical violin since I was quite small.  However, being a
shy little kid, I never voiced my desire.  I participated in
school music programs quietly hoping for, but never receiving, a
chance to play a violin.  A couple of years ago, I decided I
had waited long enough and started lessons as an adult.  I
knew I would never be a career musician but that was never the
goal.  I wanted to play out of simple love for the instrument
and its beautiful, unique voice.  I found a teacher right away
and have studied with this same person since.  This teacher is
wonderful – So encouraging and inspiring and even working on
scales and studies is a joy.

This wonderful teacher of mine will be out of town for few months
in the near future.  My question relates to practicing during
this down time.  I could look for another teacher but I am
thinking of experimenting by myself instead.  I don’t
intend to learn new material (for fear of introducing bad habits)
but rather I am considering revisiting my old music.  Maybe
experiment with different interpretations and focus more on the
musicality than I did on the first pass.  My teacher is ok
with either decision.

I am curious to know if any of you experienced musicians think
there is any particular disadvantage to experimenting with my old
pieces on my own.  If there is no disadvantage, can anyone
offer me any advice on practicing on my own?  My teacher has
given me a few tips already but I would love to hear more
suggestions.  To other teachers out there – What would
you most like to hear out of your students after you have been

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You might use the couple of months to memorize the stuff you've already learned to play with music: scales, arpeggios, etudes, and pieces. Maybe you can pick up the tempo on them in the course of memorization.

Some other ideas:

If you've learned any pieces that have piano accompanyment, find a pianist to play with you. You'll be surpised at how different it is to play with a pianist.

Try recording yourself and listening rather critically to intonation and interpretation.

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I had been playing around 2 1/2 years when my teacher told me she would be taking the summer off from teaching. I knew I'd never last the summer without lessons so I found another violin teacher for that period of time. For me, it was very helpful on a lot of levels. I enjoyed having another violinist's perspective on teaching, my playing and it was fascinating to see another person's approach to teaching. I came away from that brief summer with some valuable skills that I still utilize today. Thankfully my teacher has never taken any more long breaks because I adore her, but it's always helpful to experience another teacher. Going out on your own at your stage of learning the violin could be a bit hazardous to my way of thinking in that it's so easy to unintentionally develop bad techniques and far too difficult to undo them.

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i am not going to say much on tech side since i have no idea where

you are. but, if you have a chance, do videotape yourself playing.


many people when aware of being the focus of attention do not play

as well as when they have  their most comfortable setting all

to themselves.  watch the clip over and over and pay attention

to how you have performed on posture, movement, bowing, your own

breathing pattern, etc...and of course, the quality of the sound.

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If you are at a stage that you have overcome bad habits, I would think you could carry on on your own. Establish a practice routine of the etudes that challenge your technique weaknesses and add some musical pieces that gradually advance your position or tonal skills.

I would not recommend moving toward bow stroke advancements without a teacher to guide you.


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When I am unable to take lessons for some time, or my teacher can't teach, I set aside one whole lesson of just planning...what scales to work on and how...what shifting exercises, and how, etc...and take good notes...even record some of the exercises at times...this will help you to remember when something isn't quite so clear.

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Thank you very much for the advice!  Making a thorough plan

with my teacher, memorizing, strengthening my position work,

recording myself and putting the violin parts together with a piano

all sound like great ideas.  I might have trouble finding a

pianist but I can always record myself playing the piano part if

need be.

I had considered taking lessons with another teacher for a few

weeks because I understand the value - Keeping my progress on

track, preventing mistakes from becoming ingrained and giving me a

fresh perspective.  There are a couple of reasons for

preferring to work by myself for the time being, but I think I'll

keep the alternate-teacher option open.  Perhaps I can ask for

some recommendations for another teacher in case I run into


I know that it is difficult to say anything specific since you have

never heard me play before.  (I could tell you I play pieces

listed as RCM grades 6 and 7 but that contains little to no

information about the quality of my playing.)  So thank you

for your help!

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