October 3, 2011 – 15 Steps to More Productive Practice

These are fifteen steps to more productive practice shared in my pedagogy course. When this was shared with me, it was attributed to Sally O’Reilly.

  1. Examine the score away from the violin.
  2. Form a musical and imaginative interpretative concept of the goal toward which you will work.
  3. In order to save time, instead of reading through, take the first eight or twelve measures. Examine carefully for phrasing, type of bow stroke(s) to be used, accents, fingering, and individual problems of the left and right hands.
  4. Repeat this section slowly at least twenty-five times, with all these things included, plus mental concentration. Practice fast passages slowly with vibrato to preserve vitality of sound. Practice melodic passages non-vibrato for accuracy, then with vibrato on every note.
  5. Practice the entire piece in small sections in this manner. Every time you stumble, examine whether the mistake was caused by a special technical difficulty or whether you slipped a cog in cognition.
  6. If you find a special difficulty within a passage, determine whether the problem is in the left hand or right are, or both! Isolate it for even more intense work. Master the special difficulty before going back to practice the section as a whole.
  7. NEVER LET REPETITION BECOME MECHANICAL. IF YOU ARE TIRED, STOP FOR FIFTEEN MINUTES OR SO.
  8. Every time you begin practicing any section, go over it for accuracy at a slow speed.
  9. Work with the metronome to increase speed gradually, never leaving a speed until it is perfect. Be willing to practice difficult right arm passages on open strings. Practice slurred passages in separate bows and fast detache passages slurred.
  10. Remember that the object and inevitable result of practice is the establishment of a habit of playing a certain thing in a certain way.
  11. Do not establish a wrong habit.
  12. Even when working slowly and carefully, keep in mind the elements of mood and feeling.
  13. The playing of music on the violin is a very complex function, including as it does the spiritual, the intellectual, the emotional, the imaginative, and the physical powers of the player. This complexity must be practiced.
  14. Budget time, and work on schedule.
  15. NEVER practice more than two hours at a time. Galamian insisted on 50 minutes of practice followed by a 10 minute break.

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