Practice is a topic that is often implied but rarely discussed. Almost as if a “yeah, you should....” answer would suffice as good enough. Everyone at some level realizes that one must practice to improve. Weekly lessons can only do so much. Yet, I find it curious how the subjects of “why” and advice of “how” are not normally discussed between the teacher and student. Toward that desire, this is a brief account of how I approach the most important and essential component of the artist’s development.
Practice is a gift that you give yourself. It should always have as its core positive reinforcement. I make sure that in my practice, “good” is acknowledged whenever possible and “almost” replaces every possible negative critique. Even at the incipient, it should possess an element of calm; gently reminding yourself of what you can do and on what you are prepared to expand or improve.
At the beginning, there is time. In the practice of ‘practice’, one trains the mind to sustain a higher level of focus. This is the reason for my advocating that one should, as a minimum, practice daily as long as the duration of the lesson (30 mins for 30 minute lesson, etc ...). When speaking of young children, this can be divided into palpable durations (5-15 minutes) to achieve the same goal. I believe that much of the distaste met when approaching the topic of practice comes from practicing past mental exhaustion. Short sessions that leave the young student wanting more might be a good way to start them on this road.
I justly identify the even practice/lesson measure as a minimum for many practical reasons. One being, that in the beginning, it is about developing a foundation of knowledge to which muscle memory can attach itself. Good habits only surpass bad habits when the latter is more familiar than the former. Another reasoninvolves the concept of as you improve, you will need time not only to solidify what you know, but to advance. As you improve, undoubtably you will discover intimate details concerning the best way you learn . As one advances in ability to concentrate, the time should increase. You will need time to discover and develop on those valuable epiphanies.
Below is a expandable blueprint that represents my practice. I present it on a 2 hour practice platform , but it is easily tailored to personal needs. It is what works best for me and I expand on it when necessary; increasing the time for recitals or other public performances. Use it as a template.
Scales (30 minutes +)
straight full bows
intonation/ tone production
even finger articulation
include double stops (3rds)
Performance Piece (30 minutes)
focus: applying concepts practiced on scales
solidifying knowledge and comfort
do something else
Double stops (15mins+)
same as above
New Piece and Stuff (30 minutes +)