Every violinist knows that practice, practice, practice – followed by more practice – is essential to making solid progress.
My own teacher, Michael Frischenschlager, often said, “It all begins with practicing.” The daily ritual of taking the instrument out of its case, warming the fingers, finding one’s beautiful sound, spending time with the gorgeous repertoire – this is like an incubator for the musician’s soul. Whatever wonderful ideas we have – whether how to hear the intonation in the exposition of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, an idea for an interesting performance project, or a new concept of inner pulse in unaccompanied Bach – these ideas only flourish in our minds if we spend daily quality time with the music and our instruments.
For the sake of this post, we will allow practicing to include not only the time consuming work of analyzing and overcoming technical obstacles in the repertoire, but also building one’s general technique, as well as the all-important mental aspects of creative work, such as interpretative analysis, score study, and mental preparation for performance. All of these are necessary, but it is the consistency which is key!
Consistent, daily practice can be a joy – especially after several weeks or a few months, as progress starts to accumulate and one feels the undeniable connection between that success and the daily work.
Daily practice can also be tedious. We cannot always be inspired, and sometimes it’s hard to feel motivated to begin a multi-hour project, day after day, when all it seems like we’ll accomplish is warming-up the vibrato and scales one more time, as well as perhaps progressing a little further in that new concerto movement.
On days like this, it’s important to remember that the mundane chore of daily practice is the root and seed of greater things. The mind is always working, and the musical soul is always listening. Inspired times will return again, just as surely as they will later fade. We must keep practicing – we must keep ourselves exposed to our instruments and the music. In the words of legendary violinist Yehudi Menuhin:
“If I wanted to play the violin, I had to work. Because anything that one wants to do really, and one loves doing, one must do everyday. It should be as easy to the artist and as natural as flying is to a bird. And you can’t imagine a bird saying well, I’m tired today, I’m not going to fly!”
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