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9:39 PM (PST)


Well it's a new year - actually, more like a new DECADE now! - and guess what I've been thinking about...NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS!  (I know I know...go ahead and roll your eyes, or don't roll your eyes and just give me "that look" and raise an eyebrow and turn "that look" into a "here we go again" facial expression...or do whatever it is you do, like *yawn* or flare your nostrils & grit your teeth & have the "glossy-eyed-zoned-out" look, or laugh at yourself for getting sucked into reading this run-on ramble sentence LOL).




New Year's Resolution or not, I think all violinists & violin students should make a commitment to PRACTICING THE VIOLIN...yeah I know - big surprise coming from a violin teacher, right??  Heheheh.


BUT....I bet what I'm about to say WILL come as a surprise...



Practice does NOT make perfect!!  (Let me say that again)





WHAT?!?  What did he say?  Did he just say that practice does NOT make perfect?!  Yes, that's EXACTLY what I said...and it's very true.


The thing is, most students (and I've seen this happen time after time, again and again, over the course of more than two decades) have a practice "session" that consists of simply playing through a piece, or an exercise... or maybe certain little practice segments that they're trying to work up to a full piece.  Then they play at a recital or other performance - maybe just at their next lesson - and there are a million things to work on that are often times things that weren't even an issue in the beginning.  Why does this happen?



Because of INCORRECT practicing.



The violin is undeniably one of the most technically difficult instruments to master...if not the most.  Practicing it in order to achieve true success takes precision, care, and attention to accuracy and detail. 



That means that practicing the violin

isn't so much a matter of how MUCH you practice

as much as it is a matter of HOW you practice. 



If you "practice" simply by giving yourself time to just play through some exercises and pieces, you may very well do a lot of damage to your overall growth as a violinist.  Then you'll be wondering why you aren't getting any better...or why you aren't where you'd like to be as a violinist.


If you "practice" getting the right notes but with incorrect bow strokes, incorrect bow holds, incorrect posture, incorrect vibrato, incorrect dynamics, incorrect rhythmic values, incorrect tonalization, incorrect balance of control & relaxation - ok I think you get the point - well you may be able to play through the piece and get all the notes, but you have now "practiced" how to play incorrectly in several ways.


On my end of things, since I'm the violin teacher, my new task at this point is to help a student UNLEARN what they have learned through incorrect practice, and then have them RELEARN (or perhaps simply learn) the CORRECT techniques.


I had to learn this the hard way.  For the first six years of my life, I had developed (er, PRACTICED) the most incorrect, unrelaxed, uncontrollable vibrato technique.  It was DISASTROUS!  Having to UNLEARN what I practiced for years, and then RELEARN vibrato by learning the correct way of doing it, was quite a task.  If only I had practiced CORRECTLY for those first six years, things would have been a lot easier!


To sum it all up, just remember...



Practice doesn't make perfect...


whether good or bad!



Whatever you repeatedly do - whatever you "practice" - will become a habit that you've learned. 


This goes for ANYTHING you, football, cooking, brushing teeth, driving, combing your hair, doing laundry, doing your job at work, going to school, doing homework, picking up the kids, exercising... and also playing the violin.  :-)  



This is NOT an excuse to stop practicing!



This is merely an encouragement to develop good habits and also to make the most of your time.   I hear too often about violin students who practice & practice & practice for HOURS & DAYS & WEEKS... getting frustrated because it doesn't seem to be getting them anywhere. 


Not too long ago, one of my violin students had experienced this frustration, so I sat her down and had her practice a section of music CORRECTLY for a little over five minutes.  (This is NOT an exaggeration).  To her delight, after those five minutes, she was able to play the passage not only with more ease, but with surprising accuracy, speed, & skill!!


If you practice CORRECTLY - pay attention to your rhythm, tonalization, notes, bowing, posture, dynamics, relaxation, control, vibrato, style, etc. - you will achieve much more in 10 minutes than you ever did in 10 weeks or even 10 months - no joke! 


The lesson - the "resolution" - is to work (and practice) smarter, not just harder.  ;-)







12:31 PM (PST)


Recently, people (including professional musicians & music teachers from the California Music Teacher's Association, as well as "random people" who just have heard me play violin at events) have asked me several times about the violin skill of VIBRATO - how it is accomplished, what is entailed, and so forth. 


The tricky thing with vibrato is the fact that it's really a "controlled reflex."  I know - sounds like a contradiction, right?  Well, I suppose it's one of those apparent "contradictions" such as "Microsoft Works" hahahah (j/k).


But seriously (and other professional violinists and violin teachers would be able to verify this), with vibrato, you have to train your muscles to "work on their own" (reflex) & yet control the speed/intensity of the result.


Many violinists, both students and professionals/teachers alike, struggle with this skill.  In fact, one of my recent students was a violin instructor herself who experienced much difficulty with vibrato.  The biggest thing you'll probably notice is that most violinists only have one "type" (& only one "speed") of vibrato.


When working on vibrato, there are a number of things to keep in mind.  These are just a few....


1) HAVE PATIENCE: It usually takes months if not at LEAST a year just to get accustomed to and used to the feel of vibrato.  You know how a baby learns to walk?  It's never really "instant."  It's through practice, again and again, training your muscles to get the "feel" of vibrato so you don't even think about it.  And then, once you have gotten used to it, it often takes years to master it and be able to control the different "types" of vibratos so as to create variety and "color" (musical expression) in a person's violin performance.


2) TRAIN YOUR MUSCLES: Work to get the FEEL of vibrato, so you no longer have to think through the process.  This requires a lot of repetitive practice so the muscles in your fingers, wrist, hand, & arms learn the motions to perform without you even thinking about it.  Naturally, such repetitive practice will require a lot of patience (not to mention discipline and determination!)


3) BE PREPARED TO SOUND BAD: When training your muscles for vibrato, it's not going to sound good.   This is normal.  Expect it.  You're working to TRAIN MUSCLES so that, in the future, once they're trained, it WILL sound good.


4) RELAX: One of the things to guard against is tension.  While you are working to "control" your muscles, you should always be relaxed.  The instant you feel that your vibrato is too deliberate, tension will follow, and then you're in trouble.  It's a very "loose/relaxed" type of control over your muscles that you are developing.  Consider taking a walk on a beautiful day.  Do you feel that you "work" to move your legs for the walk?  No.  You're "just taking an easy walk."  You don't even think about your legs and feet moving.  But make no mistake about it - you ARE controlling your feet/legs and the direction in which you walk.  Your vibrato should be as controlled and relaxed as you are when you take a walk through the park. 


5) REMEMBER THE RESULT: Your goal is to develop CONTROLLED REFLEXES, where you will have a variety of different vibratos (i.e. slow, medium, fast, narrow vibrato, "wider/juicier" vibrato, delayed vibrato, instant intensity vibrato, calm/consistent vibrato, etc.) so that your vibrato ends up adding color & music expression to your performances.  As soon as you're comfortable with one style & speed of vibrato, master all other styles of vibrato (whether arm or wrist vibrato or both).  When you do this skill (vibrato) correctly, people will not say "you added vibrato to your piece" - instead, they'll just say something like, "WOW - that sounded GREAT!!  AMAZING!  PHENOMENAL!"


There is so much to cover on vibrato that I can't really cover it here in just one blog entry, LOL.  But this is a good start.  More to come in the future (things like actual practice techniques, arm & wrist vibrato, etc.).






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“Finding Expression, Enjoyment, & Entertainment Through Music”



HomeLesson Rates & Scheduling FREE Lessons & CA$HAbout TVCContact

Resources │ PicturesGift Certificates TestimonialsCHARTER SCHOOL FUNDING

Why Choose The Violin Connection?Hear Samples of Mr. J Playing Violin!


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