One of the most impactful factors to long-term success in learning the violin is your method of practice. For most students, practicing regularly is often a difficult struggle. Other important obligations pop up, practice occasionally is forgotten, or sometimes a favorite new Netflix show can just be too irresistible to put down. People live full and busy lives, so how does one find the time to practice regularly?
The secret is stubbornly simple but equally effective for all: routine over quantity.
The single most effective tool for success in practice is to prioritize daily routine. Focus should be placed on playing every day, rather than playing A LOT on a few days. Often to our newer students having a hard time adjusting, we will recommend just taking the violin out of the case once a day. Most times, students will end up practicing a little bit just because they went to the trouble of taking it out. Personally, I can verify the validity of this principle by how I have found it to be true in other areas of life. I jog for exercise. Inevitably, the hardest step of the whole process is putting on the running shoes. Other obligations are often calling, and my subconscious will try to feed me legitimate and justifiable reasons to do something else; but once the shoes are on, I’ve already started and so I might as well see it through. I may not run a long distance, but I will at least run some distance. The same can be said for practicing. It all starts with taking the violin out if its case.
After the development of routine, deemphasizing the importance of quantity and elevating the value of purpose and intent is crucial. Putting up an exorbitant amount of time as a practice requirement almost always results in discouragement and ineffective, inefficient practicing. Emphasis should be put on the quality and efficiency of practice. Start small, but practice purposefully. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Everything done in practice should be able to effectively answer this single question: Does what I’m doing help me improve?
If you are having trouble developing a practice routine, start with five minutes – and ONLY five minutes – a day. Even if you’re feeling good in the moment, doing more may wear you out and provide an additional mental block to practicing the next day. Only gradually increase practice time once daily practice has been achieved for several weeks.
Routine is a strong foundation to begin building more effective practicing strategies on. Stay tuned next month for our top five practicing strategies!