Practice Hacks for my students / or anyone who needs a practice boost :)

Practice Hacks for my students / or anyone who needs a practice boost :)

  • Set a timer

  • Practice at the same time each day

  • Practice while your parents are cooking dinner and you can play for them

  • Perform for your family, friends and pets at every opportunity (everyone loves a musical happy birthday)

  • Make a practice chart and tick it off each day

  • Listen to a recording of the piece to hear how it goes

  • Record yourself and give it a rating each time to see how you improve


Posture for professionals (you don’t want to be picked out as a student!)

  • Open heart, feel your chest open and shoulders confident (not hunched over), you could almost fly you are so confident

  • Feet directly below your hips, knees supple (not locked), you are a karate master, a tennis player, a dancer ready to show the music and pass it between you and the other musicians

  • Instrument parallel to the floor (not falling down), resting between your shoulder bone, clavicle and jaw - it should be called a jaw rest not a chin rest! Instrument should be poised and powerful. This will give the best sound and means the bow can work properly. Just think of the physics…

  • Alignment exercise: fold your body in half and shake you fingers, arms, head, what ever feels tight. Very slowly, mover from the bottom of your spine, rolling your body up, each vertebrae on top of each other, until the very last thing is your head. Reach up with you arms and reach as far as you can from your fingers and tippy toes. Settle back into your professional confident and relaxed playing position. 



  • The best musicians are also the best listeners. Expand your skills by listening to music in all different styles and genres. You can add to this by researching a bit about the composer or performer and their place in history. Another way to focus your listening is by drawing what you hear in the music. Consider starting your own listening diary.

  • Pieces we have been listening to include: Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (Baroque, Italy 1723), Piazolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires (Contemporary, Argentina 2011), Max Richter’s Vivaldi Recomposed (Contemporary, Germany 2011)

  • Other recommendations: Vaughn Williams Lark Ascending, Mendelssohn Midsummer Nights Dream, Sheherazade 

  • Famous Violinists: Nigel Kennedy, Joshua Bell, Julia Fisher, Hilary Hann

  • Famous Violists: Tabea Zimmerman, Yuri Bashmet, Garth Knox

  • Famous Cellists: Yo-yo Ma, Jacqueline du Pre

  • Famous Orchestras: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra for the Age of Enlightenment (baroque), Sydney Symphony Orchestra


Composing and Improvising

  • The exciting thing about making your own music is that you can experiment and really express yourself through music. 

  • Ways to notate your music: record on a phone, write on sheet music, draw a musical map with colours (this is called a graphic score), just write the letter name and rhythm on a sheet of plain paper

  • Start from your experiments and then shape like a story (beginning, middle, end)

  • Try textures like pizzicato, different bowing styles, harmonics, even singing and playing at the same time



What you put in to your music with practice, listening and research comes back to you in abundance! It is limitless what can happen once you get into the rhythm of working hard. It might be you performing in Germany Austria and China one day! Remember to work hard and follow your heart, good things will always come to you when you are in action.

Baroque Melodies

I have always loved baroque music however I have never had the opportunity to focus on this performance practice. As an experiment I recently put gut strings on my viola to see what it would sound like. I am amazed by the resonance and added overtones when I play on my lower two strings. My A and D strings are raw gut so they are a bit more difficult and I am discovering how to make a sweet sound. It is really teaching me to remember to have patience and to listen as I am always re tuning the strings and in some ways re learning and discovering how to make sound with my bow.

The Joy of Playing in a Youth Orchestra

It was with a very heavy heart that I handed in my red Youth Orchestra shirt in for the final time. I have played in the Youth Orchestra for the past 7 years and I finally reached the age limit. Coming off stage after the final performance I wondered - had I made the most of that final performance? I played well but did I savor it enough? Looking back I know that I grew up in the orchestra, made life long friends and kept aiming higher with my music. I am also grateful to have reached the age limit because sometimes we need to be pushed out of the nest to keep growing and developing. It is time for me to learn how to fly on my own.

Finding that performance calm any time of the day

A thought for my students getting into study mode:

If you are feeling stressed and anxious why not use all of your experience as a musician and find the same calm that you try to find before a performance.

When one is under pressure one often forgets to breathe and then there is no oxygen for your brain so everything feels harder than it is.

  • Take deep breaths and visualise yourself getting the assignment done
  • Think of a mantra for yourself. Eg: 'Today I will do my very best and that is more than enough'
  • Try this AMAZING podcast - I could not have got through my masters without it!!

Meditation Oasis

  • #6 is just music and perfect to have on low when you are doing an assignment
  • #31 for stress and pressure is also really good
  • also #36 for a mini break

Good Luck!