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.