“That’s the idea. Just play it again.” “Tune up your first finger…now do it again.” “Good! Again…” I say the word “again” a lot during lessons. I’ll say it again right now.
I’ve noticed a certain tendency in most students: Once they can make it through something, they stop playing and wait for the next thing to do. But I can tell that they need to practice that thing a whole lot more. Their fingers, hands, arms, ears and mind need more time with that new thing.
So I get them to practice it creatively:
- Loop on it
- Change the speed
- Try it on a different string
- Double each note
- Alternate between singing and playing
These strategies help people to practice different aspects of musicianship. And as you know, I emphasize fun and joy in the practice. But ultimately, you just have to do it again. And again.
If you’re not taking private lessons, then you have to be your own teacher. You have to train yourself to practice in the way a teacher would.
Here’s a simple hack: Play everything twice. At least two times. Scales, exercises, tune phrases, full tunes. Pay attention to how that practice piece feels different on further repetition. Can you notice your hands and arms relax a bit? Can you start to hear what’s happening?
Here’s another tip. When you play something, say to yourself, “Again.” Then play it again. And again. Saying it out loud will reinforce this habit. A friend recently taught me the power of vocalizing thoughts. Saying it out loud helps us remember things. If you take a pill, say “I’m taking my pill,” and then “I took my pill,” helps you remember that you took it.
I use this strategy to help students learn the names of notes with The Note Name Game.
Repetition is your friend
Fiddle tunes are a great way to learn the violin. They have this practice repetition built in. You repeat each part twice. Plus, there’s often repetition within each part. Kerry Polka is a good example of a tune with tons of repetition. That’s why I teach it!
Here’s a nice goal for you: play something until it starts to sound and feel good. Learn to enjoy the sound. Get to a state of musical flow in which there is a feeling of peace in the body and mind. If this seems impossible, then simplify what you are doing. Please learn to enjoy the sound of the fiddle, even it’s just an open D string.
And then after you’ve done all this, move on to something else. And do it all again.