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Orchestral Violin Practice Challenge – Week 2

I was aiming to get a video out each week, however it’s not going to happen this week. Things have cropped up where I am not in the stage where I’ve got enough footage, nor enough time to edit a video, that I think I will just aim at putting a video out every couple of weeks. But I still want to hold myself accountable, so I will provide a written update of my violin practice progress here.

Changing Tactics with my Violin Practice

Following some feedback from a Reddit thread where I posted my video, there was a suggestion to take some time in my violin practice to focus on my technique, particularly my scales and my shifting. They suggested that I look at Nathan Cole’s New York Philharmonic Audition challenge series, which was very enlightening. I took his 2 hour violin practice break up as the basis of my own practice for this week. This included introducing the first three pages of Schradieck, Kreutzer 9, and Dont 6 as my studies, a focus on vibrato and trills for technique, and a big section of work on my scales every day.

Violin Practice leads to Tiredness and Exhaustion

A man sitting at a table, looking out the window, looking tired and exhausted.
Photo by Andrew Neel on Pexels.com

This week saw my violin practice go backwards in many ways. I only had three days of actual practice out of the seven, with another day where I had a piano trio rehearsal but didn’t spend time practicing. The other days saw me being excessively tired, and just not wanting to practice. My son has been coming into my bed at night, and so it’s been quite common for me to be waking up around 2-3am, and not getting back to sleep. Even as I’m writing this I’m feeling tired. My other son came into bed around 2am, and while I did get back to sleep, I’m still feeling tired.

The other side of the equation – which is linked to my tiredness – is exhaustion. When I was practicing with this new schedule with a huge focus on technique, I found my body getting tired a lot quicker. My muscles were working a lot more than they were used to, and as such I didn’t complete the schedule once. This might mean that I need to think more about how I structure my practice as I build up into it – instead of 2 hours with a ten minute break, perhaps I should do an hour in the morning, and an hour in the afternoon. Or 4 half hour blocks. Given my current limitations, that might be more achievable than the solid two hour block. My body will be fresher, and my mind will be more focussed.

Physical Therapy

The other thing that I’ve been contemplating is that my body isn’t really ready for two hours of practice. I jump in and practice, but I’m not giving myself any preparation. I saw a composer on twitter suggest finding some benefit from adding in some stretches, particularly for his legs, as he is sitting most of the day. The stretching was increasing flexibility, and strength in his body, and allowing him to focus more on the task at hand, and not on the stiffness in his body.

The book, "Violin - Six Lessons with Yehudi Menuhin", features a picture of Yehudi Menuhin playing his violin on the cover.

I borrowed from the library a while ago Six Lessons with Yehudi Menuhin. I had an idea for a video of following these lessons and seeing how my playing improved. However, the first lesson starts with a number of stretches, one of which is a Yoga pose that I wasn’t confident of my ability to pull off. But given how my body is feeling, I am wondering if it might be worthwhile adding these exercises into my daily routine, warming up and building up the muscles in my body so that I can have greater stamina in my practice.

Practice Log

So Here’s my violin practice log for this week.

8/1/21 – No practice

9/1/21 – Piano Trio rehearsal (2 hours). Playing the Schubert and Saint-Saens piano trios.

10/1/21 – First day utilising Nathan Cole’s schedule. Practiced C Major scales from Flesch up to and including thirds, Schradieck pages 1 and 2 at 60BPM, Vibrato Work (From Simon Fischer’s Basics), Kreutzer 9, Mozart Concerto, Dont 6 and some trill work. 80 minutes practice in total.

11/1/21 – Same as the day before, but using A minor scales, with a focus on the one string scales and arpeggios, getting smooth shifts. Also did 10 minutes on the Bach St Matthew Passion excerpt, before exhaustion got the better of me. 90 minutes practice in total.

12/1/21 – I completely missed that this was a palindrome day, until just now. I only completed the first half of the practice today – E major scales, Schradieck, Vibrato, and Kreutzer 9.

13/1/21 and 14/1/21 – No practice.

Focus for next week – introduce some warm up stretches to get the body ready to practice. Break up practice more, with an aim for more days of practice, and completing the routine. Focus is still on technique, particularly on shifting. Instead of the vibrato and trill work section, introduce specific exercises from Basics on shifting.

Catch up on Week 1

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