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How to find time to practice as an adult in a hectic world!

I could totally relate to this question sent in by Rodrigo in Mexico city:

“I’m 32 years old, and I am very busy most of my day. I have a sales franchise and work in a consulting firm here in Mexico and most of my day is spent on my work. However I’m very enthusiastic about learning to play the violin. Could you please give me some advice on how I can learn despite my hectic schedule?

It can feel damned near impossible to find time to practice as a busy adult, and I believe this is one of the top reasons that adults think they can not learn. Some slight adjustments to how we think about practice can go a long way in violin progress!

1) You can progress on the violin with a very SMALL amount of practice each day. As a beginner, focus on frequency rather than duration. In other words, it is much better to practice for five minutes a day, than to have longer less frequent practices. Five minutes a day IS enough to progress through the first stages. Five minutes twice a day is even better. Most of the actual progress and learning happens in between practice sessions when your subconscious mind can chew on what you’ve done.

Try to create a habit of practicing for five minutes just before your lunch break, and again before you end work for the day. By lumping your practice time together with your work day, it may feel less like you are sacrificing precious down time. And you can use the momentum and focus of your work day to assist your violin playing. This can be easier than trying to get focused back on the violin after beginning your evening relaxation.

2) Take lessons via video Skype for 30 minutes once a week. This is a big one. The violin has many technique tricks that are hard to figure out on your own, but very easy if you have someone show you. A good teacher can keep you on track and help to avoid frustration and bad habits. By using the video Skype, you can cut out the time of traveling back and forth to lessons. Having a weekly check point gives your practice sessions focus throughout the week. If you have a great practice week you have someone to show off for at the end of the week, and if you have a busy week and can’t practice at all, you can have a chance to refocus and recommit yourself for the next week.

It is a big motivator to have put some money on the line. By paying for lessons you can make a clear statement to yourself that says, “this is important to me!” I’m amazed once I’ve paid for lessons, I will step up to get what I’ve paid for and put in the practice time. My Skype teacher is Corrin Evans and I highly recommend her:

3) Keep your violin outside of the case. Use a violin stand or shelf to display your violin so that it’s easy to pick it up without having to go through the whole process of unzipping the case. This saves time and keeps the violin on your mind. Try keeping it at the office so you can pick it up to practice before leaving, or put it in a prominent area so that it’s the first thing you see when you get home.

4) Practice your bow hold with all sorts of objects. Learning a comfortable bow hold is the first and most important thing to learn. To practice this you don’t even need to hold the violin or bow. You can learn to have a comfortable and relaxed bow hold by taking 20 seconds to stop work, think about your right hand, and try a simple relaxed bow hold with your pen or pencil.

If you can remember to this a few times each day you will exercise the “bow hold creation passages” in your brain much more effectively than by beating yourself up for 30 minutes straight some evening in an official practice session. When I was first beginning I would think of the bow hold very often and try it on all sorts of objects including my steering wheel when stuck in traffic.

Does anyone else have time saving tips for busy adults? Has anyone tried these? Do they work? Please let me know in the comments section below!

Happy brief and frequent practicing, everyone.


Hot Beginner Tip #1: How to Hold the Bow

The bow hold can vary and still be “good” just depending on the style, but here is a basic starting point that is good for any style of music. Please let me know if it makes sense or not and send along any questions that come up when you try it. If you don’t have a violin or a bow, you can use a pencil just to see how awesome you are at this.

Original “Hot Violinist” Video Reposted

My heart skipped a beat when I heard that “The Hot Violinist” which features the full length performance of The Kiss and just passed 900,000 views was removed from YouTube. But now it’s back! It was a little sad to see it go (so close to a million!), but I can’t complain because Contragear, the original poster, has been so super supportive of me! Apparently he wanted to clean up the ending of the video so here it is in it’s new and improved form:

I’m glad it’s back, because without the reference of the original popular YouTube video I appear to be a crazy girl seemingly going around calling myself Hot all the time! Please share this video with your friends if you feel inclined to help me rebuild the groovy momentum that the original video had going for it. Thanks guys!

How to Play Last of The Mohicans Theme!

Attention fiddlers! This will get you started on the ornamentation needed to play this tune:

I will soon be posting the follow up Parts 2-4 as well as some beginner tips, so hop on over to the YouTube channel to subscribe if you don’t wanna miss one. If you still need the sheet music, just click that green link in the sidebar to sign up for the FREE sheet music.

Soon we will have a worldwide orchestra playing this tune~ Muah-hahaha!

Oh! If you get a chance to try this technique, please leave me a comment and let us all know how it’s going for you.

Interview with Traveling Seamstress, Hannah Alvarez

I met a new friend at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire. She’s a brilliant costume designer and is keeping a blog about her adventures. She did a nice write up and about my band and my travels:
Go show her some love!
Violin at night

How to let music flow through you

Jordi Wave, thank you for the kind and thoughtful comment:

“From inside, this is the secret
It is clear that the music flows in you.”

I wanted to respond because I feel like I am on to a little secret of how to connect with music in a way that will help listeners to respond emotionally.  I actually didn’t realize what I was doing until a recent experience in an acting class in which the topic was “Inner Imagery.”  Actors use this technique to help performances be honest and real by holding specific mental images.

So, here’s the secret: When I play these songs, I think about stories and moments in my life and others that I’ve heard or could imagine.

An Armenian Harvest Dance, for example, could inspire me with the image of a tribal woman from 100 years ago working to prepare grain just brought in from the field.  I imagine a pain in her back and the colors and smells of spices on her shelf. Or maybe I would think of a personal experience that goes with the feel of the song.  No one in the audience has to know what you’re thinking.  It creates a circle where the thoughts make the notes come out a bit differently, and the notes coming out in rhythm conjure new emotions or thoughts.

The most fun is to look out into the audience, and see a facial expression that reminds me of something I’ve felt before.  So then I focus on that experience. 

This way of responding to the audience personally feeds the moment and makes the performance feel fresh and different each time.  And helps immensely with nerves and stage fright.

I’ve played that Last of the Mohicans song literally thousands of times, and without this technique I’d probably have gone crazy. Do you guys do this when you play? Anyone care to share a song that brings up images for you?