Have you ever been told (or know someone who was told) “It’s too late to learn an instrument at this point in your life” or “You’ve aged out of all music festivals and haven’t landed a big job – it’s too late to progress”? This is part of an old, false belief that’s still making its rounds around the globe. It’s part of a fixed mindset epidemic that’s easier to fall into as we go through life.
An alternative approach to bow “pressure” involves the entire forearm and using the natural arm weight. Develop beautiful, even sound with more consistency and less effort with these exercises.
Like most classical musicians, I occasionally have some very unwelcome guests in my mind – feelings of doubt, uncertainty, or insecurity. Having some of these feelings are quite normal and in fact, there is a way they can help us grow. However, they become a serious problem if we try to either force them out by faking confidence or dwell on them too long. The longer the negative feelings and thoughts stay, the more they push confidence and reassurance out, leaving us potentially feeling helpless.
This post won’t be about centering or visualization – both essential skills for improving our best performance under pressure. This is a deeper dive that explores what strengthens the roots of true confidence. I’ll briefly summarize 3 concepts as explained by bestselling author, athlete, and coach Steve Magness in his brand new book Do Hard Things. Continue reading “3 Practices to Achieve True Confidence on Stage”
Statistics show that around 85% of violinists & violists will develop a playing-related injury at some point in their performing lives. That is an insane number. Unlike sports in which athletes retire around the age of 40 on average, musicians play pretty much their whole lives… or at least, most of us plan to… right? How terrible it would be for our performance timeline to be cut short by an injury that could’ve either been prevented or kept under control.
This week, I’m sharing with you a few of my favorite recovery exercises for violinists & violists, with focus primarily on the areas that get overused and hurt most often, which are the upper back and neck on the left side. Continue reading “Recovery Exercises for Violinists & Violists”
Why is everyone suddenly ditching the shoulder rest they’ve been wearing for years? Ok, it’s true – the shoulder rest can lock the shoulder and violin in one position and prevent freedom. It can also lead to imbalance in posture, such as raising the left shoulder, thus putting one at risk for neck injury. However, the shoulder rest still work well for certain folks, although it’s being demonstrated by specialists over and over again that many players benefit more from an anti-slip material such as a sponge along with a customized chinrest to fit the dimensions of their jaw, neck, shoulder angles, etc.
When we learn how to shift and practice going from one position to another, our attention usually zeroes in on two things: intonation and mechanics of the left hand. Which finger is moving? At what speed? What is the thumb doing? What pressure should the finger have? What is the interval between the two notes? Singing the music…and of course, YOLO (going for it and hoping for the best).
Continue reading “The Role of the Shoulder in Shifting Positions”
Every spring (not counting 2020) toward the end of the academic year, many freelance musicians get BOMBARDED with gigs after the quieter months of January and February. Even those of us who spend a healthy amount of time practicing during the “off-season” suddenly experience a huge uptick in daily playing hours come spring. Continue reading “Injury-Prevention Exercises for Violinists and Violists”
Delayed shifts are performed either through finger extensions or contractions, after which the hand frame re-establishes in the new position. The forearm is still the main leader during changes of position and it defines when a shift has been officially completed. Pay attention to its role when playing a delayed shift. When does your forearm move in relation to the fingers and thumb?
For the longest time, I’ve struggled to play double stops consistently in tune, and even more so with a decent sound. I always found playing octaves to be especially challenging – it’s a perfect interval and any deviation from matching pitches sticks out like a sore thumb…on in this case, a sore ear? After practicing octaves for years and years, they were just never consistent enough. I still struggle a little from time to time and need to practice octaves on a daily basis as part of my warmup routine to maintain a healthy hand frame and intonation.
Although my progress has been very slow, and often frustrating, all the repetitions really started to make their impact over a long-term time frame. Among all the great lessons I learned along the way about playing octaves better in tune and with a better tone, there are three that currently stand out for me, which I use as a guide for my most recent practice sessions. Continue reading “Octave Hacks”
Have you ever been really anxious to practice but just couldn’t seem to get yourself to pick up your instrument? It happens to the best of us. One of the hardest things about practicing consistently is simply getting started. Unfortunately for many people it doesn’t seem to get easier over the years. In fact, I know many professional musicians who have either completely stopped practicing regularly or had to take extended breaks at some point due to other life obligations. This was especially common during the early days of this pandemic when there were no upcoming concerts or other deadlines. No matter what kind of musician you are – whether you’re a complete beginner, someone who’s not yet used to practicing on a daily basis, or a seasoned professional who is working on regaining that momentum, let’s work on making it just a little easier to get started.