Violin Lessons: Practicing Mindset
In talking about your violin lessons, how about we talk about the key importance of mindset? These pointers on mindset for practicing your violin are not only relevant for your violin lessons but also for your performance preparation. They are pointers that I have learned along my professional violin journey and they have served me well. This is why I am so eager to share them with you too! I want you to experience them and see how they do shape your mindset and become important tools to use for gaining success.
So let’s get right down to it!
1. Be a Self-Aware Violinist
The first concept I would like to share has to do with being and becoming a self-aware musician.
Embrace your mistakes
When you’re working on a passage, don’t get stuck in the mindset that you’re just a bad violinist, violist, or cellist. Embrace your mistakes and instead think: what did I do wrong? Which note sounded flat? Why did that note sound flat? What didn’t I like about the way I played this musical phrase or line? Maybe I should experiment and change the bow stroke? Don’t feel depressed because you’re playing out of tune, just find a way to fix those notes!
One of my past teachers told me during my own violin lessons that fixing bad intonation and working on difficult sections in your songs/scales/etudes is like washing the dishes. When you see dirty dishes in the kitchen, you don’t just walk away and avoid washing them. No. You obviously clean after yourself. Same thing here. Just clean it. Don’t sit down feeling depressed and shattered by your mistakes.
Let me tell you something: You learn from your mistakes a lot more than from your successes. That’s how you learn: through mistakes. So, keep practicing patiently and keep loving the violin because it is a beautiful instrument!
Evaluate your practice
To help you with self-evaluation of yourself, record yourself playing a passage or the whole piece. You’ll hear yourself differently, as if from the sidelines. You want to improve your practice today to set you up for the next day. Set a goal, and work for it. Look at what you’ve done today, and see what you can improve and work on the next practice.
This leads us to our second point!
2. Have practice strategies
A practice strategy is a specific plan for how you will accomplish a musical concept that you have learned during your violin lessons. Practice strategies are also structures that are an indispensable tool for combatting negative mindsets for when you are feeling overwhelmed with practicing. They are also helpful for combatting the mindset of “I’m just not in the mood”.
Both of these mindsets happen to all of us. They happen to the best of us and even to the most professional of us. Having planned strategies in place for addressing your violin music during these moments is key to a continued progression of personal success in your musicianship no matter what mood you’re in. Having practice strategies will help you practice most efficiently and most effectively.
During your violin lessons your violin instructor should help you develop some practicing strategies.
Examples of Practice Strategies
For example, if you aren’t playing your notes completely in tune, how will you fix this? What’s your specific plan for addressing out-of-tune notes?
One practice strategy is to first, identify those specific musical passages that you consistently play out of tune. You should identify the exact place in your music where that passage starts and the exact place where that passage ends. Then you should go back and play through that isolated passage multiple times. The repetition will work into your muscle memory and fine-tune your musical ear. Once you’ve done this a few times, then move on.
You should play isolated passages slowly.
Another strategy could be adjusting your speed. Take that same isolated passage concept and play through it oh so slowly. Once you develop a better accuracy of intonation then you can speed it up just a tad. But only a tad! Then you practice that same passage at your new speed and so on until you reach your optimum speed.
3. Always practice for your violin lessons like you’re performing
Always practice like you are performing! When you perform with your violin, play loud and play strong. Do this in every violin lesson and every practice session. Developing this mindset habit will make you a better player and performer especially when performance anxiety strikes. When you get nervous and can’t think straight, strong habits will kick in to save the day!
Play your violin with confidence
Be confident in your playing, be confident with your scales, with your arpeggios, your etudes, etc. It’s better to be wrong but be strong!
Play your violin without hesitation
This summer I got an amazing opportunity to be part of a music festival in Grass Valley, CA where I played in a student quartet. The violist of our quartet told us a couple of stories and tips from his violin lessons with his professor in Indiana. That professor kept on telling him not to hesitate, but stay confident. This professor of his asked him this insightful question: have you ever played something right when you hesitated?
Play your violin with determination
Think, what do I want to improve during this practice hour? If you want to improve intonation in a particular measure, do it with determination. “I’m gonna play in tune, I’m gonna get this c sharp right!”
So think of your solos. Don’t be shy. Don’t hesitate to play. Be determined to be confident. In a sense, show off! Show off what you got!
4. Have an ideal of what you want your violin to sound like in every violin lesson
One other effective thing that works during your violin lessons or personal practice is having an ideal in your head of what a certain passage you’re learning should sound like. Listen to your piece on Youtube or just picture in your mind what you want this passage to sound like, feel like, and be like. Then, practice to sound like that ideal.
5. Pursue inspiration to motivate you
Now, let’s talk about seeking out inspiration for yourself through the long commitment of taking violin lessons and becoming a good violinist. Let me be honest, I’ll be real with you guys. I lose motivation to practice for my violin lessons very often. So, I constantly need something or someone to inspire or push me. Here are some ways that help me reset my mindset to continually inspire myself.
Listen to good violin music
A lot of times what helps me is listening to a good professional orchestra playing a symphony or any other classical piece. If you pick some good, I mean, real good, composers and listen to their symphonies, poof… You’ll want to play like them. They’re just so good!
Watch young talented violinists
Also, if you watch someone really good play a concerto, especially someone young, that could inspire you too! You’ll be amazed at the clarity with which their fingers just run all over the fingerboard or how they neatly do the phrasing, how they move, how they change the mood, how in tune it is. So much young talent, it’s just amazing!
Listening to good violin music and watching young talent motivates me so much to continue to give my best to my violin lessons and music! It’s simply listening and watching them. I’m just like, “Man, now I wanna work on my intonation or my staccato bow stroke.” I get so inspired!
6. Know how you want to perform even during your violin lessons
Moving on to performing, you should know the mindset you have around how you currently perform to know the mindset you want to develop for how you want to perform.
Performing does not have to be on a stage or in a concert. You are performing when you play your music for you instructor during your violin lessons too! It’s the same thing. So how do you want to perform? What should your performing mindset be?
Just enjoy it!
One of the recommendations – just enjoy it! You’ve done all the hard work, you’ve built that muscle memory, now show off what you’ve got to at the moment. Just relax and enjoy making music. Don’t stress out much about messing up. Just analyze later what you did wrong and play better next time. You’re learning.
About stage fright
One secret to get better at overcoming stage fright is performing more and more. The more you do it, the better you get at controlling the tension you feel when performing in front of an audience. Sign yourself up to perform for anything and everything!
Before you are about to start playing in front of people, breathe, breathe, then relax. Think simply, then start playing. Don’t allow your thoughts to get too complex. You did complex during all of your hours of practice. Now is time for simple enjoyment. Don’t overthink your performance, just do it.
Nobody can play their violin perfectly
Look, I don’t want to disappoint you, but nobody will ever play anything with perfection! Nothing and no one in this world is perfect. Look at that reality in the eyes.
A couple days ago, when I was going home from another long day, I just pressed the radio button to hear what was playing. I was too lazy to reach for my phone and connect it to the aux cord, so I turned on the radio to 88.9fm, the classical radio station in my area of the world. At least they usually play classical music there. I suppose that this was the middle of an interview, but they said these words that left me shocked and enlightened. Here’s what they said:
Stage anxiety comes from the idea that perfection is possible. If you cleanse yourself from that idea, you’ll play more freely and enjoy making music a lot more.
Perfection is not possible
That’s right, perfection is not possible. Not in this world at least. Not in this life. Just let that sink in.
Professionals can’t play perfect. They can play well and very well, but not perfectly. The reason why it sounds perfect and so good to us is because their level of good playing is much higher than ours. They know how to hide their slips and falls.
So don’t let the idea of perfection keep you from enjoying your violin lessons! Just be confident, because you know that there’s a foundation under each note and passage. A foundation of hours of practice.
Your Violin Lessons and Mindset Matter
Your mindset matters for the level of success you will accomplish with your violin lessons and your journey to becoming an ever-better violin player!
It is important to constantly check in with yourself on these points of mindset that I have shared with you. Mindset is the secret to success and these points are powerful tools for shaping your mindset.
The discipline of mindset will not only change you as a violin player, they will also change and develop you as a person. That’s why studying music or taking violin lessons is so powerful. It literally changes you! So keep it up! And keep going! Keep pursuing your own “Self”!