V.com weekend vote: Do you currently have a practice routine?

September 11, 2020, 4:41 PM · Last week a parent offered some wonderful advice for helping get kids get back into a practice routine, with the start of the new school year.

violin practice window

Whether you are a student or not, the school year can provide structure for practice as kids and teachers get back on a fixed routine. But the school year is not the only thing that can provide that structure.

A work routine can also provide that structure around which to build a practice routine. For a lot of people, work has been greatly changed or disrupted, due to the pandemic, and that can make it harder to stick to a routine. If you have a routine that is working and it gets changed, the adjustment can be difficult.

If you find yourself without much structure in the day, that can almost be worse than having "no time to practice." A busy schedule somehow lends itself to scheduling things; and sometimes during long stretches of unscheduled time, nothing gets done!

Also, many of us do not have as many performing opportunities as before. Performing certainly provides inspiration for practicing. Of course, you can perform by posting online, and that can also motivate practice. But if there are no performances on the calendar, do you still keep to a practice routine?

How is your practice routine these days? Does it exist? Is it helped by the new school year? Has it needed to change? Is it hard to practice, with no performances? Or are you finding motivation in taking classes or other things? Please participate in the vote, and then share your ideas for staying motivated, keeping a routine or getting back on the wagon when it's hard to practice.

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September 12, 2020 at 01:01 AM · My practice routine is like a strict see food diet.

September 12, 2020 at 05:35 AM · My practice routine fell apart in 2018 with chronic shoulder injuries. I keep aggravating my shoulder doing non-music-related things, most recently in a car accident in July. As a result, I have gone up to two months at a time without practicing, currently have not practiced in 3 weeks, and rarely go longer than 30 minutes when I do practice.

September 12, 2020 at 01:59 PM · yes, late at night with a very heavy mute, not ideal

September 12, 2020 at 02:50 PM · My practice routine fell apart with the pandemic. I had to stop with my private lessons and motivation took a nose dive. Over the past 6 months the practices were certainly not “routine”, but with the start of the new school year and our cases slowing down, I have resumed lessons (outside and masked). What has REALLY helped us being in an online group with Dr. Rene’e-Paule Gauthier. The group has given me accountability and motivation and a purpose.

September 12, 2020 at 06:24 PM · Being retired, and unemployed, with zero live performances in the foreseeable future, and under the equivalent of house arrest, I have more time than motivation. If you are a younger pro player you could tell yourself that it is a sabbatical year; time to renovate the technique and prepare the next round of solos, 1st violin parts for future orchestra auditions.

I have found it helpful to print out a one-page personal practice checklist. One different key per day.

September 12, 2020 at 09:24 PM · Yeah I have a great routine, but how often do I get to implement it? Just crushing workload from the University since June to prepare all the online content for my courses, try to keep up with my grad students and manage my service obligations. I'm managing one jazz piano gig a month though. Mountain Lake Lodge is back in business and they seem to be doing pretty well.

September 12, 2020 at 09:39 PM · There are two sources of structure - internal and external. Most of us respond best (although often grudgingly) to the external form. Internal structure is difficult but once achieved it is more powerful than the external form.

It all begins with goals - your goals and your desire to achieve those goals. When you own them, really own them, nothing will stand in your way.

I would love to say that I've always been internally structured but that came late in life when I suddenly realized (thanks to Covey, et al.,) that if I'm going to succeed it was up to me. I had to set and execute the plans necessary.

The conversion was never easy. I often had others with different agenda and often forms of power that tried to divert my drive to their will.

Time management is a big part of any success. Setting aside time, making schedules actually gives you more "Free-Time".

Relying on others to externally structure your time is like "Waiting for Gudot" your goals are almost never achieved.

Yes, I set aside time each day to play/practice and inside that I set goals that are now designed to keep as much skill as I can as arthritis takes them away.

I try to communicate the concept to my students and their parents but most of them rely on external structure and cannot fathom internal structure because they see structure as designed only to prevent you from doing what you want to achieve. They cannot sync their goals to those of the people who want to structure their lives for them.

September 12, 2020 at 11:57 PM · I can't say I have a proper practice routine because I'm an adult early beginner and I still lack the insight on how to schedule my time effectively. I try to play every day for about 1 hour and start with open strings, scales and arpeggios as a "warm up". After that, I simply go through the assignments that my teacher gives me.

I must admit the lockdown has definitely worsened my practice "routine". My first 3 months of violin lessons were interrupted by the lockdown, followed by online lessons, and then another 2-month summer break. After all this, I just realized I rely heavily on my teacher for advice on how to structure my weekly practice time. I can practice decently on my own for a few weeks, but after a while I just need feedback, or I will continue practicing on autopilot without any sight of improvement. Currently trying to fix a recent bad habit of squeezing with my left thumb...

September 13, 2020 at 03:19 PM · I had a solid routine until three days ago, when the smoke from the wildfires blew into Portland and the air became dangerous. So, two days ago my wife and I threw a few things in the car, and headed east, hoping for clear air. We drove for 300 miles through the smoke and once we got to some blue sky, we checked into a motel. Then, I practiced under a tree outside a Best Western motel in eastern Oregon. We got up the next morning and discovered the bad air had come to this part of the state. Hence, we jumped back in the car and once again drove east in search of blue skies. We took a long break at a rest stop, and I managed to get in a practice session. Now we're in another motel, and tired of driving. The air here is in the 'unhealthy' range, which is better than the 'dangerous' range in Portland, so we'll stick around this town for a couple of days. I have a mute for the violin, and I'm thinking of doing some practice later this morning in my room, or outside if the air improves a little. I sure hope the folks around here like Bach. . .

September 13, 2020 at 07:57 PM · Seems like a wise decision, Michael. The air quality in Pasadena has kept us indoors for most of the week; it is absolutely horrible outside. Yet it is literally 400 percent worse in the Portland area. Hard to think about anything else!

September 13, 2020 at 11:15 PM · I will be starting a Quar-Routine" instagram practice series to help keep me accountable to my practice goals until the end of the year. It's been a struggle to maintain a sense of momentum since everything was cancelled :(

September 15, 2020 at 07:14 PM · My practice routine has been solid for a while but is now broken up into 15 minute increments throughout the day due to a rotator cuff injury to my bowing arm. Currently not allowed to do any off the string bowings which is cutting deeply into my allowed repertoire. I'm taking the opportunity to delve into some theory work. Silver lining?

I feel for all of you dealing with the immediate impact of the wildfires. Here in central Virginia we have had hazy, overcast skies for two days. Our meteorologists have explained that we aren't seeing clouds, but the smoke from the fires that has made it all the way to this side of the country.

September 18, 2020 at 07:49 PM · I've had a consistent practice routine for a long time and have kept it up this year. Right now it can run 90 minutes to 3 hours with a few breaks. Once I get warmed up, about 20 minutes, with bow-arm exercises and basic Schradieck-type left hand work -- plus shift review and double-stops -- I then review scales, Galamian style. Finally, I turn to repertoire and improvisation.

I have two motivations to keep up the routine. There are undoubtedly more reasons, but these come to mind right away. First, I like to play the evening session in the garage, which has the reverb I like. I don't do anything like going to the park to play, as Michael K. described in his recent blog --

The Well Aging Fiddler: My Sonny Rollins Summer, Playing in the Park

-- but my neighbors next door and across the street, plus passers-by, tell me I have an audience. They say they sometimes sit out on their porches or pause on the street to listen. This keeps me on my toes, because it gives me added incentive to make even warm-ups sound as good and musical as I can.

Second, I'm making daily digital audio recordings with my phone now at the end of each practice session -- and then emailing the files to the PC so I can get stereo playback on external speakers. I don't have a teacher anymore, but this is the next-best thing for now. One teacher's advice: "Never be satisfied. Always be very critical of yourself." Indeed -- I'm always finding things to improve or refine. I'm closer now to ordering an external USB microphone, which should do justice to the music. Even the phone's onboard mic does a respectable job on most things, but it still doesn't have the audio quality I will need for my YouTube channel.

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