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3 Sep 2012

10 Top tips for string practise


  1. Practise makes permanent. Perfect practise makes perfect. Make sure that you carefully practise and reinforce the technique and musical style that you want. If you allow mistakes to go uncorrected, they will become habit.
  2. Quality over quantity. If you are practising when tired or not concentrating, you are likely to practise in bad habits. Try shorter sessions more often, so that you can concentrate fully. It is very easy to let bad habits slip into your practise when you aren't careful. Don’t let bad habits become permanent.
  3. Slow practise! Practise difficult passages very slowly and perfectly, building up the speed gradually. Only play the passage as fast as you can perfectly, then increase the tempo with a metronome. Keep shifts fast, and pay particular attention to string crossing difficulties.
  4. Metronome practise! A metronome will help you to slowly build up speed in difficult passages, help you to keep a steady beat and not rush, and ensure even and regular bow technique. Metronome practise will also highlight areas where you take time in the music without realising, particularly important when being accompanied by piano or orchestra.
  5. Rhythm! Correct rhythm is critically important, particularly in ensemble and orchestral playing. Practise clapping difficult rhythms with a metronome without looking at the notes. Practise clapping cross rhythms against a metronome beat.
  6. Fingerboard geography. Work on building a mental map of your fingerboard, and the distances between notes across the fingerboard (e.g. imagine notes across strings as a double stop, and note the distance between the fingers – tone, semitone, augmented etc). Be aware of the relationship and distance between one note and the next.
  7. Listen to recordings of your piece. Follow along with your music as you listen. Practise your piece mentally away from the instrument, imagining how you will play difficult passages, and how you would want it to sound if there were no technique issues.
  8. Breathe! Always remember to breathe with the music – breathe in on the upbeat, and out on the downbeat. This will help you to prepare your entries, and to play in time with other musicians. An ensemble that breathes together, plays together. Vividly imagine how you want the beginning note of an entry to sound in the rests before you start playing it.
  9. Plan your practise sessions. Ensure that each practise starts with a warm up, then technique, then repertoire. Vary technique exercises, but try to always cover aspects of both left hand technique, and bow technique. Keeping a record of your practise plans will help you ensure you cover all aspects of technique.
  10. Scales & arpeggios! Use scales and arpeggios to practise intonation, different bowing patterns, fast shifts even when playing slowly, etc. Practise scales in groups of 3, 5, 7, 9 etc as well as usual groupings of 2, 4… Practise scales in one position and broken 3rd to improve fingerboard geography and intonation
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