In order to make the most of your practice sessions - whether you’re working on a Twinkle Variation or the Brahms Violin Concerto - the most important thing to remember is to isolate the problem.
Once you’ve selected a spot to work on that needs some cleaning up, the next step is to determine what needs attention - is it a left hand issue or a right hand issue? If it’s both, then pick one and start working on it.
RIGHT HAND BOWING ISSUE
It’s hard to generalize and make blanket statements because there are many different types of bowing issues that we face as string players.
- Slurs - Break it up and play it with separate bows. Once that gets easy, switch to hooked bows. After many repetitions, return to the original slurred markings.
- String Crossings - Play with hooked bows rather than slurs. If that doesn’t clean things up, put a pause in between notes during the string crossing. Remember that the right hand must move first in order to get clean playing! My favorite game to play with young kids is “red light, green light”.
- Hooked Bowed Rhythms - Play scales using the rhythm(s) in question. Scales should be practiced every day. I often use them to work on problematic techniques from my repertoire.
LEFT HAND ISSUE
- Pizzicato - the easiest way to isolate the LH and forget about the bow is to take it out of the equation. This works better in some passages than others, but it’s a start.
- Detache Bowing - When in doubt, get rid of the slurs and hooked bows.
- Metronome Work - Turn it on and slow things down. Find a tempo that it’s easy to play the passage without any mistakes. It’s so important to not practice wrong notes - then you won’t waste time trying to unlearn something. Then go through either Wipeout (5 repetitions) or 10 Pennies (10 repetitions) and start clicking the metronome up a few clicks each time.
- 2x Metronome - This is tricky to explain and is easier to just demonstrate. I like to find a comfortable tempo and then speed the metronome up by say 50%. For example, if I wanted to play a series of notes at 60 clicks/min, I’d turn the metronome up to 90. Instead of playing a note every click, I’d play a note on the first click, then place my fingers for the next note on the second click. This forces you to move your LH before your RH and will clean things up. It can be frustrating at first, but stick with it and things will get much better!
This is just a short list of some ideas, but I hope they will help during your practice sessions. I will try to add more suggestions later!