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Tips on Practicing
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Author: Rachel Barton Pine
Whipping up a Batch of Tasty Practice Sessions
by Rachel Barton Pine
1 string player (any size), 1 string player’s brain, 1 notebook, 1 pen or pencil

The string player, the string player’s teacher, and audiences everywhere

1. Choose a time commitment for daily practice.
Begin by thinking very carefully and realistically about all of your activities and commitments. Determine your priorities, and think creatively how you might organize your schedule to free up a little extra time. Based on this evaluation, decide how many hours you will commit to practicing every day.

2. List your assignments for the whole week.
List in your notebook everything you need to practice in the coming week. The list should include your new solo repertoire, your review pieces, your orchestra pieces, your chamber music, and your technical work (scales, etudes, and exercises).

3. Create a practice plan for the week.
Decide how often you need to practice each piece or exercise. Some items on your list will need work every day, while others can be rotated to alternate days or practiced twice a week. Then assign each piece to specific days of the week. When you have finished, check to be sure that your repertoire is distributed evenly throughout the week.

4. Create a plan for each day.
Next, decide how much time you need to spend on each piece each day, considering its level of difficulty and your priorities. Your brain and muscles will need to be refreshed every so often, so don’t forget to schedule breaks. At the end of your practice session, you may reward yourself with a little “free-choice time” by playing a favorite review piece, jamming on a fiddle tune, or experimenting with a rock improvisation.

For example, for a daily practice session of two hours, your notebook might look like this:

10 min. scales in key #1
45 min. new concerto
5 min. break
15 min. etudes
15 min. orchestra piece #1
25 min. chamber music movement #1
5 min. free choice

10 min. scales in key #2
45 min. new concerto
5 min. break
15 min. etudes
continue reading

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