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Violinist Benjamin Schmid's Warm Up Routine
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Before I practice, I ask myself for one or two minutes what I want to learn today, what I want to achieve.

Because one of the things I love most about my profession is the fact that we constantly build up on something: every day our knowhow and our abilities on this one big task - interpreting classical music - are a little better. So we don't just want to repeat things when practising.

"I start my practising with warming up my body, so that the muscles get warm. This gymnastics take between 1 and 30 minutes - depending what the day's time schedule allows. At home, with our 4 kids, it is usually only the 5 minutes thing- but the children (the 2, 4 and 6- year old ones) like to do this with me, because they always like to move. Usually Achille –  our cat – joins in at some point as well, but not to move but to sit in the midst of us. Anyway, this - or any other kind, for example try working in the garden - of body warm up I regard more important than playing scales – especially as an adult player, because once your muscles are warm, you might practise your scales in the concerto right away. However: I start playing slow of course. Because everything has to find its place very gently at first, the fingers, the arms, the back, the head, the face, the legs – the whole body. And: I like scales, did them daily in my first 25 years, but now I am more interested in jazzscales; it is so much more exciting to practise those because every time they have to be a little different. I also like my "Dreitonübung"- very good for string crossing, coordination and spiccato. Sound and intonation I don't practise in an abstract way nowadays; I like to do that by practising the particular piece very slowly.

Benjamin Schmid

"This first – slow – part takes about 10-15 minutes, and is of crucial importance for the now following 2, 3 or 4 hours of repertoire practising, because it sets everything up that follows. But even then most of the time I practise everything slowly, just to really control, listen und perfect. For example in a violin concerto I always use 2 music stands, one for the violin part and one for the piano reduction. The score is lying on the table, but I study it usually completely without instrument, because you could never turn all those pages while playing. But the piano reduction is a good compromise: it shows you much longer sections on 2 pages than the score, and you can still see the orchestra part. So now this is how I proceed: I go through every violin part page slowly and thoroughly, repeating many bars many times, looking constantly in the music to discover something I overlooked or forgot. Then I go over the same page looking constantly at the piano score, reading and feeling the orchestra while I am playing the solo part. Then I go over the same page a third time, now without music. Only after all that I go to the next page.

When practising, I make usage of metronomes, mirrors and recording devices. Although classical music rarely goes with metronomic pulse, it helps so much to regulate the pulse in short sections. Through that training, freedom in rhythm and rubato playing gets a new meaning. In the mirror you can see if your body is in relaxed accordance with the music, and whether your technique is relaxed or not, and with a recording device you can objectively judge on your musical intensions.

"Practising is a constant ambivalence: you want to discover more about the work, but you don't want to live it yet. Especially with a work that you already played many times, it is like collecting new insights, ideas, emotions but only checking on them and storing them on standby for the big moment, the concert. I try to stay cool and analyzing until a few days before the concert, just to save my own energies towards the work, and not to spoil the ultimate inspiration. Another advantage of this analyzing status: the more you understand your own technique, the more reliable it will be on stage."

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