What do I expect from my own students? Well, if you’re one of my talented young (or less young) students, read on. If not, and you’re thinking about getting started, take a look at what I expect each week and what you can expect to work on at home.
At Each Lesson
Be on time and make sure you remember your instrument (duh) and all the music you are working on. Pay attention and write down (or have your parent do it) anything you need to remember in a notebook or journal. Better yet, record your lesson with your phone or a digital recorder.
Please be prepared. At each lesson, I will give you several items to work on each week. Hopefully you wrote them down. At the most basic level you will have three things that I expect to hear at every lesson:
- Scales – I probably assigned a key and maybe a special bowing for scales
- Exercise – I have my own that I use as well as the regular etudes. It may just be something as simple as some long bows or some finger movements I asked you to practice
- Repertoire – We will always be working on a song or piece – sometimes more than one at the same time.
I will always hear all three of these. There may be 4 or 5 things on your list. I might not get to all of them, but that doesn’t mean you can let them go.
At the end of the lesson, we will spend some time going over the plan for next week. One of us will write down the items that need work during the week. Because of busy schedules, we will make sure to confirm that you will be here (or maybe I have a performance) next week.
A Typical Practice Session
If you could practice every day, that is ideal. I certainly understand that in today’s world, students are spread very thin. There is school, sports, church, music, and then there has to be time to just be with friends and have a life. With that in mind, I ask that you try to at least practice five days each week. I urge you to also practice the day of the lesson, either before (to get ready) or after (preferred – to get started on the week’s work).
For an average beginning student, here is a good 30-minute practice session schedule.
Make sure the violin is in tune. This should take a few minutes only. Use a pitch pipe (often part of the violin rental package) or digital tuner (app on your phone). Make sure the strings are all in tune. More advanced students will learn how to actually tune one string and then the others by playing them together.
Practice scales to warm up. 10 minutes. Scales are like vegetables. They are not fun, but they are good for you. Make sure to focus on the keys that I wrote down in the lesson. Always go for two things – perfect intonation and great sound.
Work on your exercises/etudes. Each week I will ask you to do some sort of repetitive exercise or learn an etude. Spend 5 minutes on this part of the practice. Again, the focus is perfect intonation and great sound.
Spend the rest of the time on whatever piece(s) I have assigned. As you get more advanced, you will be working on smaller sections of a longer piece rather than just one short song. Make sure you have learned the notes well before you try to play through the piece. Playing wrong notes when you practice is really just practicing wrong notes. Don’t waste time. See my blog post on practicing smartly to help you get better, faster.
What if I can’t practice 5 days? Then practice four. What if I can’t practice 30 minutes? Practice 20. Just because I set up these guidelines doesn’t mean they are always followable. Life happens sometimes. It’ll happen with me too, especially around the holidays. Come December, I perform every weekend day from Friday til Sunday and most weekday evenings. I’ll try to get as many lessons in as possible, but there will definitely be a few missed ones. My schedule usually mimics the school schedule meaning, if there is no school, there are generally no lessons. Keeping in touch is important. I will send out email blasts with new information each week, so be on the lookout.