For my exam students: We are playing violin exams on the 23rd of October, starting at 9:00 am, and ending just after 10. It is a Friday morning. Please arrange with your schools; if you are writing a test or exam that day, please let me know so I can organize an official letter for your school.
Early notice here is the key.
The dates are given by Trinity College London, and unfortunately I can’t do much about them.
I’ll be sending individual emails with each student’s exact time on them. Please be there a minimum of 15 minutes early, so that the whole process can be seamless.
Which brings me to:
If you haven’t yet, now is the very last moment you can pull out all the stops and practice. Let me help you on the way.
You need to prioritize your violin. Really, I mean this. The rest of the year you might have been doing all sorts of other stuff, even to the point of neglecting practicing – that always backfires, as you have noticed. But now, you need to set yourself a goal and stick to it.
Winners, achievers, great leaders know how to stick to the goals they set for themselves. You need to tell yourself that almost is just not good enough. Practice daily.
2: Slow Practice
No violinist has ever gone very far without practicing slowly. In practicing slowly, we “program” our hand and our brain to do the correct movements. I’ve told some of you about the neurons in the brain, and how they lay down pathways that become highways. Make sure those pathways are straight so that there are no bumps and forks in the highway. Practice slowly.
3: Repeat often
I know I’m repeating myself here, but you must repeat. Remember, if you repeat often, slowly, correctly, your brain neurons build the pathway nice and straight and make it bigger until it becomes a highway.
Play carefully; when you hit a problem bar, practice only that bar, over and over and over again slowly and correctly. You can make up little games: I like the one where you have to get it perfectly right 8 times in a row, if you make even one mistake, you have to restart the 8 times. Repeat.
4: Don’t set a time limit.
Yes I know, everyone writes tests and exams in school, this is normal. However: Most kids do not play violin. So if you are doing something special, be prepared to go to special effort. Early before school is a good time to practice 15 – 30 minutes; get up a bit earlier. Then, in the afternoon, practice again. This way you learn twice as fast. Trust me, it works.
Remember you can compare every note on your violin with an open string next to it. E.g. you can compare the fingers on A with the open D-string. Use this trick! Check your intonation, do it often. Be strict with yourself. I can’t be there every time you practice (I’d have to split myself into 20 people), so you must listen critically and say to yourself, “No, Petunia, that wasn’t good yet, do it again!”
Timing, or rhythm:
Please count out the beats! Or else, listen to the tune on Youtube and sing it until you can’t forget it, then play it the way you are singing it. Page to the last part of your Suzuki 1 book, and look at the diagram of what note counts how many beats (quarternotes), then do the math! It is embarrassing if at this time of the year you still don’t know your timing.
We have had years where all my exam students achieved merit. Let’s make this year one of them!