SCAN0018I feel quite safe in assuming that anyone who has ever seriously considered a life in classical music knows that the best way to Carnegie Hall is: SCAN0018“PRACTICE….PRACTICE!”

However, after 50 years as a performer and a teacher of students of all ages and levels of experience I am just as certain that an amazingly large percentage of this very same population lacks the confidence in their ability or the expertise to efficiently and effectively pursue such a goal.

I was one of the lucky ones. From my very first lessons with my father, Victor, at the age of eight, the importance of effective practice techniques was drilled into me. Subsequent studies with Vera Barstow, Sanford Schonbach and ultimately William Primrose served to reinforce this philosophy over and over again. Although each of my mentors put their own individual twists on things…one thing remained abundantly clear and consistent: “ Playing a string instrument is indeed a physical event and as with an athlete the only way to success is through a solid, ongoing and painstaking program of organized physical training, development and maintenance.”

Even though at times, over the years, this approach has seemed incredibly tedious and dull I am so thankful that I was born with the constitution to endure! What has often felt like a useless waste of time has in reality proved to be one of the greatest time savers of my life. I could easily fill pages with my theories on this subject. However, in the interest of space..and time..I promise to try and make my major points in as concise, albeit productive a way as possible.

First and foremost I believe that the primary ingredient essential to a successful practice program is the establishment of an organized routine which provides both logical and orderly muscular warm-ups as well as a general outline for systematic and orderly instrumental development. I cannot stress enough the words: organized and routine!!

By organized I mean that this practice regime should progress in a logical way. For example, warm-ups should begin with minimal muscular and mental effort and over a period of minutes or hours increase in difficulty to include the appropriately demanding work necessary to cover all of the technical elements.

To accomplish this goal effectively, it is vital that one develops, as quickly as possible, both a strong sense of self-discipline and good time management skills. After such an organized plan is created it is then absolutely critical to assign specific time duration or percentages of total time to each portion of the plan.

To help one better understand this concept let me use as example the technical portion of the practice plan I have developed over the years for the benefit of my own students. Lovingly known by my students simply as “The System”, this program commences with the opening of their case and continues through work on open strings, basic bowing, shifting, vibrato, scales double stops, etudes, etc. To accomplish this I rely heavily on books by Schradieck, Kreutzer, Sevcik, Flesch and Campagnoli. A typical outline of the technical portion of my program looks like this:

Schradieck (Books 1,2,3) = approx. 1/3 of the total time allotted for daily technical system practice

Flesch “Scale System”    =   approx. 1/3 of the total time allotted for daily technical system practice

Kreutzer “42 Studies”   =   approx.. 1/3 of the total time allotted for daily technical system practice

I believe strongly that the practice time one has available for warm-up and technical work should be distributed in somewhat the same way at each practice session irrespective of the total time available. For example: If the total time available on a given day for warm-up and technical work is 90 minutes… I recommend that each of the three categories noted above receive a 30 minute block of time. (1/3 of 90 minutes = 30 minutes).

If the total time available is only 30 minutes… I recommend 3 blocks of ten minutes each. The rationale for this approach is:

  • A well organized plan wakes up the muscles and brain in a logical sequence. A disruption in this sequence can severely undermine the development of a strong foundation.
  • Routine is all important!! Interestingly, the brain does not remember the duration of specific time invested in a task nearly as well as it remembers the sequence in which tasks are performed.

Well….I think that’s about enough for today. However, lets plan on continuing our discussion regarding my theories on “PRACTICING” next week. See you then! Happy practicing!!

I thought you might enjoy seeing the first professional brochure my management company used to promote me at around age 17 or so. I came across this recently while preparing some of my materials for transfer to the PRIMROSE INTERNATIONAL VIOLA ARCHIVES.




Alan de Veritch