Do you travel very much? One of my students is a long-haul truck driver and carries his violin with him.
Did you know you can turn all that road or air time into beneficial practice time? Read on to learn some specific exercises.
But first, don’t underestimate the value of a TRUE vacation–one where you leave all chores behind and just enjoy yourself. That kind of vacation clears the mind and rejuvenates the soul and can only help your violin playing.
With the tips in this message, I don’t intend to intrude on that very important time. Instead, use these tips during dead time in the car or on the plane as you travel to and from your destination. If you use these tips properly, that time is PURE PRACTICE GOLD.
Check out my YouTube channel for video demonstrations of these exercises
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: Don’t let these exercises distract you if you’re driving. You know your limitations and the level of concentration you need, so exercise wisely.
1. Use travel time for active listening:
Face it. None of us listens as much as our teachers want us to. Certainly not in a setting where we can truly pay attention and absorb all the details. Travel time is perfect for listening. It
takes hundreds of hours of ACTIVE listening for a student to absorb and begin to develop her own concept of great sound, good style, and personal interpretation. You can listen to your local
classical radio station, internet radio, your iPod, or CDs. Don’t forget that libraries carry a great selection of classical CDs!
When listening to the radio, pay attention to the announcer. Get the name of the composer, and try to get the names of the performers, the orchestra, the conductor, and the soloist. This
gets you familiar with who’s who, plus you will be able to buy the music later if you really love it! Try to be observant and answer the following questions: Is the piece Baroque, Classical, Romantic,or 20th Century? When did the composer live, and what country were they from?
Try to compare one composer with another–what makes them different? What instruments are used in Baroque that aren’t used in Classical? What bow strokes do you hear in Classical that you don’t hear in Baroque? What is the time signature?
Try also to compare a symphony, quartet, and sonata. How are they different? How many instruments in each? How many movements? What instruments? Your observations will teach you a lot and you will become a better active listener.
2. Name That Tune:
If you have other people with you, have someone skip around to different tunes on your Suzuki cd’s. You should be able to name the tune in just a couple seconds, even in the middle of a track!
3. Ghost Bow:
This is where you play the cd of your review material, and you “ghost bow” along with it in the air. Try to use all the right bowings, and try to remember to do the dynamics! Big bows for
forte, and small bows for piano.
4. Rhythm Work:
“I Can Read Music” by JoAnn Martin is perfect for travel time. The left side of the book is pitch, and the right side is rhythm. You can work your way through the right side of the book, clapping and counting. You can even bring a metronome and practice clapping with your metronome.
5. Copy Cat:
One person claps a rhythm, and you have to copy it perfectly.
6. Flash Cards:
You can use the left side of “I Can Read Music” by Joanne Martin, or you can buy flash cards for every aspect of music imaginable.
7. Memorize Key Signatures:
What Major/Minor keys have the same key signature? What finger pattern goes with each key signature?
8. Strength Building:
Bring a clothes pin along. Use it to build finger strength. You can also do isometric exercises, but I like the clothes pin, because it’s easier to see your progress!
9. Pencil Exercises:
For beginners, just work on the “Jelly Fish” exercise. This is impossible to describe–please see the video demonstration. For intermediate players, the vertical, horizontal and blastoff exercises are perfect for travel.
10. Vibrato Exercises:
“Vibrato Egg”–If you have a vibrato egg, bring it with you. Vibrato eggs can also be made. I like the “Silly Putty” sized egg, because it fits smaller hands. Or use a small Easter Egg. Put just a spoonful of raw rice inside. These eggs are held in the left hand and the objective is to oscillate the egg back and forth with the wrist in an even, relaxed way. “Cello Vibrato”–Hold your right forearm across your chest. Let your left hand practice vibrato “cello-style” on your forearm. No squeezing!
11. Greasy Elbow Exercises:
“Ghost bow” along with a recording of your repertoire, but do the ghost bow by scrubbing up and down your left arm with your right hand. (Scrub a Dirty Doggie exercise) This emphasizes and isolates the elbow movement, and prevents the shoulder from “helping”.
There you have it! Eleven easy ways to come back from your vacation ready to pick up where you left off. Make good use of your travel time and have a safe, refreshing vacation.