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The Three Parts of Practicing

Think about practicing in three parts: warm up, technique and new pieces. The practicing should always have these three parts in some way, regardless of how long the session is.

Warm up should be done in the beginning for at least a few minutes. The goal of this time is to get your body moving and your brain focused, not trying to fix anything. Warm up can include actual physical stretching. This is also a good time to just play through a few review pieces.

Technique should take up most of your practicing session. The goal of this time is to try and fix something such as even tone or intonation. The main difference between technique and warm up is what the brain is focusing on. You are intentionally trying to fix a particular aspect of your playing rather than trying to get from beginning to end on a piece. Good technique work could literally involve playing open strings the entire time. In fact, this is one of the best things to do when working on tone because the sound is pure.

When the technique is starting to feel comfortable that's when you could start trying to apply it to review pieces. The review piece should not require any focus for the notes but will be more challenging than open strings because more is involved.

New pieces should happen at the end and only if you have time. During this time the goal is to learn basic things like notes, rhythms and bowings. This is also when you would work on adding things like dynamics and phrasing to a piece. Since the focus is on the piece itself and not your playing technique you should not try to actively add your new technique to the piece.

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