As a private violin, viola and cello teacher and youth orchestra director (Chicago Orchestral Academy), I just love this little article from "The Etude" written in 1909, over 100 years ago! Certain things just stand the test of time so well! Maud Powell was a local, home grown talent from Peru, Illinois who achieved worldwide fame for both her talent and hard work. At the age of nine, Maud began study with William Lewis, a noted violin teacher in Chicago. Every Saturday she would travel the forty-five miles each way alone by train to her lesson (her parents could not afford to go with her). (That's what I call dedication!) At the age of 13, her talent and hard work took her all the way to Germany to study with the celebrated violinist, Joseph Joachim, for whom Brahms wrote his violin concerto. All of Maud's hard work resulted in a wonderful international career for her that lasted throughout her entire adult life.
As a teacher, I try very hard to inspire my private students to achieve everything their talent will give back to them through their individual hard work and effort. I also want to give the same lessons in my conducting/teaching with Chicago Orchestral Academy's Classical Symphony Orchestra and Protégé Philharmonic! Learning the discipline of playing a musical instrument well has a wonderfully beneficial effect on a young musician's entire life, even if they do not go into music as a profession. Over the years, it has taken many of my students into professional orchestral playing careers, college teaching, and public school teaching jobs all around the United States.
I hope you find some "pearls of wisdom" here to help you practice more effectively and efficiently whether you are a violinist or not!
Maud Powell's Ten Practice Rules from The American Girl and Her Violin
by Maud Powell
The Etude, July 1909
I. Concentrate. Concentrate your thoughts on your work, completely and absolutely. One hour of absorbed practice is worth forty of the casual sort.
II. Play in tune. The worst of all violinistic crimes is to be untrue to pitch.
III. Practice scales religiously. Play them slowly and with perfect evenness, both as to fingering and bowing.
IV. Practice slowly all difficult or intricate passages; also, jumps, trills, spiccato, staccato, arpeggios, etc.
V. Practice long bows slowly, slowly, slowly. Draw out the tone. Pull it out, spin it, weave it, but never press it out or squeeze the string. By pressing the string with the bow you can check the natural vibration, and without changing the position of the left hand the smallest fraction, you can actually lower the pitch of the note you are producing.
VI. Memorize everything, including scales, etudes, pieces and difficult passages in chamber music.
VII. Keep in mind the structure of the composition while practicing separate phrases, difficult passages, etc. Do not let your playing or your memory become "patchy"--keep each measure mentally in its place; that is, in its correct relation, structurally, to the whole.
VIII. "Vorspielen." This German word means "to play before." Play your studies or pieces over in their entirety before any long-suffering friend who will listen. You will be amazed at the sore spots that will reveal themselves, and will make it your business to heal them as quickly as possible.
IX. Hear other violinists. You will listen in spite of yourself. Then apply that kind of listening to your own work. There will be more surprises in store for you.
X. Love your instrument as yourself. But love your art more than either. Keep the fires of enthusiasm burning. Nothing was ever accomplished without faith and enthusiasm.