02 – 01 Practice Tips


Music is a skill. Practicing music is also a skill we have to learn. SAO members come from a variety of backgrounds and teaching methods. Practicing music and technique we all come from different coaching and schools of discipline, not to mention that we also all have different demands on our time.

This section is really a collection of guidelines in the public domain, that you may find worth viewing or reading just to get ideas. How you choose to build your technical proficiency is your choice. How you get the most out of practice depends on your starting point and your goals. These are just ways SAO members have found useful in expanding their knowledge and discipline.

Practicing is a Skill to develop your Skills

Warm up: This is going to be different for each type of instrument. We all have common physical needs to prepare us for our best playing, just as we warm up for running, or dance, or to get started on the day.

Warm up is a chance to loosen hands, arms, lips, and to engage your mental state to be “mindful” or focused. There are many techniques for warm up, and even if you think you know what works, the fact is that your body and physical skill is changing. The more you play, the more your entire system, nervous and muscular and skeletal, are engaged. So don’t be afraid to find new ways to warm up that might work better for you under current conditions.


SLOW Scales: Using the whole note, half note, quarter note, eighth note, triplet approach.

  1. Pick a key for the WEEK. “This week is the key of C”, or, “This week is the key of Db.”
  2. Run scales slowly in two, three or four octaves as best you can.
    1. UP and DOWN the fingerboard or range of instrument.
    2. Start with whole notes, than half, then quarter, then eighth notes and then triplets.
    3. Set the metronome to a speed in which you can effectively play through all the quavers or values, from whole notes to triplets.
    4. Reset the metronome to go slower, when you cannot execute the entire exercise. Slower and accurate is better than fast and wrong. Slower and accurate will give you time to be mindful of every note and position you are experiencing.
  3. Tips:
    1. DRONE NOTES: String players and trombone players, to name a few, may use a drone note for the key. The drone is the root note or the fifth note of the scale.
      1. It will help you discern intonation for roots, octaves and all intervals more accurately both UP and DOWN the fingerboard.
      2. Especially for string players and trombonists, returning down to the root note from a higher pitch can often be a challenge to get in tune. The drone gives you a point of reference.
  4. Cross Strings: working across the strings will stretch your fingers AND dial in some bowing.
  5. Gary Karr’s “vomit drills”: Will help you work on shifting. shifting drills may involve having a drone note as a starting point, and shifting up and back twice through each interval of a scale. 
    1. For example: pick a fingered note as a root note of the scale. Move up to the 2nd scale degree and back down using the same finger to finger the note. Do this twice, slowly and accurately.
    2. Then go to the third degree and back. then all through the major scale, or minor scale/church modes or even blues scales. The scale doesn’t matter. The accurate shift from pitch to pitch to pitch does.
    3. Develop this exercise by adding to it a finger change from the starting note, to the next note played. For example, the starting note may be played with the INDEX finger, while the next pitch up the scale is played with the middle finger.

Time Allotment:

  • Give yourself 15 minutes for warm up. 10 minutes if you are really in a rush on any given day.
    • Schedule a time: and don’t ignore which time of day you are at your mental “best”. Schedule some days at this time just for music.
    • In the evening, ask the family for a few uninterrupted minutes to play. Even if all you do is warm up, its better than “intending” to practice and never getting to it.
    • As a string player, you may wish to keep your instrument in a stand, rather than in the case. Extracting the instrument from its case and returning it may take up valuable time in a schedule that is hectic. Buy a proper stand so your instrument is protected.


Violin-because you can start anywhere that’s easy: Beginner