What to Practice, How, and How Long

**All student must practice 1 to 2 hours daily and 7 days a week to make progress and improvements.**

Practice Checklist

Here’s a Weekly Practice Checklist in PDF form to help you keep track of your practice.

Scales and Arpeggios, 15 to 30 Minutes

Whether you’re beginners or professionals, you practice scales and arpeggios everyday. You need to practice them to refresh your pitch memory and therefore enhancing your intonation. Starting your practice with scales helps you and the instrument warm up.

Scales and arpeggios must be practiced at various speeds with the metronome. Slow practice allows you to correct intonation and other potential technical problems such as shifting. Fast practice pressures you to build muscle memory in a fast context so that your intonation is good even at a fast speed.


  1. Practice scales and arpeggios with and without vibrato at slow speed.
  2. Practice them with slurs and full bow as well as separate bow at the same speed.
  3. The Galamian acceleration exercises is a great way to gradually increase speed. Be sure to use full bow when slurred. Set metronome to 50-60bpm for each quarter beat. Make sure the fingering choice is consistent throughout the exercise.
  4. Study different fingering choices and learn the advantage or disadvantage, since there’s no perfect fingering. This is especially useful for chromatic scales.
  5. Use intermediary notes to assist shifting and intonation

Etudes and Technical Exercises, 15 to 30 Minutes

Etudes are usually repetitive and work on one to two techniques in both hands without frequent change of rhythm or bowing, so that you can focus on the technique itself.


  1. To avoid being bored by the repetitions, divide each etude into smaller sections, set different goals for each section or play each section with different bowing patterns. This is one way you can practice etudes like Kreutzer no.2.
  2. Memorize the etude by short sections so that you can focus on technical issues such as posture and sound quality.
  3. For more specific technical exercises such as Schraedieck or Sevcik, practicing with metronome is a must because they’re very repetitive exercises to train finger dexterity. Without the assistance of metronome it’s possible to achieve precision.

Regular Repertoires, 30 minutes to 1 hour

In regular repertoires, many different types of techniques could be involved and they switch from one to another quickly. So we need to focus on smooth transitions and putting everything together in a continuous sequence.

First we need to balance the amount of run through and sectional practice. Run through may be enjoyable to listen to and seemingly easy to achieve. But without sectional practices, a run through cannot sound fluidly and refined. The goal of sectional practices is to eliminate technical obstacles that disrupts the continuity of the playing. Practicing run through with constant interruptions can develop into a bad performance habit in recitals and auditions.

Secondly we need to deal with frustration over obstacles and bad habits. Very often get stuck at one spot and cannot get it right no matter how many times we play it. This is when we need to pause, examine our strategies, and ask the following questions:

  1. Is there any fingering or bowing you tend to forget? Did you write them down to assist your memory?
  2. Do you always begin at a familiar spot? If so, try to begin at an awkward spot such as the middle of a phrase or middle of a measure. The goal is to break the old habit (explained below). This is a common problem because we all like to listen to music that sounds comfortable and satisfying. However in practice, starting at the beginning every time isn’t a great strategy.
  3. Are you practicing slowly enough? This is another common problem because music needs to be performed at certain normal speed to make sense to our ear. However, when your practice isn’t ready, you cannot play the music at the normal speed. This is almost paradoxical and requires a lot of patience and belief in slow practicing.
  4. Did you try practicing backward? “Backward” doesn’t mean playing each note in the reversed order in this case. It means to start at the trouble spot, then gradually add more music that precedes it. Keep adding until we can play a complete phrase or section.

Quality vs. Quantity

While it’s important to meet the 1 to 2 hours minimum practicing requirement, we also need to constantly check the quality of our practice. Practicing 1 hour incorrectly with bad intonation and posture is no better than not practicing at all. Good practicing is much like quality manufacturing. Increasing the quantity of a product will never improve its quality. We can only improve it by fixing design flaws or having better workmanship. So always ask the question, “am I doing this correctly” when we practice, especially when doing repetition exercises.