The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Want to know how professional musicians practice? For the next 100 days on Instagram, violin virtuoso Hilary Hahn will show you | August 13, 2018

By Jacob Stockinger

Many listeners and many amateur musicians often wonder: How do professionals do it? How do they practice to prepare for a performance? And what goes on in the practice rooms (below) of major conservatories and schools of music where tomorrow’s professionals study?

Of course the usual advice is to play slowly, to repeat difficult sections and to break a larger piece down into smaller parts.

But it is one thing to be told what to do, and another thing to see professionals follow their own advice and put it into practice. The Ear finds that it often inspires him to work harder and better, and more efficiently and satisfyingly.

Many performers seem reluctant to show up what goes into a career, to show the hard work of practicing that leads to apparently effortless performing.

Not Hilary Hahn (below, in a  photo by Peter Miller), the outstanding violin virtuoso who has performed several times at the Wisconsin Union Theater in some of the finest programs The Ear has ever heard.

Recently Hahn, the thoughtful three-time Grammy Award winner, started a series called #100daysofpractice on her Instagram account called “Hilary Hahn’s Violincase.” It is worth subscribing to for the short one-minute videos.

It is fascinating to see such a gifted professional slowing down passages of concertos by Johann Sebastian Bach and Jean Sibelius – music Hahn already knows intimately and has recorded — and to hear and appreciate how she continues to practice making hard leaps, negotiating difficult transitions, adjusting bowing, correcting off-pitches and finding difficult fingering and hand positions.

If you haven’t seen and heard it for yourself, treat yourself. You will learn a lot that will help you to appreciate the physicality of making music and perhaps even help you to play it better yourself.

Here is a link:

And there is another sample in the YouTube video at the bottom:

What do you think?

Do you know of other sites on the web and social media that document professional musicians practicing? If so, please leave the address in the COMMENT section.

The Ear wants to hear.



    Comment by Terry Baer — August 13, 2018 @ 1:17 am

  2. WONDERFUL !!!!!

    Comment by Terry Baer — August 13, 2018 @ 1:15 am

  3. Good column. Hilary Hahn is marvelous.

    On practice: how about Lang Lang, the Chinese pianist who won the Tchaikovsky competition at the ripe old age of 12? Here’s some info on his practice (with videos):

    Less famous is the British classical pianist, James Rhodes, but in this interview he has some tips on practice that include:

    “Piano practice I’m very lucky in that the people at Steinway let me use a practice room in their shop in Marylebone whenever I like and I play on these amazing £70,000 pianos. But at home I have a special Silent System piano that is a combination of digital and acoustic. It has a switch that moves the hammers back from the strings so that no sound comes out of them; I can only hear it through the headphones. A really hot girl gave me the antique metronome (pictured) that sits on top and I love it.”

    And last, but not least is one of my favorite pianists, Arthur Rubinstein who in Volume One of his autobiography (and I read it maybe 5 decades ago, it is marvelous) mentions how his family forced him to take lessons with a German master when he was young and he had to practice so much, that he attempted to commit suicide. The rope he had tied around his neck apparently broke thus saving him!

    Comment by fflambeau — August 13, 2018 @ 12:16 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,262 other followers

    Blog Stats

    • 2,323,764 hits
%d bloggers like this: