A list of common mistakes for left hand, right hand, wrist position, rosin application, elbows, finger positions, bow holds, violin position, bowing technique, and many other areas.
Pressing too hard on the finger board. Keep reminding yourself not to do this. Only press as hard as is needed to push the string against the fingerboard.
Clenching or gripping or grabbing of any kind. Most problems come from things that are hard, effortful or frozen instead of easy, flowing, or warm.
Lifting fingers off the fingerboard too high.
Always be connected to the mental "image", or "sound", of what you are trying to achieve. Never let your hands dictate the music and keep measuring what you actually play to what you really want to play.
Left wrist touching violin. The left wrist should be neutrally aligned with your left arm. Until you begin playing high up on the fingerboard in advanced positions, it should not be touching the violin.
Violin pointing down towards the ground, and / or gap between violin button and neck, making it look as if the violin is slipping down towards the ground. Also known as "shooting ants" and "sinking Titanic". This disease is quite common, and causes tiredness due to an imbalanced posture with too much weight thrown forwards. The bow starts to drift into the fingerboard area and a noticeable drop in body tone results from not having a stable, horizontal platform for the bow to lean on. Bowing becomes slow and cumbersome because of the extra burden of the shoulders and head which should be held slightly back to counterbalance the weight of the violin and our arms. In this picture a 3 year old holds his violin in a healthy horizontal position. You will find buttoned collars most uncomfortable when trying to hold the violin as closely as possible. You must wear comfortable clothes which do not impede a naturally close contact with the violin. As to keeping the violin horizontal, a bad posture is to lean forwards slightly in the same direction as the violin thereby adding more weight to that side of the body. In order to counterbalance the weight of ones arms and the violin, one should lean slightly backwards and look slightly upwards, thereby lifting the position of the violin to horizontal, and also assuming a healthy upright position especially especially good for the chest.
Trying to fix all your mistakes at once. Your conscious mind can only focus on a limited number of things at a time. Pick one thing to improve – perhaps intonation. Perhaps straight bowing or tone production or string crossings. Perhaps vibrato. Whatever it is, pick it, focus on it, fix it.
Touching the bow hair with fingers. This puts oils on the hair which will ruin your tone quality.
Pulling the bow with your shoulder and not your elbow. If pulled with the shoulder, the bow will pull down at an outward angle instead of remaining perpendicular to the strings.
Not using the whole bow, and a general lack of bowing freedom thereby not reaching neither the heel nor the tip of the bow. One must have the ability to use the whole bow even if a piece does not require it. Scales, slurred or separate, must be played with 100% of the length of the bow. It is harder to reach the heel than the tip of the bow, because the lower half of the bow is harder to master. It involves accompanying the right hand with the elbow, moving the upper arm freely. If shoulders are tense, then the upper arm does not swing freely in the shoulder socket, and the lower half of the bow becomes awkward. The first signs of a pupil not using bow right up to the heel is a greasy bow without much rosin at the heel. Make sure you rosin your bow and use it right up to the heel.
"...what is paramount in importance is not the physical movements as such, but the mental control over them. The key to facility and accuracy and, ultimately, to complete mastery of violin technique is to be found in the relationship of mind to muscles." - Ivan Galamian
The left wrist being pressed up against the bottom of the neck. Incorrect finger placement will always occur unless your wrist is relaxed outward.
Left elbow hugging body. Keep it away from the body in a comfortable position.
Using tapes on the fingerboard for too long: Like a lot of practice aids, moderation is an important concept. Using tapes on the fingerboard of a violin year after year, with no variation in terms of position or context, tends to nullify pitch recognition and other subtle cognitive functions. For very early beginners, and to learn shifting, they can serve a purpose. Using tapes on the violin bow can be very useful, provided there are clear goals set, and the tapes are reflective of bow stroke vocabulary.
Letting your pinkie curl up or serperate from your other fingers. Keep it relaxed and placed easily over the finger board.
Squashing your left hand fingers together. This causes your fingers to stick together and lack independance. Keep them seperate and free and dextrous.
Not bending the thumb with the bow hold. This in turn locks the wrist and makes correct bow movement nearly impossible.
Practicing sporatically. It's bes to practice little and often. Yes, you've probably heard it a dozen times before (or more) and perhaps till you are tired of hearing it, but the reality is – its true. Do even 15 minutes a day rather than an hour or more in one sitting at the end of the week, and you will be much better off.
Not devoting practice time to perfecting technique. Make sure you allocate time each practice session to improving your technique - don't just get carried away learning new songs.
Fake practicing: Make sure you're pushing yourself to the limits of your abilities every practice session. Just playing songs that you've learned isn't practice unless you're makeing a concerted effort to play them better.
When they move the rosin instead of the bow. Moving the rosin is harder rather than moving the bow.
When the shoulder is raised to support the violin. You should be relaxed and not tense. Sure, this may or may not be tense, but it could endanger yourself and your career.
Not sitting up straight when playing. This affects everything. Don't slouch.
Right hand little finger not bent causing harsh cords, abrupt bow changes at the heel or not reaching the heel at all. In addition, this defect will cause the right hand to "lock up" losing its flexibility. If the little finger is straight, one can liken it to a toothpick ; brittle, weak and inflexible. This is most important when trying to adhere to the string with softness and suppleness in the lower half of the bow. In fact the little finger should always be bent for maximum control of the bow. For instance, placing the bow on the strings at the very tip is harder with a straight little finger than with a bent one.
Listen carefully and don't gloss over your mistakes. This is sooo easy to do on your own. You need to be super critical when listening to your own playing to be able to hear it the way others do. One help for this is to record your playing. You could use a cassette recorder, or MP3 recorder. I use my computer and some free recording software called Audacity. If you haven't done it, you'll be surprised what you pick up. It is also useful for hearing your progress over time.
1st finger not in tune ( or not on dot ). The first finger is often played out of tune especially once the student has progressed on to the 4th finger, and somehow has become careless about the tone between an open string and a first finger. There are those who place it sharp and those who place it flat. An incorrect first finger can compromise the correct intonation of every subsequent finger used because it really affects the placing of the whole hand. A first finger should also act as an anchor, firmly keeping its place when 4th fingers and stretches are used.
Upside down bowing. (No this isn't playing with your bow upside down!) rather, it's when you bow an up bow instead of a down bow, or a down bow instead of an up bow. Firstly one must be clear about a down bow ; it travels from left to right, in the same direction we read a book. An up bow goes from right to left, and usually goes up if we are bowing on the A or E strings. On the D and G strings the bow will seem quite horizontal. Keeping the same bowing ( and fingering ) in a piece is the only secure way of avoiding muddles and uncertainties. It is the only way to learn a piece by heart, and eventually, if your teacher has chosen excellent bowings and fingerings, correct bowing will show you the way to play with a great style. I never allow a student to "get used" to an incorrect bow direction.
Jerky bow changes. The bow change should always be smooth and slow. One must not change bow direction with a sudden impulse, as the string vibration will become upset and the bow will loose adherence, and a disturbing noise will be heard.
Crash landing. The bow must not "crash land" on the string from above as a note is started. It must rest firmly on the string, even with a little weight before it is neatly draw, in firm contact with the string. The habit of starting from mid air can cause the bow to bounce upon impact, and will also probably produce a scratchy and harsh start to a note, which may be difficult to recover from. Always "Place then draw". Never draw the bow unless it is perfectly stationary, sitting on the string.
Not wanting to listen to yourself play: Whether recording audio, visual or both, these practice aids can effect how we listen to and perceive our approach to a musical instrument, what is working, what isn’t. Arthur Rubinstein, the great concert pianist was known to comment when entering the recording booth to hear play back of himself, "And now, it is time for my lesson."
Learning from only one source of information: It seems that part of our nature is to gravitate toward a single opinion, and ignore opposite or conflicting information. A “balanced diet” of input can often lead to enhanced problem solving skills, and greater confidence in the end result.
Not asking "why did it go right?”" – We make a point when thing go wrong but seldom stop to think when we make it right. This is a crucial point of practicing since after spending time and effort and having overcome the difficulty, we should ask ourselves what we've learned so that we can more easily overcome similar difficulties in the future.
Ignoring tempo, timing and other musical agenda. In practicing pieces – learning initially "only the notes" without musical agenda is one of the most common mistakes by students. Since the music agenda dictates speed, loudness, articulation, phrasing, timing, fingerings, tone production, use of vibrato and bowings, to say the least, not considering musicality from the very first stages makes the entire process of practicing a waste of time.
Using the pads of your fingers (left hand) instead of the tips. Inaccuracy occurs when this happens.
Not portioning out practice time: Very easy to fall into. For a violinist, there are uniquely complex and challenging interactions between left hand technique and bow arm technique. Also, there are demands placed on players in terms of music related endeavors, pieces of music that it may be necessary to practice, as opposed to wanting “to just play”. Making a habit of structuring ones practice time can reap great benefits.