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Free PDF: Maud Powell's 10 Practice Rules

Free PDF: Maud Powell's 10 Practice Rules

Tips to help you get the most out of each practice session – from one of America's foremost violinists.

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We spend so much time trying to follow the composer’s every wish – but we don’t often stop and ask if there’s a better way.


Dvorak writes pianissimo here, but Hadelich wouldn’t be heard over the orchestra if he played that soft. Instead of just playing louder, he raises the volume by using a lot of bow speed – this has a color that’s similar to playing soft. This all depends on the size of the orchestra and the acoustics of the hall. Sometimes, Hadelich prepares several bowings for a passage. This way, if he is faced with a very resonant hall or a very dry hall, he can make sure he is heard clearly.


In this example from the first movement of the Sibelius Concerto, the note in the second bar of Largamente often has to compete with the orchestra. This note is usually not heard until the very end.

Hadelich makes time for a quick bow change at the beginning of the note and then has bow available for a big crescendo at the end. However, if the orchestra is playing at a suitable volume and the hall isn’t too wet, he can use a regular bowing.


Intention vs. What's Written

The key to making these decisions is to ask what the composer really meant with what they wrote; we can often get there slightly differently. If we’re adding bowings, however, we still want to articulate each note the same way the composer intended. If we’re breaking up a slur, the bow change should be as smooth as possible.

All of these solutions are very personal, and come from hours of working with the material. The shape of the phrase and the dynamics should still be present.

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