First Step – Make Friends
Make friends with your instrument and the music. First sing and dance the phrases out loud. Can you hear the ideal sounds in your mind’s ear? Play through as slowly as necessary, as beautifully as possible.
Second Step – Play in Tune
Cultivate good intonation from the beginning. Match open strings and find the sympathetic vibrations. Notice how the string welcomes you. Notice how your whole body feels good.
Plan your finger patterns. Think in violin code with all four fingers in a grid. Think doublestops/multiplestops at all times. Relax your left hand and make all actions, especially including shifts, released and comfortable. This is fun and will make everything easier.
Third Step – Play in Time
Play with the metronome (subdivided) in a slow tempo and notch up bit by bit. Use a steady, warm sound and do exactly the bowings that appear in the music. Decide where in the bow you need to play each passage, and plan your bow so that you end up just in the part of the bow you want. Notice how confident you feel when you are able to play in the part of the bow that suits the music.
Add dynamics to your work with the metronome, and make sure you don’t alter your rhythm when you crescendo or diminuendo. Also add phrasing. You are beginning to make this your own interpretation now.
Put the metronome on silently and see how well you can stay with it, even if you don’t watch it for a few beats. Walk around as you play to develop your inner pulse. Notice how calm and smooth your bow feels now as you play in time.
Fourth Step – See the Whole Story
Learn the structure of your piece. Parse it into phrases and larger sections. Try to understand the meaning and purpose of each event and musical gesture. Notice how groups of notes get easier when they are aiming towards an endpoint.
Fifth Step – Imagining
Open yourself up to the music. Imagine what it looks like. Do you see a ballet, a play, an opera, colors? Dance it, sing it, visualize it, conduct it. What do you feel? Encourage yourself to respond naturally and fully. If you can’t feel it, your audience won’t either.
Sixth Step – Listening
Play through your piece expressively and fully. Record yourself and listen carefully. Are you surprised by what you thought you were doing? Compare yourself to recordings of famous artists. What are they doing that you are not? Do they all play the same? How can you add more expression?
Seventh Step – Performing
Perform your piece in Carnegie Hall in your mind. Imagine you are every great violinist rolled into one and that this is the most marvelous work of music ever created. Let yourself fully engage with the music and your imaginary audience. Don’t listen critically; let a small part of the back of your mind take notes for later, but allow yourself to be fully focused on the music as you perform. Your goal is to create sounds that will never be heard again, the most beautiful sounds you have ever made — the sounds your soul makes when it sings.