How to Learn a Piece

June 30th, 2013 | Posted by BaylaK in Goal 06: Learn Rapidly | Practicing - (Comments Off)

I. Getting Acquainted

A.   Read through several times at a medium tempo to get a musical feeling for the work. Play with feeling and with a gorgeous sound, getting as many of the details as you   reasonably can.

B.   Study the score (orchestra or piano part) to learn its texture and harmony.

C.   Purchase a recording and play it as background music in your room.

D.   Research the background of the composer and the piece.

E.   Sing the piece to get a feeling for the lines.

F.   Clap complicated rhythms and mark if necessary. Subdivide!

G.  Imagine who or what might be singing or playing different parts of the piece (e.g., opera singer, pianist, clown, monster, tank, etc.) What is the story line?

II. Phrasing, Fingerings and Bowings

A.   Play each section slowly, outlining phrase structures clearly in your mind.  Mark phrasing crescendos and diminuendos, high points, and low points.  If you already have a sense of a character for a section from studying the score, mark an adjective or word that will help you remember.

  1. Plan your bowings, with a clear understanding of bow distribution.  You may find it helpful to mark parts of bow at specific points. I also frequently use “MB” (more bow) or “SB” (save or slow bow).
  2. Put in fingerings that make sense with the phrase or the color that you think appropriate.  Balance musical fingerings with practicality.  Sometimes the “expensive” fingering isn’t worth it, and sometimes it is crucial!
  3. Plan vibrato intensity, which may or may not match bow intensity. It may be helpful to circle special notes where you want more or less (e.g., appoggiaturas, cadences, in piano dynamics, etc.)

III. Identifying Problem Areas

A. Without playing, go through your piece and mark passages that you expect will  need extra attention with a star in the margin.

B. Plan your practicing for the week, estimating the time it will take to work through a page or a movement.  Keep a log to see how well you estimated the difficulty and the time necessary to bring the passage to a reasonable level.

IV. Working

  1. Woodshed difficult passages slowly.  Do not play through the whole work at this point; analyze the difficulty of the passage and try to figure out a solution for each successive event.
  2. Analyze what each hand is doing separately. Left Hand: intonation, finger patterns, scales, shifts, vibrato, hidden double stops, finger placement.  Right Hand: sounding point, weight, speed, bow distribution and planning, tone colors.
  3. Build in releases: legs, pelvis, shoulders, neck, elbows, wrists, knuckles, fingers, breath.  Try to find the ideal way for your body to perform each skill required in a passage; memorize the feeling and remember which area of release is most important for each passage.
  4. To build left hand work: listen constantly and strive for absolutely perfect intonation; play legato for intonation practice; play everything possible in doublestops; keep fingers lightly on the string to block hand as much as possible; do not overpress; use dotted rhythms, tapping in a tempo for evenness, high lifts and drops, and necklace technique to build speed.
  5. To build right hand work: always use as beautiful and rich a sound as possible, even in soft dynamics; pay particular attention to releases; understand which part of your arm or hand is responsible for the action; practice fast passages with open strings; use “rhythm diet,” playing each note 4x, 3x, 2x, then 1x, starting down bow and then up bow for exact coordination of left and right hands.
  6. Daily metronome diet: start at least 2x slower; work gradually up to tempo and slightly beyond.  Start and stay at the level of perfection.
  7. Mental practice: feel, hear, see, and do—all in thought, with no physical movement.
  8. Memorize immediately, in small bits.  Work on a bar or even one part of a bar, turn away and practice the passage by memory, turn back to reinforce.  Do not allow yourself to grope for notes; play slowly and turn back before you make a mistake.  Memorize everything, including dynamics, bowings, terms, tempo changes, rests, and orchestra tuttis. Count rests aloud.

 V. Integration

A.  Continue to perfect difficult passages, with some daily woodshedding.

B.  Begin to play through larger sections of piece, e.g., begin shortly before each difficult passage and play slightly beyond. Do not forget your releases! Remind yourself before you enter the difficult stretch.

C.  Integrate improved sections into whole work.

D.  Notice stubborn problem areas and spend extra woodshedding time on these,  reducing or eliminating time spent on others.

E.  Record practice room runthroughs; listen and analyze remaining difficulties, if  any.

F.  Begin to let go of as many technical thoughts as possible while playing through, turning your attention to musical and expressive work.

VI. The Big Picture

A. Actively listen to recordings of the work, noting differences of character,  expression, tempo, stroke and articulation, etc. If applicable, find recordings of performers from different eras, and note stylistic changes.

B.  Listen to recordings of other works by the same composer.

C.  Research the era and country in which the composer lived.  Read literature and look at art from the composer’s time.

D. Think about what it is that you are doing to make the piece your own, while playing with an authenticity to reflect the composer’s wishes.  What is the larger message of your performance?

E. Find several opportunities to perform the work while it is at its present peak; then put it away and return to it occasionally, in order to keep it in your active  playing repertoire.

Practice Balancing

June 30th, 2013 | Posted by BaylaK in Goal 06: Learn Rapidly | Practicing - (Comments Off)

Types of Practicing

I find it very helpful to use four different types of practicing, and to purposely vary my mix from week to week.

I. Technique Development (1 – 1 ½ hours)

  1. Standard scales, arpeggios, and doublestops
  2. Left hand exercises: intonation, form, stretches, shifts, patterns, action
  3. Right hand exercises: tone, bow planning, releases, collee, springs
  4. Physical work: posture, breathing, relaxation, legs
  5. Etudes

II. Woodshedding (2 – 2 ½ hours)

Analysis and problem-solving are the heart of your work in learning a piece.  The pace at which you can learn will depend on how difficult the piece is in relation to your technical level.  If most of the piece is at the very top, or beyond, what you are easily able to do, you should expect to spend many hours of slow work before playing it up to tempo.  Take whatever time is necessary to work on each page of music. Slow is better; even though it feels at first as if you are making no progress, if you are really practicing with understanding, things will start to snowball, and you will not only sound better, you will have an unshakably solid technical foundation.

III. Playing Through (30 minutes – 1 hour)

Each day you should spend time playing through parts of your repertoire, especially those which you have not been woodshedding.  Play through at a steady tempo, and choose one which will give you maximum beauty and success. Try not to stop, but make mental notes of problem spots so that you can woodshed them tomorrow. Also notice what holds up and what does not. What needs more time? Can you tell which sections you practiced best? If something is coming along well, can you remember what you did in your practicing that is paying off now? Use that technique on similar passages in other works. If a section is not improving after several woodshedding sessions, ask your teacher for suggestions on how to practice it.

 IV.Rapid Learning (30 minutes – 1 hour)

It can be really fun to learn in a hurry. Put a timer on and give yourself X number of minutes to learn X number of pages of music.  This will often happen in real life, so get used to having this pressure!  See how fast you can solve problems and make it sound good. Remember that you may not be able to practice every note, so learn the hard parts first. Trust yourself to be able to read the easy stuff.

Time Distribution Between Pieces

When we are practicing a number of difficult works, we may not be able to woodshed every single bar of every single piece every single day. A chart can be helpful in establishing priorities and ensuring rotation, so that we don’t spend too much time on one piece.  List all movements of all pieces, and put a star or use a special color to denote the ones that are going to need the most attention. Then record what you have worked on each day. If you have a long movement, it may be two or more days before you can place a check on the chart. Difficult movements should get more checks (receive more practice sessions) than easy ones. In time you will be able to keep this chart mentally. You will develop a sense that it has been too long since you played through a particular section.  You will be able to hold all your pieces in your mind – you will notice that some of them will be calling to you more loudly than others!

I highly recommend two books by Burton Kaplan:  Practicing for Artistic Success and A Musician’s Practice Log.


Evaluating Practice Results

Remember that practicing should result in beautiful playing and a satisfied violinist.

If you and/or your teacher are not musically happy, what do you need to change? More woodshedding? More playing through and surrendering to the music? More fast learning? More creativity and imagination? More time on technique?

If you are not personally happy, what do you need to change? Do you need more or different pieces? Easier pieces? Harder pieces? A different ratio of woodshedding to playing through? More breaks? More physical stretches and exercise so that you are not too sore and tired?

You are the ultimate boss. You are in charge. If you are not getting the results you want, you need to change what you are doing.  The art of practicing lies in that delicate balance between the sweet pleasure of playing the violin and the exhilarating discipline of continually challenging yourself to do better.




Joyous Practicing: Full Version

June 17th, 2013 | Posted by BaylaK in Goal 06: Learn Rapidly | Practicing - (Comments Off)


We all know that many hours of practicing are essential for becoming the players and musicians we want to be. Sometimes we may think of practicing as a burden to be accomplished begrudgingly, a necessary evil if we want to become great. However, practicing itself is an art which can be learned, and like any art, the pleasure increases commensurate with the skill of the artist. As we become skilled at practicing, not only will we progress more rapidly but we will also gain self-discipline, focus, and peace of mind. Good practicing is a form of moving meditation, during which we are concentrated, completely present and alive.

I find it helpful to remember that our work is not just to master our instrument, but also to befriend it; not just to transmit our will and personality, but also to be drawn into the music and the composer’s world; not just to create a structure of discipline, but also to find the joy in the music and in the process of the work itself. We find within ourselves our own inspirational and demanding teacher, but we never lose sight of ourselves as music’s eternal student.

The following steps will help you to find more joy in your practicing as you learn a new work.

First Step: Getting Acquainted – Making Friends with the Music

Look at the music and sing it either out loud or in your head. If you begin by playing you immediately limit your aural imagination to what you can already do. If you hear it in your head you have the possibility to become more than you are. Notice what you feel as you sing with your mind’s ear. Does it make you want to dance or move? If so, dance or move as you sing.

Then take your instrument and play through the movement, or even just a part of it, as slowly as necessary. Your goal is to sound as good as you can right away. Hear each phrase in your head before you play. Respect the music; don’t allow yourself to play poorly or sloppily at this early stage. Begin at the highest level you are capable of producing. You may notice that you sound really good already on many portions of the piece; make a mental note of parts that you think will need more attention. Let yourself truly enjoy the beauty of the sounds you are creating now.

Second Step: Nuts and Bolts – Playing In Tune

From the beginning we need to cultivate the habit of playing in tune. Poor intonation is a most obvious defect to even an untrained audience. I recommend doing intonation work as early as possible, so that we do not spoil our ears by playing “in the cracks.” This should be done completely without reference to the rhythm or bowing in the music; legato as much as possible is to be preferred, because it will encourage the left hand to relax. The addition of a mild but continuous vibrato early in the process will help the hand relax and develop the sensual relationship of the finger with the string.

First match every possible note to adjacent open strings, using the perfect intervals of octaves and fourths; find the sympathetic ring in your instrument and the resulting feeling of give in the string. Make sure to tune your instrument carefully, because with all intonation work you are looking for maximum resonance. You will discover that as you play more in tune your instrument will sound richer and fuller, and you will be able to play into the string more deeply. Notice how your bow arm and entire body can relax as you sink into the welcoming string. Notice how as your instrument opens up and resonates, you can sense the vibrations through your whole body. It not only sounds good, it feels good to play in tune. Always search for the ring!

Next, plan your finger patterns and fingertip placements. Where are the whole steps and half steps? Think of your left hand as a grid; all four fingers should be in patterns at all times in this stage of your work. Leave fingers down lightly, or have them already grouped in the air with whole steps and half steps ready to go. If a passage involves any string crossings whatsoever, set up doublestops or multiplestops – the left hand must anticipate the bow. This kind of thinking in finger grids is like a secret code – after a while, you will no longer see separate notes; you will see patterns, which are much easier to learn, and much more stable to execute. There is a lot of mental fun to be had in planning out your secret finger code. You will notice as you become proficient at this that you will not fear hard passages; they will look and feel easier.

This kind of grid work relies on the stability of the hand and the ability of the fingers to work independently from the hand and from each other. The sensations of whole and half steps between the fingers will be entirely disrupted if you allow your wrist to move as you put down or pick up a finger. Keep the wrist relaxed but stable, in a straight line with the forearm.

The goal of the finger grid is not only accuracy; it is also balance and comfort. The care in which you place your fingerpads, the alignment of your arm, hand, and wrist, and certainly the amount of pressure can greatly aid in the organic ease of your left hand. If your hand feels good it will naturally remember its positions and you will have repeatability.

Find as much physical ease and release possible in each action of your left hand and arm. Practice your shifts legato back and forth, slurring across each shift – remember that your highest notes are often your glory notes and most transcendent moments, so find the release and joy as you float up! That feeling of ease and comfort will hold up under pressure, too, so not only will the process of searching itself be pleasurable, but the resulting playing will be amazing.

Third Step: Nuts and Bolts – Playing In Time

From the beginning we need to cultivate the habit of playing in a steady rhythm. This does not mean that we will end by playing steadily; the music may require something else. But practicing with steady rhythm will mean that we gain absolute mastery of bow speed and distribution, instead of simply changing the bow whenever and wherever we happen to run out of bow or time! If you have naturally good rhythm you may not need to work much in this area. If you do not have good rhythm, this will be a very fruitful and important part of your practice.

First put yourself on a metronome diet. Begin at quite a slow tempo, putting a subdivided beat on the metronome, which should be clearly audible even while you produce a good solid tone. Play the exact bowing in the music; do not divide the bow. Practicing in this way will teach a slower bow speed; smooth out the muscles in your bow arm; guarantee that you understand complex rhythms; ensure evenness and control in your left hand; and help you learn to plan your bow. Play exactly with the metronome’s beat – no approximation! Place your fingers, string crossings, and bow changes exactly on or in relation to the beat. This may be harder than it sounds – record yourself to check that you are really lining up and hearing yourself accurately. Notch your tempo up bit by bit, concentrating and keeping your alignment with the metronome. For variety try putting the metronome on silently; start while watching it, turn away, play a bit, turn back and see if you are still in time. You can develop a tremendous inner pulse in this way. Walking around while you play also works wonders in helping you feel the pulse as a physical event in your body.

In fast movements you will eventually want to work beyond the ideal tempo, and you will notice that when you bring the tempo back down, it will actually feel calm.

Fourth Step: Understanding Dynamics, Structure and Phrasing

Next, notice dynamics and add them to your slow and steady work with the metronome. Crescendos must not speed up (although you may wish to plan your bow so that your bow speeds up!) and diminuendos should not slow down. Which part of the bow do you need to be in for each passage? Here is where you will begin to make musical decisions, as well as discovering essential technical ease in your bow arm. The correct part of the bow will not only sound better, it will feel better. When you have control of your bow speed you can arrive at just the right part of the bow for the next passage. Great soloists make everything look as if the music happens by magic, but what you are hearing and seeing is the ease that comes from planning – they continually set themselves up for success.

An important part of dynamics may not be written in the music at all; this is the microphrasing that occurs in almost all Western music written before 1950, and which is based on the ebb and flow of harmonic tension, often easily discernible in our melodic lines. For example, look for the obvious shapes of lines; if the line is going up, it will often benefit from a small crescendo, even where none is written. Music is not a democracy; look for the kings and queens of each phrase, and the subservient notes which lead into and away from them. Look for series of sforzandos or repeated note patterns; in such situations it is almost always a good idea to start a little less and allow the series to build. Even in the early stages of your work you can and should begin to decipher these hierarchical relations, which I call microphrasing, and practice them into your bow as you are doing with your written dynamics. This is exceptionally fun and creative work, and when you do it you will feel like you are beginning to own your piece, not just playing it as someone else tells you to play.

Just as there is a hierarchy and structure within each phrase unit, there is an overall structure to each piece. Here is where a knowledge of theory can come in handy, because you will have names to give the various sections, and you will instantly have a framework in which to place each phrase. As you are working on a piece, especially once your initial technical work is in hand, you must study the music in order to begin to see it as a whole. Smaller phrases combine to create larger phrases, which in turn create sections. Part of our job as performers is to parse the music into audible sentences. Once you know the structure, you can begin to understand where the composer is going, and whether things are expected or unexpected. Even the placement of material within a bar can be dislocated or normal. Notice everything. Especially notice irregularity and non-diatonic notes. Always ask why something happens; every piece is a mystery to be solved, every gesture is an actor in a play, and every event is a clue to what the composer wants. If you can see the underlying story, you will be able to shape your performance so that each small part contributes to an unmistakable whole, and you will feel yourself as part of something much bigger too. As in life, so it is in music too: every action feels different when it has meaning and purpose.

Fifth Step: Creating Character with Visualization and Imagination

Now that you have created the firm undergirding for technical security, it is time to enter a particularly joyful part of your learning process. This is the time for you to find your most creative inner self. Music embodies and stirs powerful emotions. Sing your piece again. What does your piece feel like as you play it and sing it? Describe the various sections to yourself; try to make as much contrast between sections as you can. If you can’t come up with specific emotive adjectives (e.g. cheerful, sad, yearning, stern, angry, ecstatic, desolate) listen to some recordings and see if you can hear different characters in different recordings. As you listen, close your eyes and fantasize. If this were a ballet and people were dancing, what costumes would they be wearing? If someone were singing your part, what would they look like? Would they be male or female? Would they be wearing modern dress or a powdered wig? Would they be smiling or frowning? Would they be dancing, walking, holding still, or jumping up and down? Try singing while moving yourself in a way that seems to suit the phrase. What would this music look like if a good conductor were conducting it? Would the movement of his or her hands be angular or circular, hard or soft, tense or loving? Try conducting yourself as you sing and dance. This is your time to let go – let yourself feel the music and respond to it naturally.

Notes are almost never neutral. It is up to us to discover what their expression may be and amplify it so that the audience will be able to hear it unmistakably. You will be amazed at how much you have to exaggerate in order to project your piece’s characters. This is what artists do every day and it is every bit as necessary and important as our technical work. Without this creative process, we may become good players, but we will never be able to give people the deep emotions that they yearn to experience at concerts.

Sixth Step: Listening to Yourself

Now it is time to begin playing through the piece with every bit of musical feeling, combined with technical accuracy, which you can muster. Listen carefully as you play. Are you transmitting the nature of each part and phrase? Record yourself. You may find that what you intended to make beautiful and lyric is in fact marred by bumpy bow changes or lack of vibrato.

If one of your phrases strikes you as boring or neutral, think about what it needs. Sing it again; describe it again. Try to find the technique that will best express what you are doing when you sing. What consonants do you use? If you are singing “ta, ta, ta” you will want audible bow changes; if you are singing “da, da, da” you will want smoother changes; “ya, ya, ya,” perhaps the smoothest of all. Try to sense the energy of the music: does it flow easily or against resistance? You can mimic this in your bow speed. To increase intensity, depth of sound, bow speed, vibrato, microphrasing and even in some cases small variations in tempo can be added. Experiment, record, and listen again. You are the creator, and you are the judge!

Seventh Step: Performing

One of the most neglected aspects of practicing is the art of performing. The work of practicing itself involves listening, planning, and assessing in an endless cycle of improvement. If you continue this process in an actual performance you will be self-conscious and you will not be able to communicate the feelings of the music.

Instead, perform the piece in Carnegie Hall in your mind. Paint the scene – large hall, beautiful acoustics, expensive tickets, an audience longing to transcend their ordinary lives, you as the most extraordinary musician and artist ever. Throw yourself completely into fantasy and extroversion. You are Heifetz, you are Oistrach, you are Gil Shaham, you are Hilary Hahn all combined. Just as importantly, you are the embodiment of the spirit of Brahms, Bach, Mozart, Paganini, or whatever great composer you are performing; and you are the spiritual messenger for all humanity. All your hard work and preparation have been for this moment.

As you perform, imagine a little guy at the back of your brain. He is very small and efficient; you could call him your 2% guy. He is taking notes (NOT you!) that he will give you later if anything goes less than superbly. Once in a while he may notice that you need to make some tiny correction. He can dart in and remind you; then he retires to the back again. The idea is to keep your own primary focus on the music, and let the 2% guy handle the small stuff. Even if you miss a note, let him worry about it. It is not your job as a performer to look back at the road kill. With every fiber of your being, you are wholly occupied with feeling and communicating to the audience; you are the music, and you are in charge of what will happen next.

After you have performed, take out the 2% guy and have him give you a dispassionate report. You will be surprised what he can tell you about matters technical, physical, and emotional. Use his calm information in your next practice session. Remember that everything can be improved. Even if you haven’t reached perfection yet, you can get closer every time you practice, and great delight is to be had in the journey!


As in all areas of life, we need to keep in mind our end goals even as we concentrate on the myriad details which will go into our technical and musical work. Having joy in as many parts of our practicing as possible will encourage us to do the hours of work necessary to our success. Reminding ourselves of our musical and spiritual purpose will sustain us even when we are tired or discouraged. Our goal as musicians is to create beauty, so we must become our best possible selves in order to transmute notes on a page into the ethereal beauty that is a great piece of music. This is truly the reason why we practice, why we can always improve, and why we hope to find ever greater depths and heights of joyous performance in ourselves, our instruments, and our music.

Joyous Practicing

June 17th, 2013 | Posted by BaylaK in Goal 06: Learn Rapidly | Practicing - (Comments Off)

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.

Woodshedding: Technical Perfection

June 14th, 2013 | Posted by BaylaK in Goal 06: Learn Rapidly | Practicing - (Comments Off)


Left Hand:
Intonation first
Practice slowly and legato. Match open strings. Find fourths and octaves. Listen for the ring. Use the drone for difficult keys (such as those with flats in them).
Plan your finger patterns. If the passage is fast, “hover” when ascending and have fingers already waiting when descending (even though this will not be perfectly comfortable at slow tempos). Always work in the grid.
Anticipate string crossings – left hand arrives before right; sound the doublestop.
Slur across shifts; play the note before the shift, slur to the note after the shift, repeat that note and slur as you return to the beginning note. Release before you move. Also practice hitting high notes from nowhere. Is your left elbow in the proper alignment? Where does your thumb need to be?
If you are playing moving notes under a slur, practice high lifts and drops; then play through with electricity in the fingers, but keep the fingers close.
If you are playing separate bows, you do not need as much action in the finger; be gentle. The rule is: for the start of the bow or on a string crossing, the action is in the bow, and the left hand relaxes; when the left fingers articulate under a slur, the bow is quiet and the left hand is active. You can reduce much tension in the left hand this way.
Remember that fast playing is light playing on the fingertips; slow playing transfers weight from the arm (just a bit) and feels deeper, and vibrato helps enormously to keep things loose. Do you have a footie?
For high notes, find the balance and the C shape; alternate popping the finger and releasing to the open string.
Play scales releasing to open strings or harmonics to reduce tension and gain speed.
Practice the necklace technique – play one beat plus one note really fast; repeat; play the next beat plus one note really fast; repeat; then string the two beats together. This is particularly helpful for coordinating bow and left hand in fast passages.
Practice in rhythms – long, short short short long, etc. Keep the bow arm relaxed.
Practice with the metronome and line up the left hand exactly. A good technique is an even technique!
Right Hand:
Sounding Point and Relaxation

Watch your sounding point, especially on bow changes. (A mirror can be useful for this – watch the shape between the bow and the bridge.) In general, keep a steady sounding point.
Practice in the part of the bow you will be using. Mark it if necessary (LH for lower half, eg.). Try to use the same amount of bow as well. Use the correct part of your arm.
Keep a steady sounding point when working on technical passages. Make as beautiful a sound as you can. In general keep a steady bow speed; keep your arm smooth and avoid jerks or lunges.
When working on a melody, consider bow angles needed to avoid false accents. Mark FA (frog away) or FI (frog in) if you notice a blemish in your line.

Put yourself on a metronome diet; practice with subdivisions, marking them if necessary.
The necklace technique is also helpful for the bow.

Accent string crossings for slurred passages, but do this with speed, not tension. Practice legato doublestops, pivoting smoothly, for lyric melodies.
The character of the passage will ultimately determine whether you want clear bow changes or smooth, but usually when learning a technical passage, clear is better.

Write in dynamic shapes (microphrasing), especially in Bach. Even adjectives describing character will help.
Make the phrase first with just the bow, then with just the vibrato, then with both.
Mark difficult passages with a star in the margin. When you have five minutes just do the stars!
Analysis and problem-solving are the heart of your work in learning a piece. The pace at which you can learn will depend on how difficult the piece is in relation to your technical level. If most of the piece is at the very top, or beyond, what you are easily able to sightread, you should expect to spend many hours of slow work before playing it up to tempo. Take whatever time is necessary to work on each page of music. Slow is better; even though it feels at first as if you are making no progress, if you are really practicing with understanding, things will start to snowball, and you will not only sound better, you will have an unshakably solid technical foundation.