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Is Talent Enough? 

Is Talent Enough?

"Eric, you're talented. But, talent is not enough"

Those words have defined who I am and how I wanted to be portrayed for the last 8 years.

Nowadays it's important to know that playing the violin very well isn't enough to have a sustainable music career. 

Here are some of the things I think about as a violinist:

Building Relationships

For musicians, building relationships are something outside the practice room that we need to get comfortable knowing how to do. We practice countless hours perfecting our craft, and it would be a shame if we don't get to share the same passion as other musicians! Building relationships allow you to collaborate with people you may never expect. 

Understanding Your Audience

As co-artistic director of the Chicago Chamber Music Project, my colleagues and I are always trying to learn the needs of our audiences. People want different things and it's up to us as artists to understand what they want! Researching trends and talking to audience members are only a couple of simple ways for your audience to attend concerts. 

Making Mistakes

This point is the most important one of all. Classical musicians work hard every day and face rejection countless times in the course of their careers. What's important is that a musician needs to be comfortable with being rejected because rejection gives room for growth. A musician's goal is to grow every time they pick up their instrument.

I hope that these quick tips give you ideas to create a fearless musical entrepreneur mindset. 

Eric Mrugala, violinist

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Why I don't practice 7 hours a day 

Why I don't practice for 7 hours a day

Well, I used to practice 7 hours a day in my youth. Although back then I didn't really know how to practice efficiently. 

In high school, I was practicing hard and not getting the results I wanted. It was until I reached college where I realized that practicing smart and establishing a daily routine can be better for me in the long run than playing mindlessly for 7 hours. 

Here's why I don't practice 7 hours a day

It's physically exhausting

It's physically exhausting for me to practice 7 hours a day. Also, practicing that long might lead to injuries as a result of overusing your muscles and joints.

I lack focus after the 4th hour

Have you ever felt that you do something repetitive for many hours that your mind starts to wander? That happens to me ALL the time. You're not alone! I even tell my students that it's better to divide up your practice into sections if you have the time. My mind isn't focused if I've been at it for 4 hours straight (with breaks). For me, taking breaks and letting my mind rest from the daily exercise I do with my instrument helps me stay on track .

Staying in a practice room won't teach you about the secrets of music

Music helps us understand our humanity. Being a good player is not enough. Knowing the history behind the music, studying the score, and being curious about the composer's life are just a few things that practicing won't help. 

Now, there are people who are capable of practicing 7 hours a day. But I encourage anyone who wants to tackle a extensive practice regimen to draft a practice plan to prevent injuries and have smart, focused practice. 

I'm gonna go practice now :D 

Conceptualizing Sound 

Conceptualizing Sound

 

Sound. What do you think of when you think of sound when you play the violin?

We listen to music and sound differently then we used to 40 years ago. I bet you watched a bunch of different violinists on YouTube and thought,
"Wow, I want to sound like that."

Every musician on the planet has their opinion on sound. This leads me to a question on my mind, what determines a good sound from a bad sound? 

Is it their violin, bow, or strings? Perhaps it's a combination of everything? 

what would you say if I told you that achieving your next level sound is all in your head?

Every string player's instrument is going to sound different. And you know what? Thank GOODNESS for that! If we lived in a world where we all sound the same, it would be, simply put, boring. 

Listening to your sound in your head before you play helps you think critically about what you want to produce.

It's a state of mind

Conceptualizing your sound for the music that you're playing will make you sound the way you want to sound. 

Now, another question to ask is, "How do I do this as a violinist?" 

You can achieve this goal by simply going back to the basics and focusing on your violin technique. Another great and simple way to see how you're doing is by recording yourself. this will let you stay grounded and very much aware of the sound you want to get out of your instrument. 


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Finding The Special Sauce 

Finding The Special Sauce

(2 min. read)

The picture above is EXACTLY what I'm looking forward to eating when I step off the plane. Some fresh tomatoes, basil, and pasta from the town of Piobicco. Also on the to-do list, drink a quality cup of Italian espresso every morning no matter what! 

While all of this sounds amazing, my duo partner and I are working hard to make sure that we perform well at the festival in preparation for our tour to Italy,. We talk about making sure that we perform at a high level, but also making sure that our musicality isn't bland. 

I mean, how many different interpretations can you have for a Franck sonata? (I've heard hundreds) 

You play music that has traditions that go along with it and generations of violinists have said the same thing about how to make the sonata sound good, what kind of vibrato was appropriate at the time, interpretation, history, etc.

That is the case with most instrumental music out there. 

We talk about finding special qualities in a piece all the time during rehearsal, and I call this process, finding the special sauce. 

Is it vibrato? Is it your interpretation of the music? Is it your research that influence both? Communicating these to your audience verbally or through performance is important because many people in your audience are going to sit there and not know the music, the history, and the traditions that come along with it. 

Your audience will remember the special ingredients that you share with them and will want to be coming back for more for your artistry. This will take a little bit of thought as to how you're going to do it. But if you cook up an amazing dish, your voice will be heard. 

How to learn repertoire quickly 

I'm heading into the summer with a lot of new repertoire to learn and trying to learn this violin rep as well as I can so that it's performance ready. 

There are many ways to learn rep but I hope that this post will help you get an idea of how to reach our violin goals faster. 

Click Here to check out my practice tips

Before we dive in, I want to address that not all of these things may work for you. But I hope some of them will and get to use these in your daily violin practice.

Stick to a system

Violinists want balanced and organized practice sessions but hardly ever achieve them. 

Why is that?

Systems work because they give us structure. However, you need to be diligent and motivated in order for a system to work. By establishing a system, you improve your playing and learn repertoire faster. 

You can't play well if you don't feel well

Let's face it, you can't play if you're sick. That's a given...

What I mean is that you should put yourself in a position where you can feel confident about your playing. Lack of confidence won't help you learn rep quickly, it will instead make you spiral down into a hole making it impossible to get out. Putting yourself in a position for success will help you get results. 

and finally...

Rest

I've talked about rest before. Not only do I love to sleep (haha) I think that sleep is probably the most important out of all three points here. WIthout rest, you can't do the other things on this list. Getting good quality rest will help you accomplish your goals because you won't run the risk of mindless practicing. 


So there you have it!

3 things I swear by to help me get better at the violin. 

Have any practice tips? Leave your comments below!

Taking a Breather 

As you can see from my previous post, a lot of music came way recently. 

I'm  thankful that I'm a part of many great projects that include a lot of great music. But I really want to emphasize one thing that we forget about when we approach a busy performance and teaching schedule:

Rest

Recently in the past week I've been coming up with some pain in my right forearm. Most of it has to do with adjusting my technique to accommodate different styles, and long hours in rehearsals from quartets, to orchestra, and duo rehearsals. 

There comes a point where an instrumentalist needs to take a break. My body was telling me to slow down and regroup. Thankfully, the long weekend helps with that. If a player pushes through the pain, your odds of a severe injury increase. 

Though, it's not all about physical rest, it's also good to take a mental breather. 

Allowing your mind to rest will give you a moment to step back and approach your music with a fresh mind. 

We're humans, not robots. It's important to make sure that as musicians we make an effort to take care of ourselves so that way we can perform to the best of our ability for others. 


Leave your comments below!

Sticking to a Practice Routine 

(2-3 min. read)

Ahh...the leaves in New England are starting to change colors, and the air is getting crisp.

Fall is upon us!

Many of you will be going back to school with lots of ambition and goals. 

Great! I'm so glad to hear this.

But here's what I want to tell you, folks. Your goals will not be achieved overnight, and you won't reach them unless you put in the work.  You need to ask yourself how much time are you willing to put into practicing. Are your goals so far out there that they almost become realistic? Well, that's up to you and your teacher to decide. I'll tell you that with a consistent practice regimen, your goals won't seem so distant. 

You have your goals set in your mind, but don't know how to execute? Let's break it down. 

First..

Ask your teacher

There is really no better thing to do first than to have coffee or tea with your teacher, and discuss your goals. They know your playing better than anyone else. They will give you an opinion about which goals are realistic to achieve in the upcoming school year. 

Next..

Create a practice regimen

As a student or even as a professional player, you need to make a game plan to help you achieve your goals. From my experience, I like using a weekly planner that has appointment time slots. It allows me to stay organized while showing me other rehearsals or performances I have scheduled.

Lastly...

Make yourself accountable

It's good that you have goals, but no one is going to accomplish them for you. Like I said earlier, you need to be willing  to put in the work. If you say didn't have time, then I don't believe you. 

Make time! 

Mark your practice time in your calendar, write your goals down, pen it in! Only you can force yourself to put in the extra effort. Teachers will always remind you to practice, but it's your drive that'll determine your success.

Go out there, practice smart, and starting checking those goals off your list.

It's you against yourself


Have a favorite practice routine you like to share? Leave a comment below!