Tim Yip

The Virtuoso



In fifteen scenes the virtuoso piano teacher demonstrates to his eager and responsive student the many nuances of his art. By the German cartoonist WILHELM BUSCH ( 1832-1908).virtuos1


Posted by Tim Yip in Humor

Books that helped me grow

In conversations with my students, we sometimes talk about good books.

I want to share my list with you. Here are books I’ve read in the last 3 months.

My takeaways are what I still remember from the books, you may get even more out of these!


Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

  • Put your energy toward things that create the highest contribution.
  • Embrace the idea of “less but better” and accept trade-offs as an inherent part of life.
  • By focusing on a few essential things and learning to do better by doing less, we can craft a life that is far more productive and fulfilling.



The Little Book of Talent

  • Stare at who you want to become. Studies show that even a brief connection with a role model can vastly increase unconscious motivation.
  • In the talent hotbeds visited, practice was the big game, the center of their world, the main focus of their daily lives.
  • Reachfullness: Seek out ways to stretch yourself to the edge of your competence.
  • Teach in concrete terms.



  • “organic mentorship” is mentorship that just happens naturally. Also seek mentors from overlapping fields.
  • Rapid feedback: The shorter and more honest the feedback cycle becomes, the faster you can make incremental adjustments to your approach, process, and skills – and thus the faster you can grow.
  • By simplifying the problem that you are trying to solve, you can often make breakthroughs that other people miss because they are over complicating the problem.
Posted by Tim Yip in Growth, 0 comments

Violinist Johanna Martzy

Yesterday while looking for recordings for my student, I discovered a violinist I had never heard before: Johanna Martzy, a violinist popular in the 50’s.

Born in 1924 in Transylvania, her playing was in the Hungarian style. She was a student of the very famous violinist and teacher Jenő Hubay. Her career was relatively short, but she left excellent recordings.

It is interesting to also note she played on the Stradavarius “Huberman,” which is currently played on by Joshua Bell (I also play on a copy of the Huberman Strad). She also played on a Peter Guarnerius previously owned by Carl Flesch, author of the Scale System, a staple of violin pedagogy.

I particularly like her recording of the Handel F Major violin sonata. She has rich, lovely tone and plays with a multitude of colors.

I encourage you all to seek great recordings of violinists to enrich your lives.

Posted by Tim Yip in Violinists

Suzuki Method Explained

Here is a great video of the Suzuki method explained. While I don’t subscribe strictly to it’s method, the Suzuki method has many great principles such as parental involvement and creating a musical environment at home.

Posted by Tim Yip in parents

Carnegie Hall

Our trio just performed at Carnegie Hall.

Trio at Carnegie Hall

The day before I had visited the Met Museum and saw this painting: Wheat Field with Cypresses by Vincent van Gogh. This is considered one of his best summer canvas paintings.

Van at the Met

The museum guide explained that the brush strokes created texture and movement in the painting. Switching context, this artwork really inspired me to create more interesting texture and moving lines in my music.

The recital hall was very ornately constructed and had superb acoustics. I would like to play there again some day.

Posted by Tim Yip

Setting a practice routine


Building good practice habits is a journey for the student and parent. I am a firm believer that the parent needs to be involved and supportive for a student to succeed at playing violin.

Practice daily
Imagine if a doctor prescribed for you to take one pill a day of aspirin. It would benefit you much more to take 1 per day rather 6 pills right before seeing the doctor again. Practice once a day (or even twice a day)- that would benefit a student much more.

I stress that there needs to be practicing every day. In order for this to be productive and unstressful, parents and students need to ensure that there is time and energy allotted for practice.

Set a time
I tell students to pick a time – either a specific time or a relative time of day (like after dinner) that is always practice time.

I do not want my students to think of it as a chore. Enjoy meeting and beating a challenge and approach your practice time with a smile rather than grumbling. There will definitely be bad days but generally try to frame practice in a positive light.

Try mornings
The problem of full lives and busy schedules and being too tired at the end of the day (both parents and students) is very real. Some of my students and parents have found early morning practice to be easier when energy and willpower levels are high.

Space is crucial
Having the music stand setting up in a room, with less distraction from electronic devices like tv or computer, will help the students to concentrate when practicing.

Correct mistakes
One trap that students can fall into when practicing one measure repeatedly is that they will just play it with the mistake over and over again. I try to remind them that they need to listen to what is wrong with the measure and fix it before continuing. Work in small and medium chunks, do not only go through the entire piece. Generally, children will need to be encouraged to practice slowly.

Practice Goals
Having a clear practice goal is essential. For example: “Today I need to play the first 1/2 page of my solo piece perfectly.” Another clear cut goal would be to learn to hold the violin in a flat position by the end of the week.

Listen to recordings
A novice needs exposure to good playing, or else he will get very used to a novice sound as being her standard. Listen to the pieces on youtube and play along with the cd. I recommend to do this daily.

Practice after the lesson
I encourage my students to practice the same day at their lesson, right after their lesson.

There is no magic equation. The children that practice during the week, improve much more quickly than the kids that don’t practice regularly. Children that play well tend to enjoy playing more and stand out in group situations. When you can see and hear the improvement, playing the violin becomes fun and not drudgery. As Mark Cuban has said, as you become good at doing something, you will enjoy it more and become more passionate about it.

If you have any other practice routine tips and strategies, I would love to see comment below. Best of luck to you!


Posted by Tim Yip in Practice, 0 comments

Is your child over scheduled?

A great video asking the question “Is your child over scheduled?”

I had some commentary, but to keep it short I will say that music is a great extracurricular with many benefits, but since it requires a lot of practice and time, I would recommend keeping other extracurriculars very light.


Posted by Tim Yip in Schedule, 0 comments

How Much To Practice

Question: How much practice is enough?

Looking at History

You should know what Leopold Auer had to say about practice time. He was perhaps the greatest violin teacher who ever lived, training virtuosos such as Milstein and Heifetz. Auer said “It is better to play with concentration for two hours than to practice eight without. I should say that four hours would be a good maximum practice time… and that during each minute of the time the brain be as active as the fingers.”

Heifetz said “I do not think I could ever have made any progress if I had practiced six hours a day. In the first place I have never believed in practicing too much—it is just as bad as practicing too little!” Heifetz goes on to say that over practicing can get in the way of easy execution, and that not good for creating flawless, musical playing.

10,000 hours

In college I was once telling my friend Jagal about my practice woes and how I slaved away daily in the practice room, etc etc. Jagal was not a musician, but was a cool guy because he read a lot of books. He tried to calculate over my lifetime if I had practiced 10,000 hours.

“Studies have shown,” he told me, “that after 10,000 hours of practice you become an expert!” Cool. So evidently, at the time I had accumulated 10,000 hours of practice — but wait, how come I was still struggling on the violin?! 10,000 hours of practice only counts if each hour is made up of quality, deliberate practice. It’s not only about how much you do it, it’s how well it’s done. Keep Reading

Posted by Tim Yip in Practice, 0 comments

Violin Practice Tips by Catherine Tait

When doing some research, I stumbled upon this wonderful practice article written by the late Catherine Tait (1953-1997), teacher at the Eastman School of Music. It really helps to explain how students need to have a thoughtful direction while practicing. Here it is:

The whole point of practicing is to improve. You should always know what you want to accomplish before starting your practice session. A good way to organize your thoughts is to have a set of goals. You can have an overall goal such as becoming a professional orchestral violinist, or learning enough Irish fiddle tunes to play in the sessions at your local pub. Then you need to have a medium-range goal, such as learning vibrato by the end of the year. After that, aim for a weekly goal, like improving your straight bowing. Finally, have a daily goal, such as fixing a slipping bow hand, or memorizing a page of music. The daily goal is the primary thing to concentrate on during the session, but you should also work on the weekly goal. Goals give you a target that you can aim toward, giving you direction.

I used to write my daily goal on a piece of paper and tape it to my music stand. This would focus my attention, and remind me every time I saw it. It’s very hard to multi-task while learning something new and my attention would always drift to other things, but the note on my music stand would bring me back, over and over. Concentrate on one thing and do it correctly enough times to start making it a habit. There is a Japanese saying that translates into “keep one point,” or, only think about one thing at a time. Suzuki used to say that knowledge is not skill, knowledge plus 10,000 repetitions creates skill, or automatic execution.

As for fixing difficult passages in your music, Carl Flesh used to ask students to play through a work, paying special attention to the difficult spots (but not stopping), then to go back and work on those spots in great detail. Then, after performing breathing exercises (for relaxation), to play through the work again to see if the difficult passages had improved.

How much each day should you practice? It depends on your ambitions, school/job/family requirements and energy level. The most important thing is to do some practice EVERY DAY. Suzuki used to tell his students to practice only on the days they eat. Practicing six hours on Saturday will not make up for five missed days of study. For a violinist wishing to become a professional classical artist, Leopold Auer (Heifetz’s teacher) wrote that if a student needed more than three hours a day to complete their violin studies, they should do something else! However, Ivan Galamian used to ask students at the Meadowmount school to practice for 50 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of rest, repeated from 8:00 a.m. until 12:00 noon, then again from 1:00 – 1:50. Resting each hour allows you to return to your practice with more focus and stamina. I’d like to add that it’s very risky to start practicing that much all at once. You must work up to it slowly. If you’ve read My Purpose page, you’ll know about the injury I sustained from over-use. You need to think of yourself as an athlete! Plan time to stretch before and after you practice. Warm up slowly, do not just ‘jump in’. If something hurts, pay attention to your body because it’s telling you something important. Everyone has heard the saying no pain, no gain, but I say no pain, no pain. Work smarter, not just harder. If you injure yourself and don’t let it heal properly, it can become chronic and actually end your career.

I’ll finish by saying that the power of positive thinking is an incredible practice tool. If you do not believe you can achieve something, if you can’t visualize yourself succeeding, you will not succeed. If you have a low self esteem this can be a problem. If you can identify that self esteem is a problem for you, one of your goals to should be to improve it. How can this be done??? First of all, remember that you cannot be perfect. You should aim for your personal best, not something that is impossible. Remember that you are unique! One of a kind. Instead of looking at the things you dislike about yourself (or can’t do), consider all the things you can do, even if it’s something you think is simple or unimportant. There’s a good chance the same thing would be difficult for someone else. Also, start telling yourself “good job” when you do something correctly. Train your thinking patterns to become positive. It takes a lot of discipline to shut out the negative thoughts, but it can be done.

Posted by Tim Yip in Practice