How To Practice

Every good musician knows that regular practice is a must, but did you know that careless practice can actually make you worse?

Most students don’t like practicing for two reasons.

  1. They practice in a way that fails to produce improvement.
  2. Although they practice carefully and make improvements, they fail to practice in a way that ensures retention of what they’ve learned.

Many students practice by playing straight through an assignment, often as quickly as possible, then go on to the next thing, no matter what happened. This doesn’t result in any learning or improvement.

Money won’t buy better playing, but well spent practice time will. Here are some hints for getting the most for your practice “dollar.”

  • Open your notebook to check what you need to work on
  • Set goals to work towards in each practice session even if they are small ones
  • Work on the most challenging spots first
  • Break the music down into small sections
  • Practice slowly and strive for accuracy
  • Only practice a section 2 or 3 times then move onto the next section before you return to the first section
  • Repeat the passage several times after you get it right
  • Before you end each practice session play the entire piece and enjoy!

Practice Daily:

Daily practice is the cornerstone of steady progress. You’ll get much more out of your practice if you practice every day. Leave your music open on your piano so that it’s ready for you to practice at any moment.

Many people underestimate the value of a daily commitment, so they skip days without too much concern – and they usually do so with the good intention of doubling up the following day. If they skip a few days, they pledge to catch up with one or more marathon sessions on the weekend.

Unfortunately these make-up sessions seldom materialize. And when they do, often they’re counterproductive. Long marathon sessions can cause mental and physical fatigue which can initiate a downward spiral, leaving you frustrated – probably with little to show for your efforts. A regular regime of marathon sessions may easily take the fun out of music, and lead to a poor attitude toward practice.

There are many other benefits to daily practice:

It’s well known that students who aren’t prepared for their weekly lesson don’t enjoy them and eventually give up on their lessons.

Daily practice helps to keep you toned and strong, limber and relaxed. Music practice places many demands on your body, so it’s important to keep your body up to the task. If you warm up and prepare yourself before you practice rigorously, your body will benefit from the exercise. If not, you run the risk of developing bad habits and physical tension.

If you have trouble practicing every day, try alternating with days of light and heavy practice. That’s what tri-athletes do. You can break your practice into smaller morning and afternoon sessions if that works best for you.

Even a small improvement is an improvement and leads to a more fun and focused lesson. This in turn often results in a stronger desire to practice. It’s a win-win.

Don’t Skip Days:

There will come days when you really don’t have time for a full practice session – there are only so many hours in the day. There will be times something else will come up that you’ll choose to do instead. And some days you’ll honestly feel too tired to practice – or you just don’t feel like doing it.

On days like these go easy on yourself but don’t skip your practice entirely. Shorten it! Put in five or ten minutes, give yourself a pat on the back, and then call it a day. Do at least 5 minutes a day, just to keep the habit.

This may leave you feeling disappointed that you didn’t put in a significant effort. A few minutes of practice may not measure up to your idea of a rigorous practice session, but it goes a long way toward keeping you on track. It certainly maintains and strengthens your “daily commitment” which counts for a lot, and surprisingly it really makes a significant contribution toward your progress.

Remember that the “daily” aspect is more important than the amount of time. Especially at first! Slow and steady wins the race – we all know about the tortoise who won the race with the hare.