Practicing just means playing/singing through songs my teacher assigned me over and over a few times a week, right?
In order for practice time to be effective, there are a few things to keep in mind. Think of your practice time as a sort of experiment. Change up how you do it in order to keep it fresh and discover what really works for you. Here are some tips and guidelines to try.
1. Don’t put practicing last on your to-do list. Procrastination and lack of motivation are the 2 biggest obstacles to practicing. Shorter practice sessions more frequently throughout the week are better than one long marathon session the day before your lesson. Put practice sessions on your calendar, and keep them as you would other appointments.
2. Set goals. What do you want to accomplish per session, by the end of the week, by the end of the month/semester, etc.? Practicing with end-goals in mind will be more effective than just playing through songs. Isolate problem areas and work them out until they flow with the rest of the song. This can be painstakingly slow, but the results are worth it.
3. Warm-Up. Don’t start your practice session trying to tackle your toughest piece. Warm-up with some technical exercises and then move to a piece that you know pretty well already and is in the final stages of learning. Then move on to things that are a little more difficult and/or brand new.
4. Study your score. Look through your music. Are there sections that have more complicated rhythms? Are there any notes, articulation, or dynamic markings you don’t know? Don’t ignore dynamics and articulation. The composer put them there for a reason – playing the right notes is not all there is to learning a piece.
5. Record your practice session. This step is not recommended for everyone (particularly beginners). But, more advanced students can really benefit from this. This will give you a different perspective on your performance and help you identify things you may need to spend a bit more time on.
In this New Year, strive to be a better student of music and spend some quality time with your studies. It’s not about how much time you spend, but the quality of the time spent practicing. The right combination of focus and time, should yield rewarding results. Happy Practicing!