Practice is a vital part of good musicianship. Some of us can only spare 30mins – 1hour others almost boast about the 7-8 hours of practice they do daily. Yet time isn’t the only factor that affects our progress. The quality of our practice is what really helps! (I had to learn this the hard way.)
Learning and Practicing
Although they are often associated together, Learning does not equate to Practicing (but they do overlap). Learning is the initial step where you strive to understand what you are about to practice so that you can do so in an accurate and insightful manner. Practicing, is taking what you have learned and applying it with the goal of perfecting it for the final performance.
During your lessons you will be learning… but you shouldn’t just be learning at your lessons. Learning should occur at home too! Take what you have learned in your lesson and learn the next 8-16 bars on your own, you’ll make your tutor very pleased and they’ll want to teach you even more. Make a note of anything you’re really not sure about and bring it up in your next lesson.
“Take what you have learned in your lesson and learn the next 8-16 bars on your own…”
When practicing a piece or technique that is proving a little tricky, it is easy to get into a trance-like state and lose yourself either with frustration or despair. Maintain your focus by setting mini goals to take you towards the end goal. If you need to mark/write where you’d like to get to and annotate little goals along the way to help remind you. Learn in small chunks and put each chunk together as you progress.
The Intro Expert
Starting from the beginning every time, all the time, every time will do you no good at all. If you make a mistake, go from a nearby note or chord that you feel you can start from so that you can concentrate on the bit that matters. Starting from the beginning is a waste of time unless either you are learning the piece for the first time or you’re running through your repertoire before a performance. Don’t become an Intro Expert.
The One Piece Virtuoso
So you have a favourite piece, that’s great! We all have pieces that we prefer, but don’t run back to your favourite piece when the 3rd Movement of Beethovens “Moonlight” Sonata gets tough or a little boring. Persevere! You will get through it, and when you do, you’ll feel so good that it might become your new favourite.
“…scales books are the biggest cheat books out there and the quickest way to become proficient at music.”
The Greatest and Only Cheat Known in Music
Deny it they will to their own disadvantage, not many of my students believe me when I say that scales books are the biggest cheat books out there and the quickest way to become proficient at music. They outline the core of music into easy to understand, playable exercises that take seconds to complete. Practicing these daily for a week is likely equivalent to 3 weeks practice (without practicing scales). Try doing your scales before you practice your pieces, this way they’ll warm up your fingers too.