Practice is critical to being a musician. While it’s important to spend plenty of time taking music lessons and performing, practice will truly help you improve your skills and ensure you’re playing at your best. At the same time, you need to make sure you’re getting the most from your practice sessions to progress effectively. Otherwise, you’ll wind up practicing with no goal in mind, which would merely serve to keep you playing.
Setting specific goals and engaging in proper warm-up exercises can effectively help you grow as a musician, just as it can help you in other areas of your life. The following are some tips to follow when practicing to help you get the best results from your sessions.
One of the biggest difficulties that musicians face when practicing is maintaining their focus on the instrument and playing, as opposed to other nearby distractions such as cell phones and TVs. To get rid of these and other distractions, make sure they’re away from you at the time of practicing to help you dedicate your focus to this task alone. The best way to isolate this time and focus depends on your personal preferences. While some enjoy engaging in long practice sessions, others like to keep them shorter and take frequent breaks. Regardless of the session duration you choose, make sure you stay focused throughout.
Set a Specific Goal for Each Session
You’ll have an easier time staying focused while practicing if you set a particular goal for your session before starting. For instance, you could focus on a specific run within a piece of music. During other sessions, you may want to focus on a single aspect of technique training, such as the accurate finger placement or tone on your instrument. If you can set specific and attainable goals for yourself before playing, you’ll find it easier to stay focused and enjoy true progress from practicing.
In setting your goals for yourself, it’s always in your best interest to stay realistic. While you might believe that long, drawn-out practice sessions will do you good every time, keep in mind that the quality of your playing matters, not the quantity. Set smaller goals to start with and work up to reaching the bigger, long-term goals. Over time, you’ll find that your playing truly improves, and you’re more easily able to master some of the most challenging aspects of musicianship. Even if you don’t achieve your ultimate goal as initially planned, you can continue gradually working toward it over time.
Practice at Varying Tempos
The most effective way to perfect any difficult piece of music during practice is to try practicing at slower tempos at the start. When practicing at a slower tempo, you can maintain your focus on the accuracy of rhythm and notes. After playing for a sufficient amount of time at this tempo and mastering your technique, you can incrementally increase the speed of the metronome until you reach your ideal tempo, which could be the main goal of your session in these instances.
Musicians can easily forget the importance of proper warm-up before practice sessions and performances alike. To make sure you don’t neglect this crucial step, develop a warm-up routine that works for you. Begin with the basics, such as long tones for wind instruments or fun tunes for pianos. The key is to warm up both your brain and your body to prepare them for real work. Once you’ve taken some time to warm up and get reacquainted with the feel of your instrument, you can begin practicing.
Educate Yourself About What You’re Playing
You can also get more from your practice sessions by learning all you can about both the instrument and music you’re playing. Educate yourself about the history of your instrument and each piece you play. For example, you might discover why a certain type of music is written the way it is. By listening to some of the leading musicians in your genre, you can also begin analyzing them to figure out what makes them so revered and timeless. Spending time to really think about the music coming through your instrument or singing voice will give you more context that helps you grow.
Record Your Sessions
Many musicians may be insecure about their own sound, but recording yourself practicing can help you identify what’s working and what you need to continue working on. You can record audio of your sessions to gauge the sound, but filming yourself can also give you some eye-opening insights into your finger placement and other techniques. Stepping back and looking at your playing through a third-person perspective can ultimately help you see things you otherwise may have missed in your playing. Over time, with more practice, you may become increasingly impressed with your recordings and yourself.
While musicians may often make certain mental notes while practicing, it also helps to write things down from time to time. Make sure you have photocopies of your music and other paper nearby to record some notes on throughout your sessions. For example, you might notice something and come to an epiphany during your session, which you can jot down on a notepad or a copy of your score to ensure you won’t forget. You can also write questions that you may want to find the answers to later, which you could then research online or ask your music teacher about during a lesson.
With all of these practice tips in mind, you can work to continually improve as a musician. Regardless of your approach to your practice sessions, be patient with yourself and don’t give up when facing certain challenges. With persistence and patience, you’ll grow and see your skills begin to develop. Everyone learns at different paces, so if you’re going slower than you originally planned to, don’t be hard on yourself and spend the time you need on improvement.
If you’re interested in getting started with music lessons to accompany practice, contact Grace Music School today and learn more about our programs.