Imagine arriving in your practice room (maybe a living room/bedroom/dorm room, or wherever it is that you practice) and not knowing what to do with yourself or where to start. As a musician, we have so many things that we would like to accomplish but we just don’t know where to start. Although it may sound somewhat ridiculous, not knowing how to practice is a real problem that some musicians face.
To help with that practice room slump, Here are some tips of to make your practice time efficient:
- Just do it! – Admit it, we’ve all procrastinated at one point or another. Sometimes the hardest part of practicing is just getting yourself to start. The best way to practice is to just dive in and see what happens.
- Turn off pesky distractions – Put your phone, laptop, iPad, other homework away in another room (unless it is being used as a metronome or recorder)! You’ll never get anything done if you take a break every five minutes. Without the connection to the digital world it will be easier to stay focused.
- Have a goal! – This is one of the most important tips we can provide. Personally, as a musician I know that one thing that keeps me from practicing efficiently is finding too many things to fix and not knowing which to address first. Because there wasn’t a goal in place sometimes I just feel bad about myself and give up. If you set goals for yourself before going into your practice space, you set yourself up for achievable success. Don’t let too many pieces distract you and focus on one goal at a time.
- Write on your music – Telling yourself what to watch out for in the piece is important when practicing. Making a mental note may suffice sometimes, but when you continue to make the same mistakes repeatedly, mental notes may not be cutting it. Use a pencil to circle difficult fingerings, notes, dynamics, etc., or anything that your teacher/conductor pointed out in lessons/rehearsals.
- Identify and Isolate – Once you identify a problem in your piece, the next step is to isolate the passage that is giving you trouble. If the rhythm is giving you trouble, work on it before adding notes. Practice troublesome fingerings, jumps, or intonation as well. Then go back and put it in context. If it’s giving you trouble in context, backtrack! Add one measure at a time, starting with the troublesome passage going backwards.
- Be patient – Understandably, easier said than done. But improvement takes time. I think one problem with the way many of us practice is that we’re so eager to sound good right away that when we don’t get it completely right the first time, we don’t know how to deal with it. This is where I think many of these other problems stem from. Take a deep breath, be patient and continue to work through the piece!
- Ask for help- your teacher is there and willing to help with any questions you have. It’s what they’re there for and you can bet that they want you to succeed.