by | Jun 14, 2020 | Counselling, Practice Tips, Student Resourses

Learning music is all about practice! But we know, we are all trying to get the best results with the least practicing we can do. While we can obviously not skip this step, we can use these fantastic music practice strategies to help our playing get better without wasting any time!

Here are our top 10 picks:

1. Practice Time vs Playing Time:

You need to differentiate between the time you spend with your instrument into practice time and playing time. Divide the time you have each day between the two categories. Use the practice time to learn and improve your playing. This means that you do not play the whole piece repeatedly and hope to get it right the next time. It won’t happen! You break the piece up into sections. Mindfully, with full focus, work on the problematic parts before trying to put things together.

Next, when you shift to playing time, just remember, do not try to practice or stress about what you haven’t been able to achieve. Just perform, improvise, and compose. Whatever it is you want to do. Concentrate just on playing. Not only will this make your learning more effective, but it will also make it more fun and satisfying!

2. Practice in Multiple Sittings:

Practicing everything all at once can be extremely mundane and overwhelming. If you are like me, always looking for quick results, you may not have the patience or concentration to practice everything at once. In this case, you can set short achievable goals and practice multiple times in the day. Divide the work you have into a few parts and then practice one part in one sitting. Think of them as the multiple meals you give your stomach in the day! Also, don’t forget to give yourself some playing time each time you practice. This will keep you motivated to keep coming back to your instrument!

3. Make a Practice Schedule:

If you leave practice for ‘when you get time’ you are never going to get time to practice. I cannot emphasize this enough. Make a schedule, or set a time of the day to practice and follow it! It helps a lot to correlate the time you plan on practicing with another activity that you do every day. You may want to set practice time around a certain meal of the day, or if there’s a favorite tv show of yours that you just won’t miss, practice before that. You can also simply set time aside right after you wake up or before you sleep when your brain is not stressing about the rest of the day. When you trick your brain into believing that practicing is not optional, it becomes part of your routine. Eventually, you will see that you cannot end your day without it. 

5. Slow-Motion Practice:

I think enough has been said everywhere about slow practice, but often I hear complaints that it doesn’t actually work for people. Here’s why. You have to always keep in mind the final tempo and the feel of the music you want at the end. Instead of slow practice, what you want to do is slow-motion practice. You play with exactly the same technique and expression as you would if you were playing it fast. Also, don’t overdo slow practice. What works well is to correct your errors using slow-motion practice and then immediately, in the same practice session, trying to increase the tempo little by little. This gives a sense of achievement and also ensures that you are not confusing yourself with slow and slow-motion practice!

4. Mental Practice:

Mental practice is the underdog of all the practice strategies out there. Don’t underestimate this one! Just thinking about the correct technique and how you are to correctly and efficiently approach your music helps make you better. Basically, don’t forget about practicing while you aren’t practicing. If you can’t be near your instrument, or even if you can but don’t want to, just try thinking about a passage you’re having difficulty with, try hearing it in your head and imagine how you will practice it to eliminate the problems. Now play the same on your instrument after a few hours. There is definitely a happy surprise waiting for you at the end!

6. Setting Achievable Goals:

Set goals that you know you can pull off. The sense of achievement in attaining a set goal is a huge motivator to keep you practicing! Challenge yourself, yes, but don’t keep over-the-top goals that will lead to disappointment. 

7. Listen to Music:

What can be more fun than this? Listening to the music you are trying to play is actually a way of practicing your art! Hearing a piece of music, again and again, makes you familiar with its movements, moods and nuances making it easier to perform.

8. Improvise:

To play or sing music, it isn’t only important to play the music you want to perfect. Keep improvising and experimenting with your instrument, You can try and use a motif from the music you want to play or pick up the same key of the music and try improvising around it. You will automatically become better at what you want to play.

9. Write Notes:

When you figure out what works for you or if there is a specific technique that you need to use for a passage, take note of it. Be it in a diary, music score, or lyric sheet, write it down! You don’t need to remember every single thing. These small little reminders you leave yourself will help you practice better the next time you go to your instrument!

10. Record:

Recording yourself helps you hear yourself and understand your mistakes better. This automatically helps you understand what you need to improve on and how you need to practice for it. Recording yourself also acts as a tiny time capsule that helps you see your progress and growth over time. This builds confidence. If you believe you can do it, you will do it better!