Practice Makes Perfect

There are so many things in today’s world that draw our attention and time. But us musicians still need to make time away from electronics to sit down and practice. We have and endless list of repertoire, scales, exercises, different genres and styles that we are expected to learn. Here is an obvious fact: You might be able to seriously work on one or two of these things in an hour. Here is the next obvious fact: You will have to choose which items are most important to you, and work on those. There is no way that you could do justice to all of them. Here are some tips to make the most out of your practice session no matter your age.

How to Practice – Beginners

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Here are some simple guidelines for a 30-minute practice session:

  •  First, warm up with something easy (5-10 minutes)
  •  Next, get down to business while you are fresh – learn something new – REALLY learn it. Take as much time as necessary.
  •  When you are satisfied that you have achieved your goal for the day, don’t stop just yet. Play fun stuff, easy stuff, old stuff, or do some sight reading, for 10 or 15 more minutes.

How to Practice – Middle School Age

All of the above “beginner” advice applies to you too, but you are more mature, and you have a longer attention span. Here are some additional important things to include in your practicing:

  •  Scales and arpeggios: These are the basic building blocks of music, and will be a huge help to you in the long term. Memorize them!
  • Long tones (for wind instruments): Hold a note as long as you can, medium loud, with the best sound that you can. Keep the volume and the pitch absolutely steady. Do this with notes in every register – high/middle/low. Do this for 5 minutes every day.
  • Working on pieces as long-term projects: As you become a more advanced player, you will be working on pieces that may take several weeks (or more!) to learn.
  • Sight reading: This is an important skill to develop. Open one of your exercise books to a random page, and see if you can read it correctly on the first try.
  • Improvising: Using a scale as raw material, make up your own music. You can do this with major scales, minor scales, or blues scales. If you are studying jazz, you might want to use a play-along recording.

How to Practice – High School/Adult

All of the above advice applies to you too, of course.

  •  When practicing scales and arpeggios, vary the rhythms, groupings, accents, octaves and articulations.The idea is to build versatility and expand your abilities – don’t just get stuck playing the same routine week after week.
  •  When you are working out a problem spot in a piece, here’s how to do it: 1) Identify the exact problem; 2) Create an exercise that addresses the problem – perhaps start a few notes before the problem spot; 3) Start slowly, being aware of each muscle movement, then gradually increase tempo; 4) Put the excerpt back in context – back up a measure or two, and play the entire phrase that includes the problem spot, plus another measure or two. When you can consistently play it correctly this way, then back up 8 or 16 more measures and try it again – just to make sure.
  • Try for at least 45 minutes/day, at least 5 days/week. Twice as much would be a good idea. The upper limit is determined by your level of seriousness and by your other commitments in life.

 

And as always, for some things we just need a little extra help. For those times private lessons are an amazing opportunity to learn and grow as a musician outside of normal school hours. We offer private lessons Monday through Saturday, $25 for 30 minutes. Call today to book your next lesson!

 

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