Every experienced musician could say that their time spent practicing defined their abilities as a player or a singer. Just like in any other construct of society, the time we spend preparing and developing pays off in the end. Although there are no “right” answers on how to practice, my hope is that a point discussed in this post will somehow make you better at practicing.
Organize Yourself and Your Area
Be prepared for your session.
It is much better to have everything you need in front of you instead of needing to break concentration later in your practice session. Gather pertinent materials such as your instrument (or your voice; voices are instruments also!) , your music, a tuner, a metronome, and a pencil.
Find somewhere quiet and productive.
By designating a certain room in your home to practice such as a dining room or bedroom, you eliminate distractions and provide consistency in and out of sessions. Try choosing a room that people in your room spend less time in.
Set Appropriate Goals
Create goals often.
To ensure that your goals are appropriate, not too difficult, and not too simple, set goals that are within differing lengths of time. Ready to start a new week on Sunday night? Create a list of goals for the week. Ready to finish school on winter or summer break? Create a few monthly goals. Ready to sit down and pull out your instrument for the night? Tell yourself what you’d like to accomplish in the hour. Constantly revise and create goals so that you have achievements to celebrate! After all, the fun part is noticing your improvements!
Be a tortoise, not a hare!
Remember that story? The hare wanted to finish his race as quickly as possible, and was solely macro-minded. The tortoise, however, enjoyed the journey and ran the race (or crawled, rather) incrementally. If you try to shoot the moon in your first month of playing, you’re going to miss important steps along the way, and you’re only going to disappoint yourself. Be ambitious - yet realistic - in your expectations.
Practice Smarter, Not Harder
Don’t wear yourself out!
It is far better (and scientifically proven) to practice more often throughout the week for less time, than to cram a long practice session in one day per week. Muscle memory is very real in music, and it’s the greatest assistant when learning a piece!
Ensure your body is prepared to accept the requirements on it by warming up your voice or on your instrument. This may include performing some gentle exercises depending on which instrument you are with (breathing, lip buzzes, scales, rudiments, long tones, etc.)
Make small improvements every day.
When you have a certain goal ready to prepare for, don’t expect to achieve it right away. Instead, start at a tempo or key in which you can achieve. Make it easy for yourself at first! Then, slowly but surely, just like the hare, increase the tempo or raise/lower the key gradually only at a pace in which you can succeed. This is very important to ensure you are taking the right steps, and should take the most time out of your session.
Play something fun at the end.
Practicing is a happy occasion! Increase your morale and love for your instrument by playing/singing a song you really enjoy to conclude your time.
The best thing about practicing is that you are your own unique product. Take pride in what you do to prepare and improve yourself. No one can practice your instrument like you, no one can play your music like you, and no one can own the time spent in practice like you can. The possibilities are endless when you focus and take possession of the task at hand. Musical growth and development is an extremely personal, vulnerable, adventurous, and exciting thing to participate in.
- Tyler Long, Music Instructor/Administrative Assistant at Vibe Music Academy.