Practicing your instrument can be one of the most difficult parts of playing an instrument sometimes. Getting the self motivation to build good habits isn’t something that comes naturally to everyone. It is hard for teachers to help because they aren’t with you when you’re home practicing after a music lesson. Here are some tips for practicing, making the most of your practice session.
1. Get the right set up
Find some quiet place and make sure everything you need are near by: music stand, pencils, music sheets, water, etc. Don’t put your instrument in a case, make it the most convenient for you to
Make sure you have everything you need close by: water, snacks, pencils, sharpeners, rubbers, highlighters, manuscript paper – it will save you a lot of time. Technology can also be an amazing aid, providing you don’t spend too much time faffing with it. Why not download free apps that act as a metronome, a tuner or a timer (all essential tools for practising)?
Plan your practice sessions in advance and give yourself plenty of time so you don’t feel rushed. You’ll want to give yourself time to warm up, to work on any difficult passages in the music, and to go over everything.
2. Technology can be an amazing aid
“The right note played at the wrong time is the wrong note.” Did you know that there’s a little device that can help with your timing? It’s called a metronome! A metronome is a handy tool that can make piano practice (or any other instruments) more fun and effective.
When something is difficult, the best way to understand it is to break it down into its most basic pieces and slow them way down. Our brains have to find the paths to build new connections of understanding, and sometimes it just needs time! There’s no way you’re going to play through that presto ending perfect the first time through, and if you don’t slow it down you may not play it right on the 6th time through either! So pause, breathe, and put yourself in slow motion for a minute.
The best way to make sure you don’t miss anything is to slow it waaaaaaaaaaay down and give every individual note the attention it needs. Get a metronome so you have an outside helper making sure you stay slow and steady. Start at maybe 60 bpm, then when you can play it there, increase by 5-10 bmp until you’re at tempo. This is the oldest, most effective trick in the book. Metronome is your friend!
3. Practice Kind and Patient Self Talk
Of course we all talk to ourselves. Some of us do it out loud, others speak to themselves in their heads, but the most influential voice in the world is our own. Make sure that you’re not making your practice harder by being cruel to yourself. Saying things like, “I’m never gonna get that,” or “I messed up, I’m so dumb,” don’t usually do anything but slow us down. Instead, try being honest, but patient. You could correct the previously mentioned statements with, “I can’t play that yet,” or “Oops! I better go back and practice that.”
Remember that learning takes time, and sometimes the plateau you’re feeling is just waiting to bring you a breakthrough. Be patient. Be diligent.