music

Five Tools for Successful Practice

Thanks for joining me! I am so excited to start sharing about some of my favorite things.

Practicing an instrument can often be tedious or stressful, especially if you’re on a deadline. I want to share some of the practice strategies that I enjoy using that help speed up the time.

A few years ago, I was completely unaware of the time commitment being a musician actually is. I practiced, at most, around thirty minutes a day. And then Sophomore year, I went to music camp. Practice expectations were set at about three hours in a practice room per day. I saw so much progress in just one week, and I realized I had been struggling through my music for the past three or four years because I simply wasn’t practicing enough.

When I returned home, I tried to gradually increase my practice time, but it was so hard to set aside that much time when I didn’t get home until 6 p.m. from school and had chemistry homework every night. Bottom line: It’s not always convenient. 

As Senior year approached, I had audition music to prepare, which made practicing a lot more interesting and productive – auditions gave me motivation to work hard. I gradually made it to two hours per day, six days a week. Find the motivation. 

A professor at one of my trial lessons at a university told me that four hours a day is ideal, and that she can really see the progress in those students who invest at least that much time.

So, what are we supposed to do during that time? 

The first thing I always do with both vocal and piano music is run through the piece I’m planning to work on. That way you can target the areas that really need work! After that, use one of the following strategies to make the most of your practice time.

  1. Separate the music into sections, so that you truly can target problem areas. I usually do this by using measure numbers. Another way to do it is by the parts of the piece – if the piece has an “A” part, work that part separately from the “B” part. When I was working on one particularly challenging Rachmaninoff piece, my teacher went through the piece with me and helped me separate it into sections, and we named each section with words like “catharsis” or “fun” or “confusing” according to how I felt about that section.
  2. Work the section backwards. Meaning, take one measure at the end of that section, run it through until you’re comfortable with it, and then add the measure that comes before the last measure. This is especially useful if you’re trying to memorize the piece.
  3. Use a metronome. I was told by about four different people (including my mom :/) that I needed to use a metronome with a piece I was working on before I finally did.  I have a fairly cheap battery-powered one that you can find here. Set the metronome at a fairly slow pace for the section you’re working on, and play through it at that speed until you’re completely comfortable and can play through it three times with no mistakes. Then, increase the speed by 2-4 bpm and work it through the same way. Continue doing this repetitively until you’re at the goal speed.
  4. Set goals for yourself. When I was preparing for my auditions, I set up a couple schedules in my bullet journal to ensure that I was getting my practice done on schedule. Make sure you’re completing your goals in a timely way – Don’t spend three months just learning a piece. At the same time, make your goals achievable.
  5. Record yourself. Especially if you’re planning on performing a piece, recording yourself puts the same type of pressure on you as performing in front of an audience.

Be patient, and don’t stress yourself out. I hope these tips help you out, and happy practicing!

xoxo,

Kate

 

 

 

 

 

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