Aspiring musicians, listen up! It's no secret that you have to practice in order to get better. Accomplished musicians devote a large portion of their day to improving their skills and training their muscles.
But just putting in the time isn't good enough. You must learn to practice correctly. The following tips are designed to encourage more effective, rewarding practice sessions:
· Don't Rush. Jazz saxophonist James Moody once said, "A wise man practices slowly; a wiser man practices even slower." You cannot achieve speed with a speedy practice. Play as fast as you can but do it perfectly. Build up speed slowly, and master the most difficult passages before speeding up the rest of the song. If you're making mistakes, you're probably playing too fast. Many teachers recommend a metronome that helps control your speed and prevents speeding up during easier passages.
· Create the Right Environment. Try to practice in the same place at the same time every day to establish a routine. It should be a quiet, private place with no distractions. Keep tools and materials within easy reach to avoid the disruption of getting up to look for something you need. Items to consider include a pencil, music, stand (set at proper height), timer, metronome, tuner, instrument, extra strings, resin, and a comfortable, sturdy chair and proper lighting.
· Relax.If you're tense when you're practicing, you're more likely to get tired and discouraged quickly. Try breathing and relaxation techniques to physically prepare yourself for the session. Tighten and loosen muscles, starting with the feet, working up through the legs, neck and arms. Don't forget the hands and fingers. Don't practice when you're tired. And take frequent breaks, as necessary, to train your muscles slowly. Remember, too, to clear your mind so you can fully concentrate on the music. Many professionals warm up with scales. This helps limber up fingers and focuses the mind.
· Don't Push.Only practice as long as you can concentrate. A 10-minute session that's focused is better than 30 minutes if you find you're distracted. Most people can't concentrate for more than 45 minutes to an hour at one time. So it's better to practice at intervals throughout the day. This will also help minimize muscular problems, such as tendonitis or carpal-tunnel syndrome. Be sure to set a timer so you don't get carried away and exceed your recommended practice time.
· Record Practices. By taping your practices, you can hear what your teacher and/or audience hears. A video recorder further allows you to observe posture, body-position changes and technical errors.
· Think Positive. Practicing should not be drudgery. It should be fun without self-judgment. Set realistic goals for each session and record your progress. Break things into smaller groups. Try to end each session on a positive note by playing something you know well.