Practicing to Perfection: Part Two, Some Real Tips
I have read a number of articles about practice. Most of what I have to say is nothing new. I almost wonder if the world needs yet another article on the subject. I considered just giving you a list of links to those other articles. Then I decided that perhaps I could offer a quick, easy-to-skim list. So here it is:
1. Claim your space.
Set aside a space that is your practice space, and fill it with all the tools you need. Pencils, erasers, staff and note paper, etc. even if you live alone, and have your home to yourself, this is a very important step. It does not have to be a separate room. But having a space where you keep all that you need helps to focus your attention on practice.
2. Organize your music.
Your music may be in a pile, a backpack, a book bag, on a shelf or table, or on the piano. But that doesn’t mean it is organized. Part of my preparation for my recital is to take each of the pieces I am going to play and put them in a 3-ring binder with dividers. I use paper clips in my étude books so that I can easily find my place.
3. Set goals, and write them down.
It’s easy to say you want to do something, learn a certain piece, or master a tricky fingering, but writing down a goal makes it more concrete. There are many studies that show written goals are more often accomplished.
4. Have a practice plan which moves you toward your goals.
Be flexible, but focused. This means that your plan may change from day to day, but it must always be moving you forward. For example, if you are working on a tricky spot, and you play it day after day at the same pace, and never get any better, then your practice is NOT moving you forward. So you need to change your approach. Here’s a good article on quality practice, from a blog I have found engaging and helpful: Beyond the Notes.
5. Shut out distractions.
Turn off the phone, put the dogs out, close the curtains, whatever it takes.
6. You must have some way to be accountable.
This is often a built-in factor. A child has his/her parent, the student has a teacher, the professional musician has an employer. In each case there is an automatic consequence if you do or practice. If you do not fall in any of these categories, then you must find some other way to build accountability.
7. Put in the time.
We all know that if you don’t spend time practicing, you won’t improve. It’s as simple as that. How much time? There is no hard and fast rule. The experts all have their own opinion on this one. Click HERE for an article on time. It’s fairly long, and pretty technical, but it also includes more links for articles on practicing.
So there you have it; Seven easy steps toward better practice. Try them out, and see if you can start yourself on the path for better practice habits.
Up next: Part Three: Balancing Many Pieces at One Time