10 Tips for Better Practicing

10 Tips to better practicing at home

  1. Create a space to practice.  This doesn’t have to be a fancy room, but make sure you’re able to play with a good posture (whether seated or standing) so you can work on your sound.  A music stand is vital.
  2. Have the right tools. Your instrument and music are a must, but have a pencil to mark your music.  A tuner and metronome can help you solve specific problem areas.  
  3. Have a goal for each practice session:  Are you working on tone quality, range, new fingerings, dynamics, or learning a new piece of music?  Each will require a different approach.
  4. Be consistent.  It is better to practice more often for less time than to try to cram everything into a two hour marathon session on the weekend.  Our brains learn best with repetitions spaced out over time.  
  5. Identify the problem areas.  Don’t just start at the beginning of a song, play it once, and move on.  Break down the challenging spots and repeat just those.  If the problem is rhythm, count & clap it out.  Practice a difficult run at slower tempos and then gradually speed it up.  Once you have met the challenge, practice the area around it.  Only then should you work back from the beginning.  
  6. Give yourself permission to make mistakes.  If something is just not coming, don’t be afraid to let yourself stop and come back to it another day.  You may be surprised how much you actually learned the day before.   
  7. Don’t just play the notes.  Music is about much more than the dots.  What is the phrasing, dynamics, articulation?  What mood are you trying to convey.
  8. Write on your music (in pencil, please!)  If you miss something once, make a mental note, but if you are making the same mistake more than once, write in the correct note, fingering, rhythm.  Circle dynamics or key changes.  
  9. Record yourself!  You will hear things you didn’t realize you were doing.  Are you getting the sound you want?  Are you actually playing the notes short enough, softly enough, accented enough?  Take a video of yourself.  How is your posture and your embouchure?  
  10. Have some fun!  At the end of the session, play through something that is fun.  Play a favorite song.  Get a book of fun songs (movie themes, for example) for your instrument.  Learn a duet with a friend.