Student’s guide to making effective progress through Practice.
inspiration and 90% perspiration” – like it or not, a good practice regime
is the backbone of success in learning any instrument. The greatest teachers,
the most perfect love of music, the finest ear in the world…you can have
them all, but without the day-in, day-out routine of practising, you may as
well take an axe to the piano up for firewood, sell your flute and save
singing for Sundays.
problem that most people have – even the most seasoned and successful
professionals – is that they get BORED!
what do you do about it?
forget why you are taking the time and trouble to play.
to concerts (and sit on the front row if you can).
to listen to one new piece of music every week – try to make it
something completely different – a real discovery. You don’t have to
like it - you just have to hear it.
time with other musicians doing the same thing. Nobody
likes being lonely if you have friends who are musicians, and then you
will start to feel a lot more involved in your own playing. After
all, if you play football, chess or act in plays, you will be doing it
with friends. Why do musicians have to go it alone? So don’t just sit
there with your scales, go and find clubs and societies. You are never too
young or inexperienced to join a band, orchestra or group. There should be
no such thing as a soloist; musicians work together and that is that. If
you are on your own with nobody to encourage you except your teacher, you
are DOOMED TO FAIL.
very careful about the sacrifices you make for your music. Don’t ever
try to give up the things that you like to make time for practice – it
just won’t work. A
a computer game, football, cinema, whatever you like, they all deserve
you want to do it, what happens when the spirit is willing but the flesh is
weak? Practice time is sacred time. There are some hours in the day when you
sleep, some when you eat and some when you practice. That’s the end of it.
You are not a normal person anymore, you are a musician and you will just have
to make allowances. Think about your day, work out when is best, set a time of
the day for practice that won’t cause big problems and stick to it like
following are common excuses that are usually made by deadbeats, losers and
wimps and certainly not musicians:
“I have homework /
tests / school exams / a work presentation blah..blah..blah”
Lets be honest about this – if you slack on practice, chances are, you slack
on the lot. (That homework is probably 20 rushed minutes in front of the
television anyway.) Don’t make excuses! You might have a lot to get through,
but you can do it all and do it all well if you get
yourself organised. Think about the time that you waste each day and worry
about that for starters.
(for adults try reading Organizing
for the Creative Person)
(for adults try reading Organizing for the Creative Person)
have had family / friends to stay blah..blah..blah” Not much to say about
them if they really have messed up your routine and, while we are on the
subject, do they know that you are blaming them for being a lazy so and so?
door’s dog died and I have been a bit upset blah..blah..blah” Oh come off
it – you still watched television, played on your DS, went to the cinema and
am on holiday for the next four weeks, so I won’t be doing any practice
blah..blah..blah”. If you really do allow that kind of interruption in your
musicianship, you really will be taking two-steps forward and one step
backwards. It’s your choice – do you want music to be fun or frustrating?
So be brave and don’t let anything put you off. If 6-7pm is practise time
every day, then try to stick to it. Just tell your friends that you are busy
and meet them later - it's not such a big deal.
HELP FROM YOUR FRIENDS
all, family and friends should be supportive. It is not fair if everyone else
is having a party whilst you are downstairs in a grimy cellar with a candle
and a book of exercises. Try to make others appreciate the fact that you need
to stick to a regular practice routine and not to
things that conflict with this. It is all too easy to get into the routine of
saying to yourself ‘I’ll just do 5 minutes today because so-and-so is
coming round, but I’ll do 90 tomorrow’ – this is the slippery slope to
your practice in achievement and not in time. You need to decide if you are a
zombie or not. Zombies look at the clock and start on their instrument.
Exactly thirty minutes later they look at the clock again and stop. What did
they play, learn, enjoy? Who knows and who cares. It was all a waste of time
you have decided that you are not a zombie (good call), this is what you
should be doing:
decide what you want to work on. Always begin with scales and exercises. This
is NON-NEGOTIABLE. Planes have wings, cars have wheels and musicians have
scales. If you can’t stomach it, give up now. A sample plan might be like
Two scales and arpeggios. Work on them until they are even, accurate and
Work on a technical exercise or study. Choose a section, a page, a few bars and
solve problems, improve fluency, memorise etc
Repertoire Piece 1: ten bars on page three, semiquavers on page 4 and the
first and second time bars on page 5.
Repertoire Piece 2: work on stamina in performance – play the whole piece
over at a slow tempo trying to
keep things steady and relaxed.
through your plan moving on only when you are happy that you have actually
made progress. Don’t set too much for yourself and concentrate only on
making things better. Forget how much time it takes. Twenty minutes of smart
practice is better than 20 zombie hours.
throw in the unplanned stuff. There must be film tunes, show songs, classical
pieces, jazz songs, pop songs that you want to play that you would not take to
a music lesson but just want to have a go at. Not everything that you do with
an instrument has to be structured. Just dive in and see what you can manage. You
will learn more than you can possibly imagine (especially sight-reading) and
the thrill factor when you ‘nail’ a piece is one of the best there is.
PERFORM, PERFORM, PERFORM
have to ask yourself why you are a musician? Is it to practice or is it to
perform? The whole point is surely to play and entertain (even if really you
are just performing for yourself!). Therefore you should ALWAYS be looking
forward to the next performance. That means a real date in your diary,
something on the calendar in the kitchen, a memo on your PC…
of the following might be good:
Society event, garden party, club meeting
Competition (there are lots of these for all levels – don’t be put off by
the word “competition” – you do these things to learn to perform. No
more. Music is not about “winning”, it is about thrilling, soothing,
calming, exciting in live performance.)
Teacher’s concert – all the pupils turn up and play to each other.
Day / weekend / holiday courses – lots of these going on all the time. Ask
your teacher, look in libraries, music
shops and magazines and of course use the Internet to find out more.
Exams – Graded music exams are very helpful indeed. Some very experienced
and talented musicians have put these together to help you make solid, steady
Concert with friends / other musicians. You don’t have to perform as a
soloist – a concert in an ensemble is always a great experience.
is nothing like a performance in the diary to make you get on and practice.
Most people get nervous about playing in public, but that is all part of being
a musician and with the nerves comes the excitement and exhilaration of
achievement. It is more than worth the effort.
Copyright © 2002 [Mostlywind]. All rights reserved.
Revised: December 05, 2011
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