Good practice habits are essential to the progress of any developing musician. Here are a few tips to ensure you are getting the most out of your practice sessions.
Be Goal Oriented
Set specific goals for each of your practice sessions. This allows you to stay focused on the task at hand, make the most out of your time, and avoid aimless practice. A practice goal can be as big or as small as you need it to be. For example; “Play through the entire song at full tempo” or “Play through the first four measures of the piece at half tempo”, are both great practice goals depending on where you are in the learning process.
Chunking is a practice technique in which we break down difficult passages into smaller sections and practice them separately. You can break down phrases into individual measures, and measures into their individual beats. Once you have isolated the troubled spots and practiced them slowly on their own, add them back into the full context of the piece.
Use a metronome
If you are taking music lessons there is no doubt you have heard the importance of using this invaluable tool. Being able to play with good timing is essential to making good music. Whether you are playing solo, or especially in a group, practicing with a metronome will help make the most out of your practice sessions and make you a better musician in the process.
Space out your practice
Practice is most effective when done regularly and consistently. It is better to practice a little every day than to try cramming all of your practice into one session the day before your music lesson. This type of practice (known as Distributed Practice) helps to covert our short term musical memory into long term musical memory, and playing our instrument feel much easier.
Listen to the pros
Begin every practice by listening to at least one professional recording of the music you are about to practice. Use it as an opportunity to help develop your ear and understand how the music should truly sound. Pay close attention to the things that make it a great recording. Try your best to mimic their inflections, style, phrasing, dynamics, timing, and nuances.