MUSIC EDUCATION BLOG – “ON THE ROAD” WITH CHUCK AND SANDI
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by Chuck and Sandi Millar from Lesson Pros
Do you struggle with practicing? Does it always seem like a chore? We’ve all heard the saying practice makes perfect. This is actually an incorrect statement or a miss guided statement. It really should be PERFECT PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT. If you are practicing wrong you will only become as good as the thing you are practicing incorrectly. Hopefully this article will give you some insight on how you can make your practice session more enjoyable.
Before we dive into our tips, we get this question all the time. How long should you practice? Keep in mind there is no right or wrong answer to this except, “The more you practice perfectly the better you will get in a shorter amount of time.” This is a very true statement. Below is a guideline of what we suggest for our students, hopefully this will get you started in the right direction, however modify to meet your own goals.
Here are our top tips on how to make your practice session better.
Setting up a schedule can really help. We highly recommend practicing everyday for at least 30 minutes but for most this is unrealistic. Make a commitment. Pick the days of the week and best time for you. Let’s say it’s Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays at 6pm. For your child maybe it’s right after they get off the bus. 5 days a week. Perfect!
Once you have your schedule set, now add one or two makeup practice session dates and times. What does that mean? Well, we know things don’t always go as planned. A birthday party comes up, friends invite you out, there is a really cool concert you want to go to. Go out and don’t feel guilty because you have your practice schedule makeup up dates on Saturdays and Sundays at 8pm. This way your practice session will never get missed.
Coming up with a good creative practice space for you will also help. Change the lighting in the room, add some textures or knick knack things that make you feel good. Creating an atmosphere that you want to be in, let this space become your sanctuary, a place where you want to be.
Creating shortcuts on your desktop computer, ipad, iPhone, tablet, laptop, cell phone, etc. to your favorite sites like Lesson Pros, for instance, can also help, lol. But seriously, get all your favorite apps and websites in a folder ready to go so when you sit down to practice you are ready to easily pull everything up.
If possible, keep your metronome, pens, pencils, paper, music stand, recording device, manuscripts, tuners, capos, picks, drum sticks, straps, water, snacks, etc. in the room so that you don’t have to spend precious practice time looking for them.
If you can, turn off anything that might be distracting to you. Your phone, close your facebook, turn off your TV, get the kids started on a project, etc. This will definitely help your practice go better.
Let’s say you are a parent helping a child with their practice, let the child have that time to themselves to practice without interruption, especially other siblings coming into the room. Make it their special time for them to be alone and feed their soul.
Like any athlete, you as a musician should do a few warm ups before diving into practicing your instrument. Figure out what this means for you. Stretching fingers, arms, legs, neck stretches, vocal stretches (if you are vocalist), back, etc.
Get comfortable and just relax. Practicing should be a comfortable experience. By relaxing this will also help increase your agility and speed.
Practice things within your reach. If we try to go to college before we’ve gone through k-12 you may feel like you failed right off the bat. Count your small successes. Pick things to practice that are in your reach. Also, quality over quantity, have a quality practice for at least 30 minutes.
While working on a recording in Nashville, our engineer said to us one thing which really resonated with our band, “Every note should have meaning and intent.” We now have passed this on to all our students by incorporating it in our workshops and courses that we teach worldwide.
So don’t just play random notes, think about what you are playing with meaning and intent. Great advice!
One thing you will for sure want to do is record your practices. Most devices nowadays have a recording app. Find the best one that will work on your device. This is a great tool, so you can go back and hear exactly what needs to be fixed. Pro Tip: back it up!
This may be hard to do at first, but over time you will find this is a very useful way to be able to see what you are doing wrong. How are you holding your pick, bow, drum sticks, instrument, etc? What adjustments do you need to make? How is your posture? What is your face doing? Are you tightening up your shoulders? Do you look like you are having fun? Do you look like you are passionate about playing music? Are you looking at your instrument the whole time? These are all great questions to ask yourself.
Yep, you heard me correctly, once you feel like you have really gotten a piece down, can you play it without looking? Now can you play it in the dark? For those who are music readers this may not work so great but it is good to challenge yourself and get away from the books too!
If you don’t already, occasionally add writing into your practice session. Write your your tablature, notes, scores, etc. this will most likely excel your learning. Even if it is just making up random stuff and scribbling it out. You don’t ever have to play it out unless of course you want to. Challenge yourself!
Some days it can be hard to motivate ourselves to practice. It is like anything, going to a job, working out, etc. There was a period of times where I had so many students it was very overwhelming and I was on burn out, then my mom said it best and I thank her to this day. “You get to go teach.” It always put it in perspective. So “You get to workout.” “You get to go to your job” “You get to practice” all the same thing. Keeping in a good frame of mind will definitely keep you motivated to keep learning.
Give yourself a reward for having good practices sessions. Now this can look differently for each person. Figure out what works for you and if you have something good practice tips to share feel free to comment below.
If you are currently taking private lessons you may get some helpful tips from this article, How To Make Your Private Lessons Go Better.
What have you found the most helpful in making your practice sessions go better?
Please feel free to post your positive experiences to encourage, inspire, and/or help others become the best musicians they can be.
Keep in mind this is a complaint free zone.
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