16 TIPS HOW TO MAKE YOUR PRACTICE SESSIONS BETTER
16 TIPS ON HOW TO MAKE YOUR PRACTICE SESSION BETTER
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 an incorrect statement or a miss guided statement. It really should be PERFECT PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT. If you are practicing incorrectly you will only become as good as the thing you are practicing incorrectly. Hopefully, this article will give you some insight into how you can make your practice session more enjoyable.
HOW LONG SHOULD YOU PRACTICE?
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.
- The number of minutes per age up to age 12. For example, if the student is seven years old then they would practice seven minutes a day.
- Teenagers and adults, we encourage at least 30 minutes a day.
16 TIPS HOW TO MAKE YOUR PRACTICE SESSIONS BETTER
Here are our top tips on how to make your practice session better.
#1 – SET A SCHEDULE
Setting up a schedule can help. We highly recommend practicing every day for at least 30 minutes, for most this is unrealistic. Commit. Pick the days of the week and the best time for you. Let’s say it’s Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays at 6 pm. For your child, maybe right after they get off the bus. Five 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, or there is a cool concert you want to go to. Go out and don’t feel guilty because you have your practice schedule makeup updates on Saturdays and Sundays at 8 pm. By having a backup plan, your practice session will never get missed.
#2 – GET CREATIVE WITH YOUR SPACE
Coming up with a comfortable, 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.
#3 – APPS AND WEBSITES EASILY ACCESSIBLE
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. When you sit down to practice, you are ready with everything easily accessible.
#4 – HAVE EVERYTHING YOU NEED FOR THE PRACTICE SESSION
If possible, keep the following in your room. Gather metronome, pens, pencils, paper, music stand, recording device, manuscripts, tuners, capos, picks, drum sticks, straps, water, snacks, etc. then you won’t have to spend precious practice time looking for them.
#5 – ELIMINATE DISTRACTIONS
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. By doing these few things it will help your practice go better.
Are a parent helping a child with their practice? Let the child have that time to themselves to practice without interruption, especially keep other siblings from coming into the room. Make their practice time a special time for them to be alone and feed their soul.
#6 – STRETCH WITH WARM-UPS
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 a vocalist), back, etc.
#7 – RELAX
Get comfortable and relax. Practicing should be an enjoyable experience. By relaxing will also help increase your agility and speed.
#8 – BE REALISTIC
Practice things within your reach. If we try to go to college before we’ve gone through K-12 we may feel like we failed right off the bat. Count your small successes. Pick things to practice that is within your reach. Also, quality over quantity, have a quality practice for at least 30 minutes.
#9 – BREAK IT DOWN
- SMALLER PARTS
- Break things down into smaller parts. When Chuck took his first lessons years ago once had an instructor tell him to practice one note until it was perfect, then practice the second note until it was perfect, next put the two notes together. Get them perfect together. No wonder why Chuck is such an amazing musician. He broke it down note per note. Now, in my opinion, this might be a little anal, but serious, if that is what it takes to get to the next level, we all should start doing that.
- BREAK HANDS APART
- Another thing we always teach our students is to break their hands apart. So figure out exactly what the left hand is going to do then, figure out what the right hand is going to do, not necessarily in that order. You will find that by breaking your hands apart and then trying to play them together, you will be able ultimately to learn the notes easier.
- WORK THROUGH THE PROBLEM SPOTS
- Next, if you hit a problem spot, the tendency is to want to skip over that part, when in reality, that is the part you need to work on the most. Work through it. You might try to play it for a while then walk away, just walk away. lol. In most cases, we’ve found that once a student comes back to the thing they were struggling with and all of a sudden they get it.
- SLOW DOWN
- Lastly, SLOW DOWN! We all want to be able to play it RIGHT NOW UP TO SPEED. Slow everything down. If you can get it at a slower speed the faster tempo will come. Choose slow and clean over fast and sloppy. Using a metronome is highly recommended.
#10 – THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU ARE PLAYING
While working on a recording in Nashville, our engineer said to us one thing which resonated with our band, “Every note should have meaning and intent.” We continue to pass this information on to all our students by incorporating it into our workshops and courses that we teach worldwide.
No more playing random notes, think about what you are playing with meaning and intent. Great advice!
#11 – RECORD YOUR PRACTICE
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. Another great tool, so you can go back and hear exactly what needs to be practiced more. Pro Tip: back it up on a hard drive!
#12 – WATCH YOURSELF IN A MIRROR
Watching yourself in a mirror may be hard to do at first, but over time you will find this is a useful way to be able to see what you are doing right and wrong. How are you holding your pick, bow, drum sticks, instrument? Ask yourself, Are there any adjustments to make? How is your posture? What is your face tense, smiling, or frowning? 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.
#13 – PRACTICE IN THE DARK
Yep, you heard me correctly, once you feel like you have 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. However, it is good to challenge yourself and get away from the books too!
#14 – ADD WRITING INTO YOUR PRACTICE SESSION
If you don’t already, occasionally add writing into your practice session. Write your tablature, notes, scores, etc. By doing this it will most likely excel your learning even if it is just making up random stuff and scribbling it out. You don’t have to play it out unless you want to. Challenge yourself!
#15 – GET IN THE RIGHT FRAME OF MIND
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 time where I had so many students it was very overwhelming. I was on burnout, then my mom said it best. I thank her to this day. “You get to go teach.” It always put it in perspective. So “You get to work out.” “You get to go to work” “You get to practice” all the same thing. Keeping in a positive frame of mind will keep you motivated to keep learning.
#16 – SET UP A REWARD SYSTEM
Reward yourself for having good practice sessions. Now, this can look different for each person. Figure out what works for you. If you have other practice tips to share, feel free to comment below.
TOOLS TO MAKE YOUR PRACTICE SESSIONS GO BETTER
Here are some great gift ideas for the musician in your life, included in the article are tools on how to make your practicing sessions easier.
If you are currently taking private lessons, you may get some helpful tips from this article, How To Make Your Private Lessons Go Better.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
What have you found the most helpful in making your practice sessions go better?