Perfect Practice: Practical Practice Tips
We’ve all done it, we shut ourselves in a practice room to “get some work done” and all we really do is play the music we already know how to play instead of the music we really need to hash out. Why? It’s “hard” and sometimes frustrating to learn new things, but with a few simple practice tips you can be practicing like a pro.
1. Don’t play the parts you can already play!!!!!
This is difficult to do because it is SOOOOO FUN! Just think of how fun that crazy hard lick in measure 52 will be once you have that down, though. You can do it!
2. Rhythms, Fingerings, and Note Names
Yes, even for advanced musicians this is a great step in the learning process. We often want to play through music before we take the chance to look at it and get to know it. If you take the time to count (or clap for you tactile people) the rhythm and finger through the notes while you say the note names it helps your brain to get wrapped around what you are trying to accomplish.
A wise teacher once told me that a lot of practicing could and should be done without ever playing your instrument, so save your chops and let your brain do the work.
3. Write in your own notes.
Remember how we just spent some time looking at, thinking about, and fingering through the music? Now is the time to write in your notes about what you discovered during step 3. Are there alternate fingerings you need to use? Is there a particular place where you need to breath? What phrase shaping do you want to do (dynamic markings)? What color, picture, or scene does this phrase remind you of? And anything else that might be helpful.
4. Divide difficult sections of music into small chunks.
When learning a difficult passage it is best to divide the music up into smaller chunks so your brain isn’t trying to process too much information at one time. Most musical phrases can be divided into 4 measure chunks. Stick with one 4 measure chunk (or whatever works for the piece you are practicing) until you are solidly comfortable with it and then move on to the next chunk.
5. Link your chunks together.
That’s one heck of a mental image…once you have worked out small chunks of a difficult passage you should link them together at a slow tempo. This will allow you to connect the two or more chunks of music so you can focus on larger phrase shapes.
Now that you have some practical tips on how to use your practice time, go get some work done! Remember, it’s not “practice makes perfect,” but “Perfect Practice makes Perfect.”