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October 14, 2014

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You're Doing It Wrong!

October 14, 2014


Check Out Our 8 Best Practices for Practicing


Practice makes perfect right? Sure, everybody knows that. And 15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance.


Seriously though, I'm often surprised by how many musicians and students are ineffective when it comes to utilizing their practice time. Here are eight of the most common practicing issues and mistakes that we see amongst music students today. The tips below should help you to eliminate these common flaws and once you have, prepare to be amazed at the progress you make.


8. Take Notes - Keeping track of your progress by making a video or audio recording at regular intervals is a great way to monitor your results. Every week or two is probably often enough for you to gauge your progress or (yikes!) lack thereof. You can also write down measurable progress such as scale and chord memorization or tempo progress in a practice log.


7. Just Say NO! To Mistakes - Playing through or "allowing" mistakes is a major issue for a lot of students today. Don't allow yourself to be comfortable or complacent with mistakes during practice. It's important that you develop this NO MISTAKES attitude if you plan to truly excel at your instrument. Here's a drill that you can adapt. Many professional golfers practice putting by challenging themselves to making 10 consecutive shots from distances of 1 foot, 2 feet, 3 feet etc. all the way to 10 feet. That's 100 golf shots. If the golfer should miss ANY shot he has to stop and begin again. This assures that they are practicing the shot correctly and adding pressure not to miss. Now that's effective practice!


6. Dealing With Frustration - "I know I can play this lick. I mean, I nailed it during practice yesterday again and again." Well, the good news here is that this happens to all of us from time to time. Thankfully I don't know of anyone yet who has acted on the threat to break their instrument into a million pieces. Sometimes we just need to give our brains a bit of a break. So this is a good time to go back to some of the basics or just have a few minutes of "free play". You could also go through your practice logs and/or recordings to evaluate how much progress you've really been making. If you've been practicing effectively this will certainly show it and your frustration may be relieved. Don't forget to play at your own level! Countless times, people have chosen a song that they love that is just way above their skill level. Just because your favorite band can play it (and has been doing so for years) doesn't mean you can pick it up as a new player.


5. Lack Of Direction/Goals - Goal setting keeps you from spreading your practice time too thin and is maybe the easiest way to ensure an effective practice session. Ask yourself the following questions before you set out to practice.


Which areas need emphasis? What am I trying to accomplish? Do you have deadlines such as recitals or concerts? How much time to spend on each area and SET A TIMER.


4. Distractions - I used to "practice" during commercials. It turns out that was NOT practice - it was a BAD IDEA and it was practically wasted time. In fact, the early Jazz musicians in the south would often hide out in a woodshed to eliminate any and all distractions while perfecting their craft. So turn off the TV and silence your social media and phone in order to get 'er done. 


3. Speed kills! - OK this is one of the most notorious skill-killers that I've seen. So many of us want to be able to keep up with our favorite artists' recordings that we accept quantity of notes (even if they are wrong!) over the quality or clarity of notes. Metronomes were invented for this very reason. Start slow and gradually increase tempo until the material is challenging but still playable. Trust me. Buy a metronome and use it!


2. Lack of or Sporadic Practice Habits - This one is obvious and it's the one we hear the most. "I didn't have (much) time to practice." Obviously, if there is a lack of practice there will also be a lack of results. Try to pick up your instrument every single day. Short practice sessions will quickly become longer and more productive. Stop putting it off and it may end up being the best part of your day. Everyday.

1. Have Fun! - This is one of the easiest things to forget. We all get so wrapped up in attaining perfection, that we forget to enjoy what we're doing and just have a good time. Music can, and should, be fun!

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