Well, it’s week five already (how did that happen!?) and, amongst us professionals, it’s well known that this point in the term is prime time for the contagion of practice-phobia. Yikes. Yes, by week five, the fresh smell of start-of-term motivation is beginning to fade, and it takes that extra little bit of impetus to get the practice in. So, we’ve put together a list of top tips to help combat the slump and get you practicing in the best and most efficient way. So here are our top ten tips from teachers!
- “Make sure you warm up by doing exercises and scales” (Gareth, Piano)
Yes, warming up before playing music is just as vital as warming up before sport. Warming up is healthy both physically and mentally- engaging your brain with simple exercises before playing difficult pieces will help your focus, and warming up your hands or voice will help you play or sing better. Try varying the exercises you do for your warm up- scales one day and another technical exercise the next, maybe even a bit of sight-reading.
2. “Don’t over-face yourself, set yourself small, achievable goals” (Lois, Singing)
Tricky pieces can be daunting, but breaking the task down into manageable pieces will make life a lot easier; you’ll make more progress by setting and completing a goal for each session than by simply practising for x number of minutes. You’ll also feel a greater sense of accomplishment at the end! As long distance runner, Kara Goucher, once said, “Set small goals along the way and don’t be overwhelmed by the process.”
3. “Keep your instrument out of its case at home so you’re more likely to pick it up” (Kirk, Guitar)
We can vouch for the fact that no one practises the guitar more than Kirk McElhinney, so this must be the key…
4. “Don’t sit at your instrument for too long – if you get bored, walk away, make a cup of tea and come back to it.” (Hannah, Piano)
Practising for so long that you start to hate your instrument is never a good thing. Practise in small but frequent bursts to keep things interesting and minimize monotony. And, as we know, a cup of tea is the unfailing solution to almost all problems.
5. “Focus on the things you can’t do, not on the things you can” (John, Drums)
This is so important (gosh, it’s almost like our teachers know what they’re talking about.) It’s so tempting to play through the parts of your music that you know well as they always sound lovely and impressive. But sadly, this won’t help you improve your playing. Identify the areas that are tripping you up and try to ascertain why- is it a rhythmic problem? A fingering error? Have you considered the key signature? Once you’ve zoomed in on the problem, make resolving it your goal for your session
6. “Record yourself – it’s amazing how people improve when they hear themselves back.” (Chris, Singing)
As toe-curling as it might be to listen to yourself play or sing (especially sing, no one likes the sound of their own voice), recording yourself will help you to hear clearly where your problem areas are.
7. “Read your notebook to remind you what you should be working on, don’t ignore the pencil markings on your music! Keeping a record of what you have done is good for the teacher to see and makes you feel like you’ve made progress” (Gemma, Piano)
Even if you’re not prone to forgetfulness or the odd senior moment, there is so much to remember when learning a new piece, that even the most mentally agile struggle to remember everything they’re teacher has said. Pay attention to the advice they’ve written on your pieces and in your practice diary and make a quick note of any questions that crop up during your practice.
8. “Listen to some good music for inspiration” (Paolo, Guitar)
It always helps to know where you’re going, and listening to some great musicians doing what they do best might remind you that they once started where you are! Crank up the tunes and heed the advice of the wise sage, Jo McCallum when she says…
9. “Remember why you’re practising” (Jo, Woodwind)
10. “Try and have fun whilst you’re practising” (Sarah, woodwind)It’s no good playing music if you’re not enjoying it! Although practice is difficult and can sometimes be repetitive and frustrating, try to throw in some fun to brighten up your session. Perhaps you could reward yourself at the end of your practice by playing through a piece you know well and enjoy.
So there you go, our top ten tips to improve your practice. Trade secrets people!
Have a lovely week everyone.