One of the first things I share with new students are my favorite tips to enhance practicing music. Some of these things may seem simple, but if you don’t understand them when you’re a new student, you can lose a lot of time in your music development. So when you’re learning music, and practicing regularly, keep these tips in mind.
1. Find a private place to practice.
Practice is a very private thing. Go to your bedroom……. the cellar…….. the attic……. This is where the term “Woodshedding” comes from. 200 years ago nobody wanted to listen to a kid scratching away on a fiddle. Go in the woodshed and play where no one can here ya! It turned out to be good wisdom. If there are people within hearing range, and you know it, you’ll start playing what you have already learned which will have limited benefits. When I perform in front of an audience, people will come up and express their appreciation and tell me how awesome my playing is which I graciously accept. Of course I am playing what I do best. If they heard me practicing something in private that I can’t play well yet, their response would be “YOU STINK” Fortunately that never happens, because I keep my practice private.
2. Choose a small pattern to play
Choose maybe 4 or 5 notes that you can’t play and repeat until it feels good……. 20, 30, 50, 150 times! Don’t worry about how many times you play it, just play ’til it feels good. Counting repetitions is just an added thought process that could hinder your objective at hand. Focus on the pattern, not the quantity.
However, did you ever play something over and over, but the more you practiced it the more you felt like you were going “BRAIN DEAD”? Well, take a break. This brings us to:
3. Practice in small chunks.
How long should you practice? As a rule of thumb, most people (parents and teachers alike) suggest a half hour a day for beginners and much longer for advanced students. While this sounds like good wisdom, there may be a better way to learn and retain what you practice.
When I was a beginner a half hour felt like an eternity and I found myself watching the clock as much as playing. What was my objective?……. To kill a half hour!
There is a philosophy that states: “The most learning retention in an hour occurs in the first and last ten minutes” I’m sure there is value in the other forty minutes, but maybe there is a better system.
Using logic, the first ten and last ten minutes are when you’re at peak efficiency. Now let me see… 20 minutes has a first and last ten minutes. That being said, let’s practice for 20, go do something else, (maybe do other homework for 20, or have dinner, etc.).
Repeat the cycle two more times. Three “20’s” will retain more than one “60”, and you had dinner and got your homework done in short spurts (and probably learned more there too).
As a professional I use this system and it works. Give it a shot. I bet you’ll like it too.