How to practice an instrument in a constructive way

  • 19 January 2020
  • Maria


How to practice an instrument in a constructive way - images/defaultImage.jpg


Whether you study piano, flute, guitar, violin or any other instrument, the 7 principles listed below will ensure your progress.

1. Find a good time in the day.

Learning is most effective when the brain and body are rested. Choose a time when you can focus.

2. Find a good place where you cannot be disturbed.

Choose the place where you cannot be interrupted. Unfortunately sometimes, taking too long of a break between practise sessions could negate all the work we just put in.

3. Map Out Your Practice Sessions.

Write out what you will focus on during the practice session, and how you will cool down.

4. Set a goal for each practice session.

Never play a song you want to practice from the beginning to the end. Won't help you to make progress. Instead, choose a passage to practice and a task. For instance: work out a fingering for measures 12-25, or work out the first section of the song slowly and gradually speed up to 85 bpm. (use the metronome)

5. Mark difficult passages with a clear sign.

Keep a pencil close and use it when you need it!

6. Solve the identified problems.

Never pass over mistakes. You have to solve them from the early beginning. Otherwise, you will start to practice mistakes. Find below some advice for solving your possible issues.

If it's a rhythmic problem, try practicing the rhythm alone on a table or just using one note alongside a metronome so you don’t have to think about the notes as well, starting slowly then gradually increasing the tempo, then re-introducing the notes much easier.

If it’s a fingering problem, decide how you are going to fix it, which fingers it’s better to use. Write down on the sheet the right fingers, then practice the passage.

If it’s a technich problem, practice slowly and legato. Hear – listen to yourself – if you can’t hear it you can’t fix it! Plan your finger patterns. The character of the passage will ultimately determine whether you want clear bow changes or smooth, but usually when learning a technical passage, clear is better.

When you've overcome the problem, don’t go straight back to the beginning of the piece or passage; practice working in and out of the phrase from a few measures before until a few after, to ensure continuity.

7. Practice with interleaving when needed.

When you practice passage and become stocked for a few minutes, leave it and then return to it, meanwhile practice another passage or song. In this way, your brain is forced to reengage and create a new action plan for the task at hand. During this reengagement period, the brain is highly active, which in turn leads to more significant long-term learning. Once you know what solution to use, or movement to execute, the hard part is over. With interleaving, each practice attempt is different from the last. Your brain must continuously focus on searching for different solutions. That process can improve your ability to learn critical features of skills and concepts, which then better enables you to select and execute the correct version.