The Art of Practicing
Practicing can make or break your experience as a musician. Knowing how to practice correctly is essential to helping you stick with music even during the toughest times.
1. Make time for it... tie it to something that you always do. For example, practice after dinner each night, or right after you take a shower in the morning, or when you first get to school. It is best to tie it to something else because that something will serve as a trigger to remind you to put in the time.
2. Set small goals: Musical progress can be very slow at times. Work on small sections or one simple technique that you want to master.
3. Practice for less time, more often. It is better to play a little bit each day rather than three hours on a weekend. You need to experience the process of forgetting. You learn something, leave it, come back to it, and then have to remember it. Do this a few times and the skill becomes permanent.
4. Have a plan of HOW you are going to practice. I personally advocate RPAST which focuses on Rhythm first, then pitch, followed by articulation, shape and the stretching of time. As you work your way through these concepts, apply the method of playing slowly, small sections. Can you play the section 3xs in a row without missing? If you practice efficiently, you can grow very quickly.
5. The metronome actually increases the speed at which you will learn something. You need exact repetition in order to make a skill become a "fast thinking" skill. Study how the brain works and you will understand the need for exact repetition.
6. Know that the first 5 minutes are the toughest. Get past that and you can get some good work in each day. Most of the challenge is just the decision to sit down and do it.
7. Record your practice often. You need to listen to what you are creating so that you know what to fix. It is difficult to pick up all the issues when you are thinking about so many things.
8. TONE TONE TONE! It is all about your tone! This needs to become automatic. Clean it up early in your development so that it just happens automatically. Getting the right note is not the goal, it is only part of the goal. Don't be a "noteaholic" and forget to produce a great sound in the right place.
9. Automatic: Strive to get to the point where your Tone, Steady Beat, Rhythm, and Pitch can all be created with Fast Thinking. These need to be almost automatic. Your primacy of thought needs to be on the shape and color of the sounds you are creating.
10. LISTEN! Spend time listening to great musicians. Then, listen to yourself. What do you need to do to get better? If you never listen, how will you know what to sound like?
11. Keep a journal or record of your practice. This is sooooo important. You need to see your tendencies over time. How are you spending your time when practicing? What are you trying to accomplish? What techniques are you mastering? What tricks have you learned?
12. Be sure to always warm up. Create a warm up routine and stick to it!
13. Always end your practice sessions with something you love to play. End on a positive note.