Finding the Perfect Practice Routine for YOU
Like any other skill or activity, music takes patience, time, and most of all, practice.
Why is good practice so important?
As much as we might wish to, nobody just magically becomes good at music all of a sudden. Like any other skill or activity, music takes patience, time, and most of all, practice. No matter what instrument you play, having a healthy practice routine is the single best way to improve your abilities and increase your comfort level.
At the same time, practice doesn’t have to feel like a chore or an obligation. The key is to find a style that best suits you so that you’re enjoying the learning process. Check out our latest posts on How To Write Amazing Songs and The Method That Will Upgrade Your Music Understanding for further music tips! As promised, here are a few ideas to get you practicing more effectively:
How often should I practice? How long should I practice each time?
1. Find a consistent time slot
If you’re anything like me, you’ve got a million things you want to do on any given day, and there’s just never enough time.
We’re constantly making choices, and it’s very easy for practice time to get lost in the shuffle of it all. One method that might help fix this is to find a specific block of time in your schedule that’s open (almost) every day.
It could be a full hour or even just ten minutes. If you can specifically designate that time slot as “Music Practice Time,” you won’t have to worry anymore about finding a new time each day. Additionally, repetition will help make practicing a habit.
How do I stay motivated to practice?
2. Practice doesn’t have to be perfect
We’ve all heard that “practice makes perfect,” but sometimes that mantra can put more pressure on us than we’re ready to handle. Practice is where we should not only NOT be afraid to be imperfect, we should EXPECT to be imperfect.
When we’re practicing, especially alone, there’s no consequence at all to making mistakes.
In fact, making mistakes can be incredibly helpful, as they show us what parts of our technique might be giving us the most trouble or could use some more focus.
If you can free yourself from the physical and mental tension that comes from high expectations, you’ll have much more energy to pour into the music, too!
How should I structure my practice?
3. Start by warming up
I know, I know. Who wants to play all those scales, arpeggios, and other exercises when we could be playing really cool songs, right?
Well, believe it or not, what your teacher said about those warm-ups being important really is true.
Simple, repetitive patterns build muscle memory, meaning your body becomes more familiar with your instrument (or your voice!).
The more you practice these exercises, the easier it will be to move around the range of your instrument, and then when you come to a passage in a song that employs a similar technique, your body will already know what to do.
How can I make the most of my practice time?
4. Challenge yourself
The eternal goal of any musician is to become an even better musician, to do that, it’s important to aim higher than our current abilities. After all, how will we learn if we don’t at least try? During practice, where it’s totally fine to make mistakes, why not try to play something that you know is just a little harder than you’re currently comfortable with?
I personally like to do this midway through a practice session (I’ll expand on that a little later), where I pick a section of a piece that gives me a very hard time.
Because I know that I’m not quite at its level yet, I don’t have to worry about getting it exactly right in today’s session.
I can just explore the piece, figuring out which parts I know how to do and which are the parts that are the most difficult.
Slowly, day by day, I become more familiar with the piece, until eventually, I’ve reached the level required to play it properly. It’s important to remember that there are almost never “Eureka moments.” Something won’t suddenly click all at once.
Instead, you’ll more likely be playing something someday and realize, “Hey, this used to be really difficult for me, but now I’m playing it just fine!”
How do I stay motivated to practice?
5. Finish strong
Remember what I said earlier about how I like to try the hardest pieces in the middle of my practice session?
That’s because I find it incredibly helpful to end my practice session with an “easy win.” We want to enjoy our practice time, so we should make sure we give ourselves credit for what we CAN do.
If you can finish up your day by playing an easier song that you’ve already figured out, or something really cool that you’re proud of, then you’ll leave the session in a good headspace, making it more likely that you’ll want to come back tomorrow and do it some more! Remember, above all else, music is FUN!
How do I solve problems in my instrument playing?
6. Try different ideas until you find what’s right
Obviously, everybody is different, and so are our learning styles. What works incredibly well for one person might not work at all for another.
These things I’ve written here are just a few possible ways to approach your practice journey. I’m not a psychologist or some other expert on the ways the mind and bodywork.
I’m just a musician, the same as you, but I’ve been playing for over twenty-five years now, and these are some of the ideas that have helped me the most. If they work for you, that’s awesome! If not, don’t give up, as there’s definitely a routine out there that will make a great fit for you. Good luck!