Robert J. Lawrence (Jimmy)
Fun is good and rewarding, but improving the way you practice is going to make it even easier for you. I’ve said it several times already, but if you’re engaged, if you’re focused, time will fly and you may find yourself wishing you had reserved even more time for your practice session due to how productive it was.
Practice less and get more done
I’m going to once again stress the need to avoid mindless run-throughs of your pieces. Work on the parts of your music that need the most work. Why take the repeats (for now) when you already have that section down? Actually, why play through the piece to get to that tough spot? Just jump straight to it, and work it out. You can always do a run-through of your piece when you’ve felt like you’ve worked through the rough spots. Then, get out your pencil (or dry-erase marker, if you put your music in transparent sleeves like I do) and mark up the spots to work on next.
Work on transitions between learned sections
Now that you’ve worked through the small sections and kinks, link those sections together. In fact, just work on the link at the end of one section and the beginning of the next, because those are the places that are most likely to give you trouble.
Get lost in the details with deep focus
This is about being engaged, again. If you’re mindful about what you are practicing, thinking about all of the various things you should be working on (phrasing, fingering, voicing, etc.) then you’re not thinking about how long you’ve been practicing or how much more time you have until you’re done.
Make time fly by slowing down
The dreaded “slow practice.” What you’re teacher has been saying (hopefully) is true. Fumbling through a difficult passage repeatedly might work after a long while – sometimes – but if you slow it down and instead play it perfectly from the outset, a few things happen:
Spend time analyzing a piece
The more you know about your music, the easier it will be to work through it – memorization, phrasing, dynamics, and more will be more accessible because you’ll have a clearer grasp of what the composer’s intent was. Or for that matter, your own intent that you wish to convey to your audience. Also, sometimes just knowing that there is a repeated section, phrase, or motive can help you feel like you’re accomplishing more than you thought.
Spend time organizing your practice
Remember how I set a practice schedule for myself? Although I was TERRIBLE at keeping my schedule, it did help me realize that I was wasting a lot of time – which eventually made me realize what was really important about my practice sessions. Even if you don’t meet your goals, you’ll know what you should be working on, and some of you out there with a stronger willpower to keep on schedule will see the most benefit. Don’t let it stop you from setting a schedule if you’re wishy-washy like I was. It’s still an important and beneficial skill to prioritize your time.
Do you have any nasty habits slowing down your practice, or hindering your efficiency? Sometimes sharing them with others can help you be more aware - give it a shot in the comments!
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Jimmy here! My desire is to help others grow musically - especially those who don't have access to resources. I'm a husband, father of three, graduate student, and music educator.