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  • Writer's pictureCassie Rumbough

Practice Tips: Three Practice Staples

Practicing is skill, just like learning your instrument. Why is that?

Well, imagine you go to the gym for 3 hours a day, but while you're there, the only thing you do is lift 3 pound weights over and over and over while you sit and think about what you'll have for dinner. After 3 months of that strict 3 hour a day regimen, you are so frustrated as to why you aren't seeing any results! You've been putting in the time, but you still don't see anything changing.

Sure, maybe that plan is better than doing nothing, but wouldn't it be so much more productive to go to the gym for just 30 minutes and do a medium-high intensity work out? You'll see results much faster that way, right?

Practicing an instrument is the same! Don't waste your time when you practice--get into the right headspace, and try out these tips for a great practice session!

1. Don't go on autopilot! Are you thinking critically about what you just played/sang? What did you like? What didn't you like? What tips did your teacher give you to work on? We always want to make sure we are actually working toward something. When we go on autopilot all the time in our practicing....that is what will happen during the performance. For a thoughtful, intentional performance, we must have the same in our practice.

Try this: perform whatever you are working on for a camera. Afterwards, pretend you are your teacher--listen to the recording while following along in your music, and mark down anything you did well that you want to continue, and things you need to remember or work on for next time. Then go into those small sections to work on whatever it is you marked! Remember to refer to your lesson notes from your teacher for this!

2. Practice in short bursts. If your brain gets fried after practicing for a long time, try having 10-15 minute practice sessions that focus on one specific goal, rest with something fun, and come back!

Try this: Run through the song while focusing on just ONE thing--whether that is articulations, phrasing, breathing, dynamics, acting, etc. I'm sure you will find areas of the song where you have forgotten about that "one thing" because you are thinking of something else in that section. Mark down parts in your music where you need those reminders, and take a break! When you come back to practice again, try to implement what you wrote down while thinking about the other aspects of the song. Break it down to small sections to get all aspects together at once!

3. Mark your music!!! You'll notice how every tip I've given you in this post includes marking your music. I can't say it enough! Write down everything you learn in a lesson, everything you work on during practice, or questions you have for your teacher. You can't remember everything, and you don't have to. Even professional musicians write everything they need to have the best performance they can into their music.

Sometimes students tell me, "but that's cheating!" to this I say, the age old, "it's not cheating, it's using your resources." BUT I'm serious! There is no cheating in performances! Your music is there to HELP you--there is no reason not use it!

Try this: Color code dynamics or articulations, highlight important words, write an emotion/words to remember at the top of each page, visualizations that help with technique, circle parts you struggle with, general reminders you need (like, keep wrists up, or open your mouth, or look ahead, etc).

I recommend you check out my Performance Mode vs Practice Mode blog here for an overview of a practice session!

Happy practicing!

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