- Attack the practise room with a plan. There’s no point spending half an hour noodling around if you’ve only got a 90-minute window to play. Start with a warm-up that has some relevance to the material you’re covering later. It might focus on articulation, or tone, or technique, but the more you streamline your plan, the easier it is to move through your list of tasks!
- Be self-aware. Stop after each repetition and critique yourself. Did it sound the way you wanted it to? If not, what are you going to change about your playing/singing to improve the sound next time around? If you just keep repeating sounds without thinking, playing/singing anything without thinking will become a habit. Not ideal!
- Don’t criticise yourself while you’re playing/singing. Just listen, store the information, and critique yourself afterwards. If you’re busy criticising the last note, then you’re not fully focused on the note you’re currently playing! This can be a real slippery slope to disaster in performances as well. Practise listening to yourself, and you can reflect after it’s done.
- It’s better to practise in small, regular chunks, than one huge practise session per week. Our brains learn motor tasks through repetition. Playing music is a motor activity, and while you might notice some improvement at the end of three hours, chances are you won’t retain as much of it, compared to one hour per day over a three-day period. If you’re new to music, start with a short amount of time, and gradually work up to a longer time.
- Slow down! Many students practise their pieces at performance speed, and never slow them down to make sure the technical execution is perfect. Flying through a piece at breakneck speed isn’t fair to your brain, your body, your teacher, or the composer. Take some time to appreciate each note, be aware of articulation and phrasing, and aim for a beautiful sound each time you play it. Don’t forget, you’re setting the foundation for the way you will always play this piece. It’s much better to take a little extra time learning something, than to have to un-learn and then re-learn! This goes for singers too!
- Do the hard stuff. Avoiding a task because it’s a bit too difficult is a cop-out in any field. If you’re still having trouble with something after trying it slowly several times, take it back to your teacher and ask for help. Asking for help is certainly better than just not trying anything!
- Work some unfamiliarity into your weekly routine. Whether it be sight-reading, some theory homework, a new piece, or different scales, trying new things is a really important part of staying excited about music! It’s really important that you know how proficient you are at all the skills that form musicianship, and improving them will improve your overall proficiency.
- Listen. Authenticity is a result of immersion. There’s a whole wide world of music that you haven’t discovered, and that your teacher probably doesn’t have time to tell you about! Take the initiative, and listen to something new. Find versions of songs you love, discover a new artist, try and understand a re-interpretation of a classic- all these things will enhance your ability to see music in a multi-dimensional way.
- Enjoy what you do. Try to see the beauty in every sound you make, and find the joy in playing each time you sit alone with your instrument or your voice. It can be easy to get tied up in the repetition and chore-like nature of practise, but we practise because a good technical foundation gives you an endless variety of choice in your own playing/singing. Don’t forget why you love to play, and make it your goal to allow the love to sound in each and every note- even if it’s just a major scale, it can still sound beautiful!
Practise Makes Perfect: Enhancing Your Rehearsal for Permanent Results We have all heard the saying “practise makes perfect,” but does it? If practise does ONE thing, it makes permanent! These are some tips for maximising your learning so you can take advantage of each minute of practise.