Back to school for many means getting into routine and productivity mode. And for musicians, that means setting a music practice schedule.
Every successful musician will tell you that in order to excel at your instrument you need to continuously practice. Here are some tips on how to set yourself up for success this year to get the most out of your practice sessions.
1) Aim to Practice Everyday -- Even just a little
Making music practice part of your daily routine, will encourage you to be mindful of your progress. Determine what is the best time of day for you to set aside and write a reminder in your calendar. If you do have to skip a day, don't worry, but do try to make up for the missed practice time by extending your next session by at least 5 minutes.
2) Never forget to warm up
If you're looking for longevity in your musical capabilities, be sure to always perform finger exercises and other warm-ups before you hit the notes. Not only will this help your hands and fingers become more flexible, this consistency will also reduce injury. You wouldn't run a marathon without stretching first, right?
3) Make your practice area comfortable
A comfortable seat? Proper lighting? Good ventilation? These are all elements to think about when setting up your practice space. Once you are free from distractions your mind will only have one thing to focus on, your music.
4) Practice small to make it big
Especially if you're tackling an advanced piece, it is more beneficial to conquer smaller sections perfectly before looking at the bigger picture.
5) Slow and steady wins the race
Playing a new piece slowly and efficiently with correct pitch, tone, rhythm and dynamics is a much more valuable exercise than playing something quickly with mistakes. By teaching yourself how to properly play a piece from the beginning, you are setting yourself up for success when you are ready to increase the tempo later.
6) Don't avoid your mistakes
Once you master parts of a piece, it is only natural that you'll want to play the "good sounding" stuff. But it's important to focus on the areas that you haven't fully grasped yet more often than those you have. Avoiding problems areas only makes them harder to correct in the future. You will progress faster by tackling the problem areas right away.
7) Practice in front of others
Asking people you know and trust to listen to your progress occasionally, is an integral element to the progression of your practice. Having someone listening will evoke a natural 'nervousness' and will forecast how you'll react and which problem areas will arise during future exams and/or performances.
8) Set personal goals
Setting personal practice goals is a great way to stay on track. Allow yourself to visually track your progress through a journal or chart system so you can visualize your success!
9) Reward yourself
If you're in the habit of setting small goals throughout your practice sessions, by all means, reward yourself when you complete them! This is a great way to encourage yourself to continue learning and to keep track of your progression. Any musician can attest that learning a new piece can be exhausting and draining, it's a good idea to focus on what you have accomplished versus how far you have to still go.
10) Have fun with your practice
This is the most important thing to remember when it comes to practicing or studying for anything, even outside of the music world. We tend to gravitate towards things we enjoy doing. Make your personal practice sessions something you have fun with and possibly look forward to. Rewarding yourself is an easy way to incorporate fun.