Now that recital season has passed, I want to take this time to bring attention to some helpful tips and tricks to make your practice sessions more productive. These are all active parts of my own practice sessions, please try them at home as you may find them beneficial.
1. Slow and Steady: This one may sound familiar, but I can’t stress how important it is to practice all material slowly. Playing slowly with consistency is crucial in developing proper technique and rhythmic accuracy. Even if the tempo of what your are working on is fast, work on it slowly and then begin to bring it up to speed. Doing this while working on material will actually make it easier to play faster!
2. Make it a routine: Consistency is key in musical development. If you are not already scheduling your practice time, try it out. Making practice feel like a part of your daily routine helps build a healthy and constant relationship with music. The more regularly you have productive practice sessions, the more you are going to grow as a musicians. Try scheduling at least three practices sessions into your week.
3. Practice Journal: Keeping a journal on the music stand/piano can be super helpful. It helps log what you worked on, and what tempos you were doing during your last session. For me it often serves as a reminder of what I am working on, especially if I miss a few days and come back to the practice room. This is also a great way to view your progress, being able to look back at everything you have worked on can help remind you of how much progress you have made.
4. Record yourself: With how accessible high quality cameras are, we can use them to our advantage during practice sessions. Recording yourself gives the ability to really listen back to your playing. It can help give you better idea of your tone, articulation, rhythm, etc. I record myself regularly, and when I listen back I am looking for the imperfections and the areas in the performance that are lacking. I then use that knowledge to adjust my practice to address those issues. Using the camera to record video is also a great idea, this allows you to watch your technique as you play, you may notice some flaws in your posture and technique that you will want to address.
5. Off instrument practice: Did you know that you can have a productive practice session not using your instrument? You can often work on many musical concepts without an instrument. You can develop your ear and rhythm in a variety of ways. Singing and clapping various rhythms and subdivisions with a metronome is a great way to improve your time and internal clock. You can also use many apps like Musictheory.net, Teoria, and Earpeggio to practice various ear training and theory exercises.
6. Set a Timer: You can creatively use a timer to help break up your practice session. I may set a certain amount of time to work on a tune, scale, etc. During that allotted time, I focus on that and avoid any distractions. Once the timer goes off I take a small break and then reset the timer, either to do it again or move on to new material. The timer system helps you avoid distractions, and keep you focused.
Avoid getting discouraged. Music is hard, and it takes lot of dedication and practice. It is very easy to compare yourself to others and feel discouraged. Every musician grows at their own rate ,and if you put the work in, it will show. Record yourself, and keep track of everything you practice. This helps you be able to listen/look back and see how far you’ve come. If you have fun and work hard, the growth will follow.