Practice for Beginners

Astronomical ClockBeginning any instrument can be a challenge and a joy. At times, it can also get frustrating. Here are a couple quick tips to get you started on the right foot:

            • short bursts of practice (5-10 minutes) throughout the day are better than 1 long session
            • short practice every day is much, much, much better than one very long practice session per week.
              • Both of the above happen because of the way our brains are wired, and the way in which we learn new things. You’re growing connections in your brain.
  • Focus beyond the instrument: you’ll get great results if you do more than just play your instrument: sing (this one’s especially good), clap rhythms, do fingerings, breathing exercises, and other “off the instrument” activities. Many professionals do all of these things and more during their practice. Why? Because it works.
  • When you start to get frustrated. STOP! Life’s too short. You want to be relaxed when you play. Go take a nap, run around outside, and come back to it later. No worries.
  • English: Tabla
    Tabla (Wikipedia)

    GO SLOWLY! This can’t be stressed enough. Play the slowest of the slow: long tones. Hold a note with the most beautiful tone (or the most ugly, or raucous, or whatever floats your boat) and REALLY pay attention to the sound. One of the best things you can do. To make long tones more interesting and useful, you can get the free iOS app: iTanpura Lite (YouTube demo here) and with it you can play along. Choose the note you need, push play, and off you go. There is a beefier version called iTabla Pro that adds percussion instruments (tabla) and it’s fantastic (YouTube demo). I own that one and use it ALL the time. Very, very, very good for honing your intonation and sense of rhythm. Makes scale practice much more interesting.

That’s it for now. Good luck with your beginning practice! If at all possible, sit down with friends or a more knowledgeable player. You’ll learn a lot faster this way, and it’ll be more fun.

Want to learn more about the best ways to practice? Get an e-mail with a discount code when The Practice of Practice is published (June, 2014). To learn more about the book, check out a sample from The Practice of Practice.

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