Basic Practice Skills

English: Interior of a grand piano Intended to...

It can be hard to know where to start with your practice, so here are a few quick, easy tips to keep it simple.

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.

1. Ditch your phone: Avoid distractions during your practice time. It’s YOUR time, so turn off your phone or any other device (unless you’re using it to help with practice, of course).

2. Forget the clock. We often hear time-related practice advice: you must practice x minutes per day. Instead, focus on one skill or one small, achievable goal. If you’re new to the instrument, it could be something as simple as playing a note for 10 seconds with one breath (this will be tough for string players… :-); if you’re more advanced, it could be mastering a particular musical phrase or exercise. Focus on the skill, not the clock.

3. GO SLOW! No, SLOWER. That’s better. TWICE as slow as that and you’ve got it. GO SLOWLY. The reason to go slowly is to avoid mistakes, because the brain circuits you’re building don’t care what “right” and “wrong” is, your brain will simply be programmed with what you put into it. So don’t put in mistakes. Go slowly.

4. Repetition is your friend. Repetition is your friend. Repetition is your friend. Repetition is your friend. Repetition is your friend. Repetition is your friend.

5. READ. This can give you tons, and tons of crucial information and save you hours, even years of practice. I’ve reviewed many books on this blog. Check ’em out!

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Great post, Jon! Remember when Mr. Hope made us do “ten speed?” When we practiced at home, we started at an excrutiatingly slow speed and played a passage ten times. Then, we took it a little faster… ten times, and so on. If you cheated and only practiced say, five times at a particular speed, it showed. 🙂

    1. I remember it well. Wasn’t until recently I found a better way. A piece of research that showed practicing like Hope said is good, but to practice at the excruciatingly slow (and perfect) speed, then at performance tempo, then at slow, then performance speed, showed greater gains and better “sticking power,” if I remember correctly. Started doing it that way when possible and never looked back!

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