Practice brings back some good and not so good memories to many of us. When it goes great it’s the best feeling and when it’s not, it can be so frustrating. The best way to practice is to be prepared before you even begin to play.
Like I tell many of my students try not to think of the end goal – like hiking a mountain, we can’t skip to the top, we take one step at a time. Each of us walks at our own pace, we take an occasional break and when we get there the feeling we get at the top is amazing. We may have had support or words of encouragement but we did it, we succeed one step at a time.
We should have big goals of what we want to achieve over a period of time and you can break them down into small bitesize goals that can be achieved weekly or at each practice. When we have these small goals and we achieve them, it makes us feel good and we want to continue to practice. Before you know it you have finished a piece, and you are ready to enter for an exam or perform on stage.
So, how do you prepare to practice? Set the time aside and schedule a time that suits you best, should it be when you first get out of bed or last thing at night. Choose a time you know will work.
Make practice easy and ensure you have the right tools in a good location at home, perhaps not beside the TV, for example. Other things you may need to consider are a good-sized chair/stool, books you may need, a music stand and a metronome. If you go to lessons, have your lesson notes with you so you know exactly how to achieve your weekly practice goals. These should be 2-3 small things to help you progress further. Also, keep a paper and pen beside you to make a note of anything you notice, perhaps it’s something you don’t recognise or are unsure how to play, your tutor can then help you understand these parts better in your next lesson.
Another important thing to do is listen to the music you’re playing, this is so important and yet so simple. Listen to the sound, rhythm, pulse tone etc and reflect on what you like and dislike and what you can add to your own playing. Why not record yourself while you practice and listen back to it, it will amaze you what you hear when you’re not playing. Listen for particular things like rhythm, pulse, tone, dynamic range etc, this can be so useful when preparing for a performance or exam.