How to Practice Effectively: 10 Best Practice Tips for Musicians
The career of a musician can often be unpredictable. You could be busy one month and have a completely empty schedule the next. If you’ve recently found yourself with a lot more spare time, this is the perfect opportunity to practice, update your repertoire and hone your craft so that you’re ready to take on more gigs anytime. But practising isn’t just about playing as much as you can! There are steps you can take to make it much more effective and use your time wisely. Try our 10 best practice tips for musicians to get the most out your sessions and progress quicker.
Tip #1: Eliminate distractions
The first and most important step for any practice session is to eliminate distractions. Find a spot you can practice in or, if there are too many things going on at home, hire out a practice room if you can. Alternatively, you could also practice with your headphones, depending on your instrument. Next, don’t think you’ll be disciplined enough to ignore emails, messages and phone calls. Close any unnecessary tabs, put your phone on silent and focus on the task at hand. You will find that you can get much more done in a shorter space of time, therefore, increasing your productivity.
Tip #2: Schedule it in
If you don’t allocate time for your practice, it’s easy to forget about it at all. Use a diary or calendar apps that will help you take an objective look at your week and plant it accordingly. You will be surprised to find you actually have more time to practice than you thought, so make a schedule and stick with it. Consistency is key to success.
Tip #3: Don’t ignore your exercises
Instrumentalists and vocalists all have various exercises available at their disposal to improve their craft. Unfortunately, some of us find scales and arpeggios boring and would much prefer to move on to practising actual songs. Don’t dismiss the importance of these vital exercises. Try to make them fun by adding different rhythms and variations. They’re an important step towards your musical greatness and it’s easy to schedule them in at the start of your practice session as a warm-up. Other things like ear training and listening exercises will also help you with your improvisation skills.
Tip #4: Start slow
As you learn a new piece, it can be tempting to play it at original speed as soon as possible, even if you’re still making mistakes. Don’t give into that. Practice smarter by starting slow, playing thoroughly and consistently, so you are learning all the parts of the song properly. Repeating the same activity over and over again will make you remember it, so by playing the track correctly, even if you have to slow it down, you’ll eliminate any bad habits that can be very difficult to unlearn later on. This tip may not always suit vocalists, but, an example of applying the same tip would be to make sure you aren’t skipping over any vocal runs that you haven’t fully mastered, or any parts of the song that you need to go over and focus in on.
Tip #5: Break it down into sections
An extension of the previous tip is to break the song down into sections. Learning in smaller, bite-sized pieces will make it a lot easier for you to piece the whole track together, instead of playing all the way through over and over again. This way, you can also pay extra attention to the parts that are tricky and practice them in particular. It’ll be so much easier for you to learn the piece this way and it won’t seem like such a mammoth task anymore.
Tip #6: Use a metronome or drum loop
Practising with a metronome is a fantastic way to develop your rhythm skills, but many musicians find it daunting and uncomfortable to play along to a metronome. If this is you, try using a drum loop instead for more of a natural feel. Whichever method you are using, it will help you ensure you’re playing in time, which is vital within a band setting. Furthermore, practising with a rhythm section or metronome will help highlight areas that you need to work on. As you’re playing a song, you will naturally slow down during tricky parts and speed up the sections you know well, without even noticing. When you practice in a consistent rhythm, these mistakes and shortcomings will come through, so you’re able to tackle them. You can start at the original tempo and slow down until you’re playing the whole piece comfortably, then gradually pick it up, or simply start slow and take it from there.
Tip #7: Give yourself time
Of course, there are many situations where you might have a last-minute audition or you’ve been asked to fill in for someone, and you have a limited amount of time to get ready. If you have the chance, start early and develop your skill and repertoire over time. It’ll be so much easier and more manageable for you to learn, and you will remember the pieces for much longer than trying to cram them in last minute. When you’re working on a tight schedule, keep in mind the next two tips.
Tip #8: Quality over quantity
It isn’t about how much you practice, but the quality of your sessions. Yes, consistency and dedicating time towards practice are both crucial, but it’s about the way you utilise your time that truly makes a difference. Every practice session, you should focus on tackling the areas that need the most work and meticulously working towards developing and improving yourself. It’s easy to play mindlessly or even pick up some bad habits that may make your playing worse. Remember, use your time efficiently and you’ll be happy to see how quickly you’re making progress!
Tip #9: Use your imagination
You probably already know that listening to the songs you’re learning will help you memorise the song structure, melody and lyrics. According to research, thinking about practising can take it one step further and actually help you accelerate the learning process. Once you are familiar with physically playing the song, you can imagine yourself performing it and it could help you improve faster once you get a chance to put it into practice. Sounds strange, but apparently it works! Try it next time you’re learning something new. This could be a great way to focus your mind on the song while you’re completing other tasks, especially, if you only have a short period of time to master the track.
Tip #10: Keep yourself accountable
Accountability is key for consistent progress. Not only should you ensure you’re practising regularly, you should also monitor how you’re doing by recording audio and video of yourself. Listen back, see if you can pick up on any inconsistencies or, indeed, if there’s something you’ve dramatically improved on. Recording yourself can go both ways by helping you identify areas of improvement and also proving to yourself that you are progressing, therefore, motivating you to work harder and practice more. It can be difficult to gain perspective on your playing, so this final tip allows you to listen to yourself objectively and plan your next sessions accordingly.
We hope you enjoyed our practice tips for musicians and that you’ll find them helpful on your journey towards improving and developing yourself as an artist!
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