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Practising Your Instrument

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 31 Mar 2013 | comments*Discuss
Music Lessons Practice Discipline Scales

There's an old joke that goes "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" "Practice, practice, practice." The thing is that there's plenty of truth in it. It's all very well taking lessons, they can show you what to do, the techniques to use. But the only way to really learn them is by practicing, and that requires a commitment of time and effort.

How Often Should You Practice

You need to put in time on your instrument every day, there's no question about that. It doesn't matter if you're a child or adult, it's necessary. Make sure you set aside time each evening to do this. The ideal thing is not to think of it as work, but as relaxation - playing can be excellent stress relief, even something as mundane as scales.

Practice Routine

As far as possible, settle down to do your practice at the same time each day, once the evening meal's over and things are calm in the house. Close the door so you're not disturbed.

It's not always how long your practice, but how well you practice. You need to concentrate on what you're doing, and not think of it as a chore. It's meant to be enjoyment. That said, however, you should plan on taking at least half an hour daily.

Ideally, you should split your practice time between scales and the piece (or pieces) your teacher has given you to work on. Begin with the scales to warm up your hands, spending almost half your time on these.

Whatever piece you have to undertake should push you a little, and it will take a full week of playing to master it. Initially, play it through very slowly, making note of the areas that challenge you. Play it through several times the first day to become familiar with it. Do that each day, but then focus on the areas that need work until you're fluent with them. By the fifth day you should be able to perform a flowing version of the entire piece.

The Importance of Practice

Teaching can only give you so much. You can be shown how to do something (or how not to), but you need to imprint that in your fingers and your mind, so they do it automatically.

With an instrument, you only get out of it as much as you put in (unless you're one of the ridiculously talented few). That makes practice a necessity, and the more of a novice you are, the more disciplined you need to be about it.

If you're dealing with a child learning an instrument, it can be harder enforcing practice time. The trick is to make it seem fun, and to be involved yourself. The more passion for playing you can instil into your child, the more they'll have for practicing and playing.

Practice lets you gauge your progress week by week. A piece that might seem impossible on Monday can be conquered by Friday, and that gives a sense of achievement. But always remember, practice is the true key to success.

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The more serious you are about the instrument, the longer you’ll practice. If you’re really dedicated that can add up to hours every day. However, most people won’t be willing to do that, so a schedule – say 30 minutes with an hour each weekend day – can help, spending part of that time simply working on scales.
Ann - 26-Sep-12 @ 11:48 AM
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