Practice makes perfect, right? Well, as long as you’re practicing perfectly! Make the most of your valuable time with these tips for perfect practice and performance:
1. Find a place where you’re comfortable
Sometimes easier said than done, but having a nice, quiet place free of distractions goes a long way in terms of concentration. Everyone has a different idea of comfortable, so find what works best for you! This may mean making agreements with family for some quiet time, practicing when no one else is home, or even finding a place at school or elsewhere to practice without being disturbed.
2. Warm up properly
I know, I know, you wanna jump right in and play your sheet music, but hear me out: would you try and run 10 miles without warming up or stretching? The importance of warming up musically is similar. Preparing the muscles you use to play is essential to avoid cramps, strain and other ailments that may impact your playing. Plus, it gets you in the musical mindset.
3. Learn (and practice) your scales
So it’s not the most glamorous part of being a musician, but scales are the basis for most music, and learning them will help you see patterns and learn sheet music faster. This doesn’t have to take up too much time, and it will take a lot of the pain out of those fast-moving parts that sometimes seem impossible (hint: they’re usually based on scales).
4. Do range exercises
You lucky fellas playing string and percussion instruments can skip this one, but for winds and vocals, range exercises are necessary to hit those high (and low) notes that stun the crowd. Long tones and chromatic scales work well for most, but it’s definitely worth researching specific range studies for your instrument.
5. Don’t start from the beginning every time
Once you have played a song a couple of times, it should be pretty apparent which parts of the song are easy, and which are a little more difficult. Once you decide what you need to work on, start there and really focus on improving specific parts. This will save you time, and make the entire performance amazing, not just the first 8 measures.
6. Find repeated themes in the music
You might find that there is a certain phrase or “theme” in the music that gets repeated a lot. Spend a few minutes finding and practicing these phrases until they’re perfect, and the piece will come together much faster.
7. Work backwards
Looking at your music in a different way may help reveal answers to tricky issues that hide in the music. Try playing the last measure, then the last two measures, the last three measures, so on and so forth. Not only will you get extra help with the end of the piece or phrase (which often get neglected) but practicing in a new way may liven things up on a frustrating piece.
8. Try different tempos
Think you’ve got something down? Try playing it super-duper fast, then mind-numbingly slow. Playing around with difficult tempos will add confidence to your playing and solidify your preferred performance pace.
9. Don’t overwhelm yourself
At some point in practicing, everyone hits a wall. Maybe you just physically can’t play anymore, or you’re so frustrated it’s affecting your performance. Instead of pushing yourself and making things worse, take a little break. It might be a half hour or a whole day— giving yourself the time to regroup and relax will make the process easier and help you succeed.
10. Reward yourself!
Whether you’ve mastered an entire song or just one difficult measure, celebrate your success! Being a musician is full of challenges, so don’t forget to celebrate your victories, big or small.