20 Practice Tips for Music Students
Glenn Weiser

Here are some recommendations for effective music practice.- GW

See also- 

Glenn Weiser's Home Page 

Music Lessons with Glenn Weiser

Resources for students

The most important elements of practicing a musical instrument are these:

  1. Regularity- you should practice for at least 30 minutes daily. If you practice for longer, play  for 45 minutes and then stop and rest for 15 minutes. To reduce the risk of repetitive motion injuries, don't practice more than six hours a day in this manner.
  2. Multiple repetitions – play each piece 3-5 times.
  3. Timekeeping – there are three methods for playing in time: foot tapping, counting out loud, and, best of all, the metronome. Use one of these methods while practicing. Avoid mental counting by itself-it doesn’t work. Mental counting can be combined with foot tapping, though.
  4. Use of slow tempos-play the piece slowly a few times, and then increase the speed for one repetition.
  5. Warming up-begin your practice session with slow to moderately paced scales, or songs with easy chords.
  6. Mastery-Practice your piece for weeks or even months until you can play it up to speed without errors.

Other important points-

  1. When in difficulty, slow down. This is virtually a cure-all for any problems arising during practice. You can work through almost anything if you slow down enough.
  2. Beginners may learn a piece in sections by practicing short phrases of 2 or 4 measures and then playing the sections in order after the piece has become easier.
  3. There will usually be a couple of places in a piece that are harder than the rest of it. Isolate these trouble spot in the piece and practice them separately and repeatedly. Separate practice of these tough spots is part of working up a piece.
  4. Memorize the piece. In the case of fretted instruments (guitar, banjo and mandolin), you can then look at the left hand while playing. This is usually better than sight-reading, although it is also important to be able to sight read well.
  5. Learn to sing the melody of any piece you practice. Musicians have a saying, “If you can’t sing it, you don’t know it.” Singing is a powerful tool for developing the “musical ear” and is taught in conservatories to students whether or not they aspire to be vocalists.
  6. Always know both the melody and the chord line of a piece. Also, learn enough music theory to transpose music into other keys. Understanding theory will contextualize the music you play.
  7. Listening is important too. As your circumstances permit, acquire CDs of the artists and styles you want to learn and listen to them often. You need to get the sound of great playing-your goal-into your ears.
  8. There are four stages to learning a piece: 1) Establishing the correct sequence and rhythm of the notes, 2) playing in time, 3) getting the piece up to full speed, and 4) playing it expressively and with your own interpretation. “Interpretation begins where technique ends” – this means you must first be able to play a piece flawlessly before you can really begin to interpret it. Music can evoke powerful emotional responses, and your ultimate goal is to play with a quality of feeling that is both appropriate to the piece and moving to the listener.
  9. Take one day a week for review of your previously learned pieces. Keep them in your fingers.
  10. Record yourself playing and listen to the playback-you will often discover things needing improvement which are harder to detect when you are playing.
  11. There are many music-minus-one type recordings available that you can play along with. These typically have a band without the melody  instrument, which allows you to learn to solo with accompaniment.
    Playing along with records is also a good way to practice chords.
  12. Use a music stand-this sounds trivial, but studies show you are 30% more likely to practice regularly when you have one.
  13. Practice a piece backwards it will force you to learn it more thoroughly. Also, practice a piece with the accents moved out of place.
  14. Listening is important. Listen to top-notch performers and performances so you understand what defines state of the art playing in your field you of study. You can find almost anything on YouTube.
  15. Lastly, have a healthy, positive attitude. Rome wasn’t built in a day. It takes years to master an instrument-you'll get there with regular, methodical practice. Have patience in the short term, perseverance in the long term, and faith in yourself always.

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