How to Practice Well

Published: Mar 17, 2021  |   Category: Practice Tips


Dr. Shinichi Suzuki says, "Practice on the days that you eat."

Whether you have been learning your instrument for 3 years or 3 months, it is important to understand how to practice. More than how to practice, it is important to organize your practice session for effectiveness and quality

Sure, you can sit down for 30 or 60 minutes and say, "OK, I practiced." But can you tell me what you worked on, how you worked on it and was the goal of how you worked on it produced?  

Some surefire pointers for an effective and quality practice session involve these 5 points:
 
  1. Taking notes during the weekly private lesson (or record it). If there is a specific goal your teacher has set for you for a finger exercise, for example, write that down, so you know what and how to practice it. Use a practice chart or a notebook to write in. Be sure to understand the what and how before you leave your lesson (see points 4 & 5 below).
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  2. Listening to your required pieces. This is the music you are working on or will be working on.  Please don't wait until you start on the new piece to learn it. Work on it first by listening to it every day.
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  3. Organizing your practice time by DTWH (I made this up). 
    • Days. How many days will you commit to practicing your craft?  Ideally, it should be 7!  But I understand some days are busier than others. So, if it's 5 days, commit to that.
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    • Time My students' goal for optimal success is 4 (for the really young beginner) to 10 (for the advanced student) hours a week. You should practice for at least 30-90 minutes daily.  Organize your time into chunks. You don't have to do everything in one sitting! Chunks can be spread out during the day, like this:
      • For the young beginner to Book 1 student:
        • 5 minutes on tone production or a technique 
        • 10 minutes on a scale and arpeggio study 
        • 10-15 minutes on your piece
        • 5 minutes on music theory assignment or sight-reading. For this level, the goal is to master one skill at a time. Then work on the next skill. 
      • For the more advanced student (as the student progresses, time of practice increases):
        • 15-25 minutes on tone, shifting, or technique (like vibrato, string articulations, etc.) exercises. This can include scales and arpeggios as well.
        • 10 minutes on an Etude - this focuses on many technique-building skills. My students begin with Wohlfarht Etudes Op. 45 when they graduate from Suzuki Book 1.
        • 25 minutes on your piece
        • 10 minutes on Sight-reading and music theory assignments
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  4. What. You know what to practice based on what your teacher has given to you during your weekly lessons.  The what of your practice involves these 5 ingredients:
    • Scales/Tone exercises
    • Technique builder
    • Piece(s)
    • Sight-Reading / Music Theory
    • Listening 
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  5. How. Your teacher explains this process during your lessons. For example, practice 10 repetitions of Twinkle Var. A keeping your eyes on your bow. Are you opening and closing your arm at the 2-eighth notes? Or, practice shifting from 1st to 3rd position, making sure that your left hand is relaxed and your thumb is not squeezing the neck.  These are goals to achieve during your daily practice session at home.
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Practicing efficiently makes for an effective and quality time that produces results.

#practicetips


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