Becoming the best musician you can be takes practice, but it can be hard to know where to start. Here are 5 practice habits you can use to get the most out of your practice time, whether you're a beginner or a professional:
Pick a few specific days a week to schedule 30 minutes of practice
Break down a song into small chunks and practice each until you feel comfortable moving on to the next one
Record yourself playing and watch/listen to find areas where you can improve
Make notes of things you'd like your teacher to help you with
Set small goals and celebrate your progress
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Learn more about how each of these habits can help build your skills below:
1. Pick a few specific days a week to schedule 30 minutes of practice: Small steps can lead to big changes. You might benefit from some structured time playing your instrument, and choosing which days work best with your schedule can help you set aside 30 minutes of uninterrupted playing. That's about the length of one TV show! Even just 3 times a week is an hour and a half you otherwise wouldn't have practiced.
2. Break down a song into small chunks and practice each until you feel comfortable moving on to the next one: When you're learning a piece of music it might feel overwhelming to tackle the entire song at the same time. Instead of painstakingly trying to play your way through the entire piece and making the same mistakes that you hope will go away, take the pressure off yourself. By separating it into chunks that you can work on you'll have the opportunity to fine tune each section and feel the progress as you make it. Then when you put all of the chunks together at the end you'll have a complete song to be proud of.
3. Record yourself playing and watch/listen to find areas where you can improve: This one's as easy as pulling out your smartphone and hitting record. Try utilizing video and audio recording. Video can help you notice how you're physically playing your instrument and what you look like. This could help you notice that you are placing your fingers in the wrong spaces or hunching over. Audio recordings can help you focus on just the music and notice where your intonation might need some work, or if you're off tempo!
4. Make notes of things you'd like your teacher to help you with: Sometimes no matter how many times you try you just don't know how to fix something that comes up over and over. Luckily if you're in an ensemble class or are taking private lessons you have the benefit of someone who can help answer questions, spot the root of the problem, and get you on track to joyfully playing through a piece. Bring your notes to your teacher and ask them for guidance when you need it.
5. Set small goals and celebrate your progress: If you never take a moment to celebrate the small wins you might never feel like you've made it to the finish line and never celebrate at all. There is so much to be proud of as a musician. Maybe you mastered a new piece, found your way through a difficult passage, or did an audition you were nervous for. Grab a snack, dance with your friends, or find something special to commemorate the moment. We only get so many.
Bonus tip: if your instrument is portable enough, take it with you when you hang out with your friends, when you visit family for the holidays, or on a day out to the park. Even 10 minutes of playing can teach you new things.
Wondering when it might be time to upgrade your instrument? Learn how to spot the signs.