Practice music – What to do outside of your music lessons

Practice makes perfect. These three words are heard every day and time after time these words are ignored. But why? Music is such a vast subject that for anyone, even the professionals, mastering it is near impossible. With years of work one can be very knowledgeable in specific areas of music but it would take more than a lifetime to fully understand every aspect of an instrument or music theory.

With that in mind hopefully people should start to understand that having an hour lesson once a week is not even close to enough to progress and develop on an instrument. This series of articles offer tips on practicing music which will hopefully show that practicing can be just as enjoyable as performing.

1. Goals are key. It is human nature to take pride in reaching a goal whether a promotion at work or winning a competition. If you set a goal to reach you will be more willing to put in the work required to achieve it. Some examples of your goal could be: to learn the latest song you’ve fallen in love with, to be able to sight read in a certain key, to develop faster playing or to reach a certain exam grade by a certain date.

2. Little often is better than a lot occasionally. Another common phrase! One key point to remember is that repetition is the quickest way to learn something as your brain and muscles develop a ‘muscle memory. If you practice one song for two hours once a week it will take four times as long to learn than if you practiced it for half an hour once a day.

Another benefit of practicing a little often is that you keep concentration throughout your practice session. Brass players will understand this the most – after playing a trumpet for an hour your lips begin to go numb which begins to restrict your playing. The effect of this is that the longer you practice without a break, the more harm you will do – it will knock your spirit and could even do damage physically. If you need to practice for longer periods be sure to take regular breaks.

3. Routine. Imagine this – every morning you wake up, maybe make a cup of coffee or sort through the post but one thing is for sure – at some point you will go to the sink and brush your teeth. Now most people do this without any thought – it is just something that gets done. . This is the effect of getting into a routine. If you set aside a time each day to practice, away from distractions if possible, you will get into this routine making it much easier – a part of your day to day life – to practice.

4. Practice with someone else. And again – another well known phrase! Most humans love competition – especially if you know you are the winner –and by tapping into this you’re making your practice session less of a chore and more of a game. Set challenges between you both and find some reward for the winner. The other benefits this has are that you gain an outsiders opinion and criticism on your playing, the opportunity to practice duets and you have some company rather than being locked away in your bedroom.

This just touches on methods for practice but in the next article I will go through some musical tips to help you improve your practice – using a metronome, a fun method for scales and arpeggios and incorporating sight reading and music theory into the sessions.

For now just focus on your desires and on the reasons why you started music and give the tips above some thought.