10 Tips for the Perfect Music Practice Session

“How do I make it big in music?”

There’s only one answer, and I think you already know it: “Practice, practice, practice!”

In truth, practice is about 90% of the process, so you better be doing it! And to help make sure you’re doing it right, this week we’ve got 10 practice tips to help you make the most out of each and every session!

Set Goals

One of the worst things you can do when it comes to practice is to simply sit in your music room and play something. Sure, technically you’re practicing, but it will be entirely ineffective. Instead, in order to make the most of each practice session, you need to make a plan of attack, so to speak, regarding what it is you need to do and want to accomplish each time you sit down with your instrument.

Are you trying to memorize a piece?

Do you need to work on your fingering of a particular passage?

Are you struggling with your breathing on a difficult phrase?

If you head into your practice room with a goal in mind, you’ll be more focused and motivated, and will have a much more impact practice session.

Keep a Log

Going hand in hand with setting goals is actually writing them down. What’s more, when you’ve finished practicing, make a note of whether or not you accomplished your goals. This will give you a chance to reflect on your practice and determine why you might not have met your goal this time.

Spread it Out

Depending on your skill and your goals, the amount of practice time you should be getting in every day can vary. If you’re serious about learning your instrument quickly, your teacher may suggest practicing up to 3 hour per day. But this doesn’t mean that you need to lock yourself in your music room for a solid 3 hour block of time! In fact, while proper practice requires focus and clarity of mind, it can also be exhausting. If you spread those three hour out a bit, by breaking them into 3, 1-hour sessions, you will stay focused better during each session, and you’ll be able to use your time more efficiently.

Your actual instrument may also play a factor in this; a pianist may have the strength and stamina to play for 2 solid hours, but a vocalist certainly should not.

Keep the Meaning of Practice in Mind

Practicing does not mean just playing through your music. Sure, there will be times when you’re preparing for a performance and you’ll need to play through the whole piece, but that shouldn’t be your goal when learning it. This can actually make the piece harder to learn. If you’re having technical or memorization issues, by playing all the way through, you’re only practicing those mistakes, and making them worse by working them into your muscle memory. This will only make it harder to learn the piece correctly later.

Take it bit by bit, learning smaller sections one at a time, and string them together to make longer passages.

Repetition, Repetition, Repetition

They say that in order to break a bad habit, you need to do something the proper way 100 times. Which means, every time you miss that note in the passage you’re struggling with, you’ll need to repeat the passage the correct way 100 times! Like we discussed in the last tip, break up larger sections and repeat them correctly until you have them down pat.

Create an Effective Space

Your practice room should be free of distractions, and full of the proper tools for you to practice effectively and efficiently. Make sure it’s a quiet space, without any TV, computer, or tablets, and set the temperature to a comfortable level. Ensure you’ve got enough light, a metronome if needed, pencils, a mirror, your music and instruction books, water, and any other accessories you need for a successful practice session.

Warm Up

The most important way to start any practice session is with a good warm up. But that said, you can’t just run through the motions while thinking about something else entirely. The entire point of warming up is not only to get your muscles moving, but also to help solidify your technique, and bring your mind and body to the proper place to focus on the task as hand; namely practicing.

Before you start, remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing. As you go through your warm up exercises, try to stay aware of what you’re feeling, how you’re breathing, if you’re tense at all, etc. Keep you mind focused on your warm up and practice.

Record Yourself

This is a powerful tool! By recording your practice sessions – both audio and video – you can listen back and catch places where you made mistakes that you might have missed in the moment. Listening to your practice session can help you with tone issues, while watching your sessions can show you if you have any tension or posture issues you didn’t know about.

Practice Isn’t About Just Playing

Playing your instrument is, of course, a major part of your practice sessions, but that’s not what it’s all about – you also been to practice your artistry and engage your mind. That means that your practicing should also include listening to great performers play what you’re learning and analyzing what makes their performances so great. Practice should involve studying the history and performances of a particular piece. Practice should involve diving deeper into the music and its meaning to fully engage your own heart and mind.

Becoming a musician is about so much more than simply learning how to play an instrument; you need to add time to expand your knowledge of your music, your instrument, and your art.

Practice Something Every Day

The simple fact of the matter is that it’s better to practice for 20 minutes every day than it is to practice for 2 hours on only one day each week. Today’s world has left us will very little spare time to ourselves, so if you can’t put in several hours of practice every single day, that’s understandable and okay. But if you want to improve, you’ll need to commit to working on your instrument each and every day, even if that means some days all you do is your warm up routine.

The consistency will pay off in the end!