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How to Improve Your Music Practice Time

When it comes to practicing your instrument many students quit for lack of motivation or lack of time. Any musical instrument lessons whether piano, trumpet, guitar, voice, or other instrument must be practiced to improve your performance.

Practicing a musical instrument is developing a new skill. Think of a skill as a new behavior. In order to develop that behavior you have to have consistent repetition to create a habit. Musical practice is learning a new habit. Practicing isn't just playing or singing through a piece of music over and over but taking it apart, finding parts that need work on technique in order to improve.

I have found that students don't really understand the 'how' of practice. The following will help you make the most of your musical practice time:

1. Set realistic goals for yourself - whether it's mastering a new piece or improving your technique, having a specific objective in mind can help you stay motivated and focused. or instance if you are repeating the same mistake you have to isolate the mistake and repeat it in one measure for several times. Then you move on to adding the previous measure to it and seeing if you have successfully fixed it. If not you have to find new ways of isolating the measure and repeating it many more times because you had already created a bad habit that you now have to break. Fixing a bad habit takes much more time than spending time in the first place to make sure you get it right.

2. Print out your music and highlight the problem areas so you won't continue to make the same mistake repeatedly causing a bad habit. Remember that bad habits are much harder to break.

3. Practice with a metronome to count out the measures to ensure your rhythms are accurate. If you don't have a metronome available there are free apps on your smart phone that you can download for that purpose.

4. Break down your practice sessions into manageable chunks - instead of trying to tackle everything at once, divide your time into smaller measures. Start by practicing four measures and make sure the pitches and rhythms are correct before moving on to the next four measures.

5. Don't add the lyrics until you have mastered the melody and rhythms. It is important to realize that lyrics are language. The language center is on the brain's left hemisphere while music is on the right (unless you are left-handed). Int hat case the In the hemispheres in the brain are reversed. Keeping the brain tasks divided helps you practice better.

6. Practice backwards! Yes, you read that right. I had a professor at Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory of Music who made us practice from the last four measures backward and then the last eight measures etc. eventually adding and adding earlier measures. His theory was that people practice most at the beginning of a piece so in performance they can get lost from the middle of the piece to the end. I can attest that this did happ

7. The rule of thumb for practicing an instrument is to practice every day for the amount of time that your lesson is. If you have an hour lesson a week you should practice 60 minutes daily. a half-hour lesson is 30 minutes of practice daily. No one says that you have to do the practice in one sitting. I find that if a student breaks the time into 15 or 20 minute practice sessions they get more done. Practice your vocalize for 15 minutes than your music.

8. Never sing your song before you have vocalized. It is important to 'warm up your voice so you will sing without vocal strain, especially in your mixed and head voice.

9. Remember that learning something new has challenges. Take your time to learn the music correctly. If you are feeling frustrated it is probably time to put the music away and pick it up later in the day.

10. Lastly never practice when you are physically or mentally tired. Set up a repeated practice time earlier in the day and make tht time a habit. Think about the person you see running down the road at 6 a.m. daily. They have created a habit 'practicing' their running at the same time every day and if they don't they feel guilty for missing a day.

11 Positive reinforcement! If you have practiced well for the week remember to take a day off to rest your voice. Voice rest is essential to vocal health.

Enjoy improving your voice and practice techniques so you will be a champion performer!


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