Getting the Most from Music Practice Time

Whatever the musical instrument you’re learning, whether it is piano, guitar, drums, your own vocal chords, or the kazoo, you can master it, regardless of your age or current skill level. But finely honing skill takes time, the guidance of a qualified instructor to teach good technique and discourage bad habits, and lots and lots of practice. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your practice time.

1. Regardless of your instrument, it requires the use of muscles to play. Warm up your muscles to avoid injury. If you have been away from the instrument for awhile, more warm-up time may be needed. If you rehearse daily, your warm-up time will be minimal. Ask your music instructor for warm up exercises that are appropriate for you. If you don’t have a music instructor, send me an email at, and I would be happy to help you find exercises for your warm-up time.

2. Practice time should be fun. If it fails to be fun for you, then you simply won’t do it. So after your warm-up exercises, begin every practice session playing (or singing) something you know well and enjoy before you move on to your newest, most challenging piece.

3. Don’t skip the hard parts in your challenging piece! Students have a tendency to play the parts of a piece they know well over and over, and then stumble through the difficult parts without repeating them. While this makes practice time more fun, try using Tip #2 instead, playing a whole song you know well as a warm-up, satisfying your desire to play something you enjoy. Then move to your challenging piece, jumping right to the difficult part. Drill the hard part over and over again. Then drill it some more. Then play the whole piece up to the hard part. Then drill the hard part some more.

4. End on a positive note. When you’ve had enough drilling of challenging music, move back to the piece you know well and enjoy.

5. Because playing your instrument requires muscles, honing skill requires strengthening and improving the dexterity of those muscles. As with any physical exercise, practicing ten or fifteen minutes every single day is much more effective than practicing three hours once per week. Ideally, you should be practicing every day for a period of time equal to your lesson time. However, if that discourages you from practicing altogether, find ten minutes to squeeze in. You’ll find your skills improving much faster if you can practice daily.

6. Have a goal in mind. Practicing just for fun is nice, and many musicians get enough enjoyment out of music making that they can practice without incentive. But many musicians, especially newer students, need a performance opportunity for which to prepare. Knowing that you have to play in front of a crowd in three weeks can be the kick in the butt you need to find that daily practice time.

Happy music making!

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