How NOT to Practice
Much has been written on how to practice, but not much on how not to. I think sometimes it is important to mention certain habits or situations that are not conducive to a successful practice session. So let’s cover a couple of no-no’s for the next time you’re with your instrument.
Stop Mindless Practicing
I always encourage my students to engage their minds and their whole minds during their practicing. One of the biggest disservices one can do is mindlessly ramble off a session. In effect, you’ve wasted precious time, accomplished little to nothing, and given yourself a false sense of achievement. Worse still, you may have continued to ingrain poor practice behavior. Rather approach your sessions fresh, focused, and with a specific goal in mind. If you don’t already have a goal in mind, play through your piece and circle the areas where the train derails, or areas that aren’t as smooth as the rest. With these problem areas identified, let’s move on to my second point.
Stop Playing Through Your Pieces
What? Yes, I just said not to play through your pieces! If you’re playing through your pieces from beginning to end and stating that you’ve practiced, you’ve only fooled yourself. As in my first point, identifying problem areas is vitally important; not only that, you’re being economical with your precious practice time. By focusing on and triumphing over difficult passages, you have achieved more than the false sense of achievement that mindlessly playing through your pieces provides. Don’t be scared to put in the hard, nitty-gritty work – the rewards are far greater!
Stop Focusing on Tempo
I know it’s super fun to play all the easy bits really fast! And I know it is enticing to get a piece up to performance speed. But tempo and speed shouldn’t be your main objective. Actually, tempo should be one of the last aspects of a piece you should be worried about. Very often, as you practice the difficult passages mindfully, speed will come automatically. Rather practice slowly and accurately – these are more important.
Don’t Practice When You’re Tired or Frustrated
Practicing is serious business! You’re training so many different facets of your mind and body. You need to be fresh, focused, and in the correct frame of mind. Being conscious of how you approach your instrument and your practicing results in positive, constructive, and rewarding sessions. I think we can all do with more of those!
Stop Practicing With Poor Posture
I’m a violin and piano teacher, but I’m sure this applies to all instruments. Creating a good habit of practicing with correct posture each and every time is not only healthy for your body, it also redirects energy and brainpower to more important points of practice. And as you progress, you will be able to practice for longer periods of time without discomfort or injuring yourself. Good posture is also important to looking naturally good on stage during a performance.
I hope you all will find something that resonates with you while reading this article. Next time you get behind or pick up your instrument to practice, take a moment to think how best you’ll make the most of your practice session using my points. Good luck!