Music Teacher's Helper Blog

20 Practice Tips

1. Warm Up

2. Practise often

Small, frequent practice sessions are more effective than one or two longer sessions each week.

3. Have a plan

Have immediate, short and long-term goals.

4. Develop a practise routine that works for you

5. Practise at you instrument and away from it

Next time you’re on a bus, plane or train, try practising without your instrument. Study the score, analyse the harmony, think through the phrasing. You will be amazed at how easy it is to become familiar with a piece when you don’t have your technique distracting you.

6. Listen

Enough said.

7. Make notes

Keep a pencil with your instrument and scribble as often as you need to in a practice journal or on your music. As you become more familiar with a piece you can start to remove unnecessary practise markings from the score.

8. Make noise

Don’t be afraid to sing, clap or count aloud.

9. Listen to different recordings of repertoire you are learning

Analyse aspects of technique, expression, style and interpretation.

10. Identify the problem

Don’t bash through a piece aimlessly, wondering why it hasn’t improved. Identify the problem and get to work on that particular passage.

11. Repetition is key

If you play a particular passage incorrectly 5 times in a row, then finally get it right on the sixth try, don’t move onto something else. In doing so, you have effectively practised the wrong thing 5 times and the correct passage only once. The number of times you play a passage correctly needs to far outweigh the number of times you played it incorrectly.

12. Decide on fingering and be consistent with it

Make decisions early in the process and stick with them.

13. Play as many details on your first read as possible

Dynamics, articulation, phrasing, etc are as much a part of the music as the pitches and rhythms.

14. Practise slowly

15. Refer constantly to lesson notes

Prior to each practice session, read over the lesson notes from your teacher.

16. Record yourself

This can sometimes help with Practise Tip #7.

17. Understand the difference between practice and play..

And make sure you do both!

18. Don’t practise when you are tired

You won’t achieve anything if you aren’t focused and concentrating when you practise. This only leads to frustration.

19. Be aware of your entire body, not merely your fingers

20. Be inspired

Feed yourself a steady diet of live performances, books on music, YouTube clips and audio recordings of your favourite performers.

About the Author

Nicole Murphy
Nicole Murphy is a pianist and composer residing in Queensland, Australia. She has been teaching both piano and composition privately and in schools for over 8 years, with students currently ranging in age from four years to eighty-five years. She holds a Bachelor of Music (Honours Class I) from the Queensland Conservatorium of Music and is currently working towards a Masters of Music. As a freela... [Read more]

3 Comments

  1. Mike Saville

    Hi Nicole, thanks for the list. I’m glad to see that you included many ‘non-musical’ tips here as well, such as ‘be inspired’ and ‘have a plan’. It’s these elements that can often make the difference between effective practice and just playing.

  2. Dr. Jon Skidmore

    With out a proper plan and a willingness to follow it I believe that about a third or more of practice is wasted. Unfortunately practice time is seen as the big key. I really feel more emphasis needs to be spent of organization, time manage and attitude management.

    I like to have student start their practice session with a breathing exercise to help them get focused mentally and relaxed physically.

    Dr. Jon
    See http://www.JonSkidmore.com for additional tips on preparing for a performance.

  3. Innesa

    thank you for some useful points in your post.

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