I admit it. I’m at a low point when it comes to practicing music. It’s not that I never practice - I just don’t practice enough to be consciously improving.
It hasn’t always been that way. I can point to a number of very effective periods in my musical life where the right practice has led to quantum leaps in my playing. During those times I spent at least an hour practicing every day (sometimes more), had a focus each week on what I wanted to get good at, but didn’t spend all of my time just focusing on that one thing. I divided my time between theory, warm-ups, scales and licks, and practicing other things I’d learned over the previous months.
I feel like it must be time for that to happen again, though I haven’t decided whether to focus on keys or guitar or to learn a new instrument. So I opened my browser up at Google, and started to look for inspiration. There’s a lot of it out there! Here are some useful sites that I found.
This one’s a bit of a long read - which is perfect if you want to procrastinate with your practicing! While aimed at singers considering a music career (and choir singers in particular), the article is also relevant to those practicing wind instruments. “A correlation may be drawn to other wind instruments where there is fundamental need to build stamina for playing that instrument.”
The article goes through some of the benefits of practicing for increasing amounts of time each week. It lists some of the benefits of practice as being endurance, improvement at soloing, and building a crescendo. The point of the article is to get you to imagine what you could be if you practice enough. Did it motivate you?
2. Connexions: A Guide to Great Home Music Practice
This article points out that even if you have a teacher, most of your progress will happen when you are practicing on your own. First of all you should get organized by setting goals and setting practice times. You don’t need to practice long, and it doesn’t hurt to skip a day, as long as you don’t skip days often.
The article then goes through what you should cover in your practice session: warm up, work on it (practice the hard bits and make sure you get it right), sight reading, cool down, and evaluate. Don’t practice the hard parts during the warm up - your body is not ready for them. And don’t practice the hard parts during the cool down - encourage yourself by playing something you enjoy and can play well. During the evaluation session, keep track of your progress and whether you are achieving your goals.
3. MusicTeachersHelper.com: A Shared Handout - “How to Practice”
With a focus on practicing drumming, this article covers six steps of music practice:
- Ask “Why am I practicing?” If you don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish, you never will.
- Get ready to practice. Get everything you need, make the environment suitable, and protect your hearing by wearing ear plugs.
- Warm up. Start with simple stretches, breathing exercises and some basic patterns.
- Practice with focus. Make sure every song and exercise relates to your daily goal. Saying “Close enough” is a terrible long-term strategy. Practice things that are difficult, and realize that initially they will sound terrible. Continually push yourself.
- Write it down. Write down your goals, what you practiced, and how long you practiced.
- Rinse and repeat. Practice daily.
4. Metronome: How to practice music
This brief article lists four things you need to master during practice: rhythm, technique, note accuracy/tuning, and tone.
5. BBC: How to Practise Music
Besides “repeating something many times”, this lengthier article describes how to make the best progress when practicing music. Some of the more interesting points include:
- Don’t rehearse your mistakes.
- A list of some crazy ways to avoid boredom.
- Isolate the problems.
- Speed kills - practice slow and steady, and use a metronome.
- Learn to read music with your eyes shut.
- Amateurs practice until they get it right; professionals practice until they never get it wrong.
- Little and often is the best way.
- It is surprisingly easy to fail to hear what you are doing.
- Music is important: take it seriously.
- Music begins and ends in communication.
6. Practicing Music Effectively - How to Apply This Practice Technique to Quickly Improve Your Skill
This article explores what makes a bad practice session. It warns of the ineffectiveness of rote learning, and warns that plain repetition can cause boredom.
The key concept: “Focusing your attention to very specific improvement in small steps.” This allows you to achieve real improvement in short sessions.
7. Learn-Music-Theory.com: Music Practice Skills - How Do I Practice?
We’ve heard some of the main points of this article before: set practice times, warm up, work on the difficult bits not the easy bits. This medium length article is quite helpful.
8. Helium: Ten tips for better music practice (9 Articles)
If you enjoy getting different perspectives, you’ll love this site. Nine people give ten tips for learning music - a total of 90 tips!
9. eHow: How to Practice Music Efficiently
Here are seven tips learned over twenty years as a professional musician:
- Eliminate distractions.
- Set a goal.
- Work through the music from top to bottom.
- Go back through the piece slowly with a metronome, taking notes.
- Review your notes before your next session.
Here are another six points for getting the most out of a practice session:
- Set a goal.
- Go slowly.
- Bring the speed up gradually.
- Repeat the steps.
11. Study Bass: How To Practice Reading Music
This article covers some main points for learning sight reading for bass guitar. Here are the headings:
- Consistent, Steady Reading Practice
- Trial Runs Are OK
- Pace Yourself When You Read
- Mind Your Fingering
- Position Yourself and the Music Well
- Say It Out Loud
12. Music Careers: How To Practice Guitar With A Limited Amount Of Time
If you only have a limited amount of time to learn guitar, you need to make the most of every minute. This article points out that your attitude has as much effect on your practice as what you do, and goes on to cover the essentials for getting significant results in your guitar playing.
“I want to share with you three powerful ideas and practice strategies that can be used to maximize results from your practicing by increasing efficiency. They can and should be applied regardless of how much time you have to practice, and especially when time is limited.” In short, the principles are:
- Blueprint for success
- Divide and conquer
13. eHow Video: Music Practice
This short video clip gives hints for practicing piano, and is part of a series of piano lessons.
Here is a summary of the video contents: “A musician should practice in short spurts by breaking up their practice sessions into learning five minutes of a piece at a time. Practice playing music in-between other errands with tips from a professional musician in this free video on music careers.”
14. Jazz FAQ Video Series: How to practice and play jazz music
This five minute video is a slide show with text and voice-over covering the main points of practicing jazz.
Did you find any of these sites useful and motivating? Do you have any tips about practicing music you would like to add? Let us know in the comments.