Everyone knows practicing is important. But most people don't practice very effectively, and as a result, they end up wasting a lot of time.
Here are 5 tips to make the best use of your practice time:
1. MAKE TIME FOR DAILY PRACTICE
Practicing daily for small amounts of time is SO much more beneficial than last-minute cramming before your lesson (I know we've all been guilty of this!).
Even all you have is 10 minutes a day, set aside that time for practicing. You'll be amazed at how fast you progress even with short practice sessions.
2. SET GOALS
This is the most important step. Without goals, you’ll just be aimlessly wandering. You might improve eventually, but you’ll waste a lot of time along the way.
Your goals need to be specific. “Practice for 30 minutes” isn't the best goal. “Repeat that tricky guitar part in the bridge of this song until it’s committed to muscle memory. Then play it in the context of the song with a metronome until I can play it consistently.” …THAT’S a goal.
I like to take a second to write down my goals before I practice. If your main goal is to “learn X song with both guitar and vocals” then break it down into steps. Here’s an example of how to do that:
- Play through the chord progression and make sure you can switch from chord to chord seamlessly.
- If there’s a chord transition that’s difficult, practice switching between those chords on a loop.
- Play through the entire song with guitar without stopping.
- Add in the vocals. Play through the whole song and take note of any tricky spots.
- Isolate the tricky spots and practice them on a loop.
- Put it all together - Play through the whole song without stopping.
3. IDENTIFY, THEN ISOLATE
The fastest way to learn a song is not to play it 100 times straight through. The fastest way is to identify the tricky spots, isolate them, and repeat them over and over again until you could do them in your sleep.
It's easy to be in denial about those spots and just think, “all I need is to play through the entire song again and I’ll get it this time.” But the truth is, you can learn your songs MUCH faster if you spend most of your practice time on the tricky spots.
So do yourself a favor. Admit to yourself that every section of the song is not an equal level of difficulty (they NEVER are!). And give the more difficult spots the attention they deserve.
4. START WITH THE MOST DIFFICULT TASK
This is something I personally have noticed. When I save the hard spots til the end of my practice session, I often get too burnt out to give them the attention they need — or even worse, I call it quits before I even get to them.
I find I’m most motivated at the beginning of my practice sessions — and when I tackle those dreaded tasks first thing, I have SO much more energy for the rest of the practice session because that weight has been lifted and I can focus solely on the fun stuff.
5. USE A METRONOME
If you’ve never used a metronome to practice before, you might be surprised at how difficult it is to stay with the beat. It takes some serious focus and the ability to adjust your tempo with every beat.
When you first start playing a piece with the metronome, you’ll realize you were rushing certain sections, slowing down in other sections, and suddenly those little inconsistencies in your tempo will become glaringly obvious. (Don't worry, that’s normal!) We’re not robots, and those little tempo changes throughout the song are what make us human. But the metronome can help illuminate major tempo changes that we weren’t even aware of.
It also will help you with practicing those tricky sections — it’s SO hard to slow down a section that you’re used to playing full-speed. The metronome will help force you to maintain a slower speed for the sake of practice.
So try these practice techniques next time you sit down to practice — and watch how you improve.
At NOLA School of Music, our teachers encourage our students to practice in between lessons and help guide their practice habits. Sign up for private lessons with us today!