I saw this great poster in a Band Director’s classroom last week and it really hit home with me.
We always do a lot of instrument rentals for students who have never played an instrument before. They want to be good at playing their instrument right away (their parents do, too!) but of course we all know it takes time to become skilled at anything, especially a musical instrument. Particularly–time practicing. Do they know how to practice for progress? Here are some tips:
- Find a quiet place to practice–This can be hard. We have one customer who says he used to practice in the bathroom and even the closet, with his trumpet facing into the clothes! It’s hard to concentrate with a lot going on around you and sometimes beginners are also embarrassed to play where people can hear them. Parents can help students find a place where they are comfortable, even at the very start of their musical journey.
- Be prepared–To get the best out of your limited practice time, have all the supplies you need together before you start, or better yet keep them together all the time. And don’t forget Every Musician Needs a Pencil!
- Set a goal–What do you want to accomplish today? Getting that run of 16th notes exactly right? Playing that piece at a certain tempo? If your goal is clear, you’re more likely to both feel like you’ve accomplished something and have actually done it!
- Start in the middle–Starting at the beginning and going on until you get to the end of a piece sounds logical, but it doesn’t give you a chance to focus on the difficult 4 measures in the middle. Go ahead and start with that and then place the whole piece through before you stop for the day.
- Reward yourself–What do you like to do other than play your instrument? Give yourself time to do that when you’re finished practicing and your brain will appreciate it every time you get to work!
We would all like to think that a lot of practice will make every performance perfect, but we are human and mistakes happen and even the best musicians do not always have perfect performances. I tell my voice students, mistakes are part of the joy of a live performance and we have to take them in stride. If we wanted it to be perfect, we would make a recording and play that. Live performance is a wonderful thing and a recording is not the same! Practice for progress, practice for fun, practice to get as close to perfect as you can in performance, and then go out there and have fun!