The Importance of Effective Practice

Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent! Careless practice can actually result in poorer performance.

Effective daily practice is the cornerstone of steady progress.

Leave your music open on your piano so that it’s ready for you to practice at any moment. Don’t skip days, thinking you will make up the time. This almost never happens. Practice can be spread out throughout the day if that works better. Playing straight through a piece from beginning to end is not practice. Doing this doesn’t result in any learning or improvement.

Most students don’t like practicing for two reasons.

  1. They practice in a way that fails to produce improvement.
  2. Although they practice carefully and make improvements, they fail to practice in a way that ensures retention of what they’ve learned.

Here are ideas to  direct your child’s practice to get the most out of every practice minute.

  • Read the practice notes from the previous lesson for what is to be addressed in each piece.
  • Set goals to work towards in each practice session even if they are small ones. Goals can be taken directly from the practice notes.
  • Work on the most challenging spots first.
  • Break the music down into small sections.
  • Practice slowly and strive for accuracy. The majority of students play too quickly, resulting in many mistakes.
  • Practice a section 3 or 4 times then move onto the next section before you return to the first section
  • Repeat the passage several times after you get it right
  • Before you end each practice session play the entire piece and enjoy!

It’s well known that students who aren’t prepared don’t enjoy their weekly lesson and quit lessons after a short while.

Daily practice helps to keep a musician toned, strong, limber and relaxed. Music practice places many demands on the body, so it’s important to keep the body up to the task. Warm up and prepare before practicing rigorously, then the body will benefit from the exercise. If not, there is a risk of developing bad habits and physical tension.

If you or your child have trouble practicing every day, try alternating with days of light and heavy practice. That’s what tri-athletes do. Break the practice into smaller morning and afternoon sessions if that works better. There is no rule that all practice must be done in one session.

Even a small improvement is an improvement and leads to a more fun and focused lesson. This in turn often results in a stronger desire to practice. It’s a win-win.

Don’t Skip Days!

There will come days when you or your child don’t have time for a full practice session. There will be times something else comes up that you’ll choose to do instead. And some days you or your child will honestly feel too tired to practice – or just don’t feel like practicing.

On days like these go easy on the practice but don’t skip it entirely. Shorten it! Put in five or ten minutes, give yourself a pat on the back, and then call it a day but do at least 5 minutes a day, just to keep the habit.

You may feel disappointed that you or your child didn’t put in a significant effort but a few minutes of practice goes a long way toward staying on track and making progress. It certainly maintains and strengthens the “daily commitment” which counts for a lot, and surprisingly it really makes a significant contribution toward progress.

Remember that the “daily” aspect is more important than the amount of time. Especially at first!