Updated: Jan 23
"Practice, practice practice!"
"Practice makes perfect"
When beginning to learn an instrument, it is important to make time for practice. Here at Greater Toronto Music School, our highly skilled teachers help students to build a practice routine that will work for them and help them progress more efficiently.
Practice Everyday (Or Almost)
There may be days where the opportunity to practice isn't as easy or possible, but practicing everyday (or almost) can be a big factor in a student's development. Missing a day isn't the end of the world, but by practicing every day progress will be more constant and new skills will improve more quickly. Remember that practicing helps increase muscle memory, which is an important aspect of successful practice.
Practice Shorter And More Frequently
Often students will practice everyday for one long session (e.g. everyday from 4-5pm before dinner). Although this is fine, breaking up practice time into smaller sessions (e.g. 2-30 minute sessions or 3-20 minute sessions) is proven to be more beneficial. By doing shorter and more frequent sessions, students don’t exhaust their brains past the point of interest on any one aspect before moving on to a new one. This can help keep students engaged by keeping things constantly fresh. At Greater Toronto Music School, our teachers can help students budget their time around school work and other responsibilities in order to maximize their progress.
Practice A Variety Of Material
It may be tempting to practice more fun or familiar material, but it is important that students challenge themselves by practicing a variety of contrasting material during their practice sessions. Working on all facets of the instrument such as reading/sight reading, technique, intonation, rhythm and a variety of exercises or compositions will be beneficial to any student’s progress. By practicing a variety of material, the student will be a more well-rounded musician/performer. Naturally some of these may be areas of weakness for the student. By practicing a variety of material, students will work to develop these weaknesses into strengths! At Greater Toronto Music School, our teachers will help students select a variety of material to work through. Here is a link to have a look at a variety of printed music available, everything from piano to orchestral band :
Have A Clear Goal
Every practice session should have a goal or a set of goals. Students will be practicing a variety of material and it is important to set challenging but attainable targets within these sessions. This will encourage students to practice diligently and with a clear direction. Some practice session goal examples could be:
15 mins technique (chords, scales, fingerings)
15 mins sight reading
15 mins classical piece practice
15 mins pop song practice
By setting clear goals for practice, students will be able to better budget their time and more clearly define their path to progress.
Train Your Ears
Listening to music can help inspire the student. Since the ultimate goal of playing an instrument is to play music, it is important to listen to and reference the music being studied. For example, if preparing a specific piece for a concert or recital, it will be important to reference a version of that piece played correctly. At Greater Toronto Music School our skilled teachers may also provide help with a variety of ear training exercises designed to help students be better listeners and therefore better musicians.
Track Your Practice
Another important and helpful tip for more efficient practice is to write down and track progress. Writing things down helps to solidify ideas and internalize them more permanently. During or at the end of every practice session write down what was worked on and even for how long. Keeping a journal of the work being done also helps to provide the student with a record and proof of their progression. Seeing this progress can help build confidence which is a great tool for improvement. Our teachers at Greater Toronto Music School are focused on building healthy habits for healthy development.
Practice With A Metronome
One of the most useful and important facets of music is rhythm. No matter how many notes are played, it is the rhythm that organizes the sounds and creates music. It is important to have a tempo reference when practicing. The metronome has long been used in practice rooms to help provide that reference. Using a metronome can help the student feel the underlying pulse of the music and make it easier for the student to subdivide the rhythm. When using a metronome, it is important to start slowly and build up speed incrementally. This will provide the student with a deeper understanding and familiarity of the the tempo. Your teacher at Greater Toronto Music School can help select a metronome that is right for you (and help understand how to use it). Here is a link to some different metronome options on a local music store’s website:
Stick To A Schedule
This can be a tough one because schedules change all the time and the most important thing is to make the time to practice at all. So if things shift or a day is missed it's no worry. That being said, routine is very helpful when trying to build on foundations and develop skills. By keeping this routine and being consistent, students build healthy habits that can also help them in their daily lives.
Mental practice when not physically playing an instrument can also be a helpful tool for improving. By visualizing and maybe even physically mimicking movements, (e.g. piano or sax fingerings or tapping out rhythms) a student can supplement their regular practice. Visualizing as deeply as possible actually helps to build stronger mental understanding even when not playing the instrument. Students are encouraged to practice mentally while listening to music or on the bus (or anytime when away or unable to practice).
Reward Yourself And Have FUN!
It is important to remember that ALL work and NO play is pretty DULL. When working diligently at practicing an instrument, it is important to reward yourself for reaching your goals. Hard work and commitment deserve to be rewarded and even celebrated! Students are encouraged to take breaks and enjoy the success they’ve created through their practice. Whether it's an ice cream cone, a new instrument or just a day off, rewarding oneself for a job well done is a nice incentive to keep up the good work. At the end of the day, music is supposed to be fun, so don’t forget to have LOTS of FUN while playing music.