Article: Eight ways to get the most out of your practice:

If you action one technical or musical goal every day and focus on this for a week or a term, imagine how much closer your playing will be in reaching it’s full potential.

  1. Keep your targets in sight at all times
    Put your practice goals in a prominent place where you can constantly refer to them for guidance, inspiration, direction and motivation. Fixing the goals on the music stand is one idea. Use a notebook for writing down inspiration and technical goals from lessons and use it to chart your time alone with your instrument.
  2. Plan your practice, work your practice
    Write down your goals and dreams, think in the long term and then work backwards to create smaller performance, practice or technical goals. This way all practice time is beneficial and not time ‘wasted’. Define specific annual goals and then divide into quarterly, monthly and then weekly tasks. Once you see it on paper or on the fridge or your music stand, you will be better focused and more efficient in your learning. It will also serve to chart a record of your successes and repertoire learnt. When making your weekly practice schedule, be realistic and target only 2 or 3 technical pointers to refine and keep a healthy mix of exercises, scales, studies, sections of pieces.
  3. Know your biological clock
    Are you an early bird up at the crack of dawn with a brain fresh and ready to seize the day? Or are you a night bird, preferring to work till late into the night? Or perhaps you function best in the afternoon? Try to match your practice goals with these times. Optimize your productivity and practice time by splitting your work into categories i.e. muscle memory and accuracy i.e. scale work do in the morning when your body is most rested and relaxed, save the creative challenging musical decisions and work till when your brain and body are talking to each other, perhaps the evening when you need to unwind after a hard day at school or work.
  4. Bank time for different activities
    Organise your daily routine so your practice session can be as uninterrupted as possible. Group you daily activities into time segments. Draw up a timetable if you work from home. Look at your school timetable and find opportunities to grab 20 or 30 mins with your instrument during breaks or even consider doing your main session before you even go to school or work. ‘Bank’ phone calls with voice mail and hang a ‘Do Not Disturb – musician in the making’ sign on your bedroom door!
  5. Try working looking at an inspiring view
    If you have a great view from your house, use it. Sit so either nature or people can inspire you. I also try and sit in different rooms to get different acoustics and sounds and I also enjoy playing outside. Find your perfect spot.
  6. End the session with review and planning
    Include a few minutes at the end of your session and at the end of your week to review what you’ve accomplished and what will become ‘To Do Tomorrows’ list. Perhaps consider writing down the exact order of what you will practice with the number of minutes spent on each task – you’ll be surprised how mental practice will help in achieving your goals quicker. Subconsciously your brain will be working on this as you sleep, work or play.
  7. Refine, don’t re-invent
    Once you find a routine that suit’s you, stick to it.  Resist changing your practice pattern every week. Consistency and determination is the key here. Create a balance in your day so you enjoy and look forward to having some time alone with your thoughts and your instrument, Guilt at leaving it all till the last minute never creates a healthy working environment!
  8. Give yourself credit and rewards
    Accept that you can’t be productive 100% of the time, this is simply human nature. Give yourself rewards for working well and achieving your daily tasks and musical goals. You could treat yourself at the end of a term to a new CD or something on i-tunes, or perhaps an inspiring concert. Or if you are like me, go shopping and then sit in your favourite café with cake and a cappuccino!
Cello Practice

Cello Practice

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