Good Practice Habits: From Amateur to Maestro

While a select few musicians are natural-born prodigies, the vast majority of us have to start from square one. Refined talent is always the product of consistent, focused practice. How can you progress from amateur to maestro? Consider the following 10 tips for good practice habits.

1. Set Reasonable Goals

Clearly define your goals, both short-term and long-term, and determine how you will reach them. Is there a complex classical piece or an advanced technique you wish to learn? What potential obstacles may you face along the way and how can you overcome them? Write your plan of action down on a piece of paper and post it in the area where you practice. Check off what you accomplish over time to track your progress.

2. Practice Every Single Day

You're much more likely to retain what you learn and enjoy playing if you practice for 20 minutes each day rather than plow through a four-hour marathon once a week. Set aside a scheduled block of time for your daily practice session and stick to it whenever possible.

3. Warm Up

Prepare your hands, fingers, arms, and ears with some brief warm-up exercises. Also be sure to tune your instrument before you play. More experienced students may be able to do this simply by humming the notes, while others may need the aid of a manual tuner device or a tuning app.

4. Vary Your Routine and Challenge Yourself

While your practice schedule should be consistent, it should be anything but boring. Mix it up every few weeks to keep the learning process exciting and engaging. It may be tempting to focus on the pieces or techniques that you enjoy playing the most, but that will only stifle your progress. Gradually introduce new challenges so that you can become a well-rounded musician.

5. Proudly Display Your Instrument

We all know the truth of the adage "out of sight, out of mind". Keeping your instrument out of its case is a constant reminder to practice. Plus, it's also a great conversation starter!

6. Organize Your Sheet Music

Shuffling through a jumbled mess of papers wastes valuable practice time and starts off your session with needless frustration. Keep your practice area neat and tidy as you see fit, perhaps with labeled folders or a binder with dividers and tabs. Keep a pencil handy to mark your sheet music with helpful notes and reminders.

7. Choose a Private Spot to Practice

If your practice sessions are going to be productive, you'll need to play in quiet and calm surroundings. Let others know where and when you plan to practice each day so they can give you the privacy you need. If possible, put your devices on a "Do Not Disturb" setting so that you won't get distracted.

8. Use a Metronome

Playing slow scales can certainly help you hone your intonation skills. But you'll also need to learn how to quicken your speed for faster tempos. Using a metronome, whether in physical or digital form, keeps you on track with the rhythm of the piece you're playing. Maintaining a steady beat is just as important as staying in tune.

9. Record Yourself

Throughout your practice sessions, record yourself playing, especially during parts that are particularly challenging. View your recordings as useful feedback that make you aware of how you can improve. But don't just focus on your mistakes - take note of what you did well, too!

10. Have a Practice Buddy

Enlisting the support of a friend or fellow student can be a great way to make your practice sessions more fun, relaxing, and productive. Their constructive criticism can help you fine tune your skills and just their presence can strengthen your motivation to reach your musical goals.

Regardless of your experience level, good practice habits are a must. We hope these tips and tricks help you reach your musical potential and have fun along the way!