Establishing a Practice Routine
One of the biggest reasons that students fail to either succeed, or progress on their chosen instrument, is lack of an established practice routine. I often tell my students that, I could tech them everything they need to know to play their instrument in a relatively short period of time. On a mental level, what they need to know is not all that difficult to understand. The difficulty lies in being able to physically execute the moves that they need to, in order to actually play the instrument. This requires a lot of physical repetition. So to succeed, you need an established practice routine. Here are some guidelines to get you started.
Practice Every Day
By having a routine of practicing every day, there is no "I forgot to practice today" excuse. Believe me, I’ve heard this one probably more than any other excuse. If you do it every day, then you can’t forget. Remember too that every day of practice lost, is like missing two days of practice. The day you miss, your skills will begin to diminish. It will take you the whole next practice session to get your skills back to where they were before you missed the day of practice. So, you now have missed the equivalent of two days of practice. Practicing every day will kepp this from happening. Enough said!
Practice at the Same Time Each Day
You want to have a set time each day that you practice. That does not mean that you have to practice at say, 3:30 every day, although if that works for you, then fine. What I mean is, have a specific time each day that you stick to. Depending on your schedule, the time may be different on some days, but try and keep it the same on any given day if possible. So for instance, you practice at 4:00 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 3:30 on Tuesday and Thursday, and at 9:00 in the morning on Saturday and Sunday. While the times are different, they are consistent each week. This sets a routine, which is what you want.
Practice a Consistent Length of Time
As important as a consistent time to practice is, it is also important to keep the length of time consistent. For beginners, no less than half an hour of practice each day is a starting point. As you progress, and hour is better. Having said that, how you divide the time up can vary. Let’s say that you want to practice an hour every day. That does not mean that it has to be an hour straight. For instance, say that you find that after twenty minutes, you find that your attention begins to wander. In your case, you may want to divide that hour into four twenty minute practice sessions. The point is that you want the time that you put in to be effective, as well as consistent.
Have a Clear Idea What You will Practice
When you go into a practice session, you want to have a clear idea what you will be practicing that day. Have a clear, attainable goal set for what you want to accomplish that day. I have seen so many students set unrealistic goals in a practice session, or get into what I call the Ten Book Syndrome. They sit down with this big pile of books on the music stand and attempt to get to all of them in one practice session. Keep your goals clear and attainable. It is better to get a few things done well, that attempt to do too many in a sloppy, mistake-filled manner. This only results in frustration and failure in the long run.
Think of it this way, you can read a book on swimming and understand what you have read, but this is not the same thing as actually swimming. You need the physical practice and repetition in order to master any skill. Only an effective practice regimen will develop the necessary skills to not only understand what to do, but to also be able to do it. That is why establishing a practice routine is so important. Without it, you will have great difficulty achieving your musical goals.