Geting the most from your practice time
Tuesday, May 14, 2019 by Benn Hammon | Uncategorized
Getting the most from your practice time.
A little bit of thinking and planning can completely remove the frustration that many people experience when attempting to learn to play an instrument. Here are some tips that will help you get the most out of your practice time.
Firstly, you need to set yourself a goal….or a series of goals. This means you need to decide why you're practising. This is different for every person so it's worth taking the time to think about it for yourself. Do you have certain songs you want to play? Do you want to create your own music? Do you want to take a graded exam? Your long term goals will determine what you need to practise in the short term.
If you're struggling to choose any specific goals then I suggest you seek some inspiration through listening to more music, going to gigs or just by talking to other musicians and music fans.
Decide how much time you will dedicate to practice.
Once you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve, the next step is to decide how much time you are willing to spend practising. If you are a beginner or a hobby musician and you want your playing to keep moving forward, you'll need to commit to a minimum of four practice sessions a week; each session needs to be at least 30 minutes. If you want to be a professional or semi professional you'll need to treat practising like it’s your second job for a few years.
Whatever your goals are, I can honestly tell you that I've never met anyone who regrets the time they spent practising and I've met hundreds of people who have the opposite problem.
Three types of practice.
When you practise, there are three key areas to focus on. You can do this in any order and spend different amounts of time focusing on each area but I highly recommend you keep a hand in all three areas each week.
1.Playing songs you already know.
Firstly this helps you remember the songs in case you get put on the spot and someone asks you to play them a song. It's also a chance to have some fun and improvise a little bit.
2.Practising new material.
This can be learning a new song or writing a new song. Choose something that's challenging but realistic. Also, don't be afraid to spend a long time working on one song or even part of a song.
For beginners, this pretty much means practising chord changes and for intermediate/advanced students it can mean scales, listening skills, rhythm skills and more.
This takes a bit more focus and patience than the other two areas but it's really the fast track to reaching your goals. Also, its character building!
How to practice.
Here are a few hacks that will help you speed up progress in all of the three areas without taking up any extra time.
Target difficult sections.
If you are learning a song and you can play parts of the song really well and you struggle with other parts, then it makes sense to focus most of your time practising the difficult parts. Learning the song will take less time if you stick to this method.
Slow down. This is counter intuitive but if you practise slowly, you'll learn faster. So many times i've seen people try and play the same riff over and over again at full speed and get it wrong every time. You could do that for hours and make zero progress. Instead, slow it down, play it super slow but absolutely perfect. Get really comfortable playing it slowly and accurately and then very gradually speed it up. This amounts to (you guessed it): More progress in less time.
Use a reliable method for memorising.
There's a simple method that I teach to all my beginner students and I actually still use this method myself when I'm practising for gigs and recording sessions.
Play the first four notes…, pause…, play them again…, pause…, play them again… on the 4th time, try to play them from memory. Don't worry if you don't get it first time, keep repeating them unit you can do it from memory three times in a row.
Once you've done this with the first four notes, do the same with the next four. Once you can do this with the next four, go back to the beginning and play all eight notes.
Then learn the next four, then go back to the beginning, etc etc.
If you gradually get into this habit, you'll be able to memorise music much faster. For some tours, I've learnt 30 songs in a week using this method.
Play the same section over and over again but "experience" a different aspect each time… Ok I know that sounds a bit abstract! Play it a few times only thinking about your left hand, then play it only thinking about your right hand, then play it a few times but instead of thinking about your hands just focus on listening to yourself playing it. Think of any other variations you can (only looking at your right hand, only looking at your left hand, playing with your eyes closed, focusing on just your sense of touch, focusing on your timing etc)
Start implementing these strategies right now: the results will be spectacular.