By the time you’ve read through this site, visited some sites about your own instrument, consulted your teacher and read some books you could easily find yourself overwhelmed with information about what you should be doing during your practice sessions.
Never fear help is at hand. If you remember back to your first lessons in music the chances are that you learnt the notes on the stave by using a mnemonic – that is a short word, rhyme or poem to help you remember something. In my case it was “Every Good Boy Deserves Fun” which tells me what the lines are on the treble stave (EGBDF). Even now over 20 years later I can still remember the note names in this way. By using the mnemonic below you will be able to remember the most important aspects of practice and hopefully be much more productive when you do practise.
What you need to practise could be set by your teacher but could just as easily be done by you. Your plan should set out those things you need to practise and for when. Most often you are given a plan each week by your teacher for the coming week. But you could create your own plan if you have an important concert coming up. Be sure to write your plan down and also show it to someone, that way you are more likely to follow it.
You should have a definite reason why you are practising. If you are not sure you can ask your teacher. There can be many reasons to practise. Perhaps you have a concert coming up or an audition. Maybe you have a technique that you need to work on or alternatively you might want to be better than anyone else at scales. Whatever your reason for practice make sure it is clear.
Plans and reasons are no good unless you take action. Make some time every day to take an action towards meeting your plan. Usually this will be to practise your instrument but doesn”t always have to be. You could for instance work out some fingering or perhaps do some research about the pieces you are playing.
To get the most out of the time you spend practising it is very important to concentrate. If you don”t you will not notice mistakes and not work on the things you need to. If you find your focus wandering that”s fine as long as you realise this. Take a break and come back later when you are able to concentrate better.
Stop regularly during your practice and ask yourself “What is it I”m trying to do here?” Make sure you are clear in mind before you resume your practice. If you are not clear revisit your plan and reasons to make sure you are.
Take a few moments to be quiet and imagine what the perfect performance of your piece would be like. How would it feel? What would the dynamics be like? How would it sound? Relax and imagine every aspect of the piece and your playing. After you do this return to your practice and try to emulate how you imagined it would feel.
Learn to sing what you play. If you know your piece really well you will easily be able to sing it from memory. When singing try to make all the same expressions and dynamics as you would on your instrument.
Lastly but perhaps most importantly make sure you enjoy yourself. By doing the above things you are much more likely to improve quickly and take pleasure in your practice.