Music and efficiency don’t always sound very compatible. When we think efficiency, we think about business or about machinery, not artistic things. However, we are aiming for efficiency in our practicing, playing, and singing. The more of it we have, the more room we have for expression, artistry, and creativity! Here is some of what...
Music and efficiency don’t always sound very compatible. When we think efficiency, we think about business or about machinery, not artistic things. However, we are aiming for efficiency in our practicing, playing, and singing. The more of it we have, the more room we have for expression, artistry, and creativity! Here is some of what science is discovering about the best ways to practice and how you can help your student implement them.
The Type of Practicing Matters
There is a big difference between just spending some time sitting at the piano and playing around, and doing something purposeful when you practice. As much as we want students to enjoy their instrument, we also want them to progress! Practice has to involve your mind as much as your instrument. To really get something accomplished, practicing needs focus–a specific goal. This could involve conquering a certain passage of a piece, or focusing on rhythm for the week.
Action Item: Have your student’s teacher set specific goals for the week and write them down. Ask your student how their goal is coming along as the week goes on.
When you Practice Matters
Everyone has their own schedule and their ideal time of day to practice, and that’s pretty individual. That isn’t what we’re talking about. What’s most important is that you don’t try to practice the way some people study for tests: one hour of practice one day a week is less effective than 10 minutes of practice over 6 days time. Cramming doesn’t work for anything really, and especially not for music.
Action Item: Space practice out into regular intervals for a minimum of 3 days a week. Keep your focus levels high for as long as possible (up to 20 minutes, depending on age), and then take a break.
Mistakes Matter (not the way you think)
Mistakes happen to everyone. We try to keep as many of them in the practice space as possible, but perfection isn’t the goal–excellence is. The way we deal with mistakes is what separates better musicians from lesser ones. If you take the attitude that mistakes will fix themselves, you’ll have a hard time progressing with your instrument. More experienced students should have some strategies for problem-solving on hand, but don’t be afraid to ask your teacher for more strategies. Practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes semi-permanent.
Action Item: Slowly, carefully work through tricky passages. Don’t avoid working on the difficult parts, work on them first, and then repeat them correctly a few times.
Check out this video below for more information on what we know about the way practicing works with our brains:
Feel free to read up more using the links below.