Organizing Your Practice
As the school year gets closer we all find ourselves getting back into routines, setting schedules, etc. We are getting, in a word, organized. And as music lessons get into full swing it’s definitely a good idea to organize your daily practice. Here's a routine I use with my students that you can use as way of organizing your practice:
Warm up – Playing an instrument is a very physical activity, and we have to be sure we’re ready to go, much like an athlete has to warm up before a competition. Start simply by playing a short melody, an easy piece, or a few chords. This doesn’t just get the fingers warmed up, having a routine sharpens your focus getting you mentally warmed up and will make the rest of your practice routine more enjoyable.
Exercises – The finger exercises, scales, arpeggios, and etudes your teacher assigns every week which seem to be the bane of students’ lives are essential to learning an instrument. If musicians are athletes, then playing these exercises is our time at the gym improving our game. The time spent on these is well worth it as you’ll find your instrument gets easier and easier to play as you strengthen all your techniques. And, if you go through your exercises early in your practice routine you’ll actually start to look forward to them!
Pieces – The whole reason you chose to take lessons was to play your favorite songs, jazz standards, classical pieces. In building a practice routine it will help to have sub-categories for your pieces as your repertoire grows. A few categories helpful for students are: new/untouched, new piece-with fingerings, partially learned piece - can be played slowly, memorized piece, and performance-ready piece. Also in your practice, set goals for what you want to accomplish that day; do you want to work on rhythm? tempo? tone? Focus on polishing small sections, rather than playing kind of sloppily from start to finish just to say you did it.
Time to be creative – Always save time to express your own musical voice. Improvise melodies, write a short piece for yourself, play through an old favorite of yours. Sing a melody and try to play it back (don’t be afraid to really belt it out!), start off simply with only a few notes, then make it more and more challenging for yourself as time goes on.
We all started in music because it’s fun, structure your practice routine in a way so that you maximize your enjoyment of music!