Beginning February 16, 2015, I will be asking to have students complete bi-weekly practice logs. Students are to submit their logs by March 2nd.
The log should cover the previous week's material and students are to log what they worked on in as much detail as possible. Students will receive 10 points every two weeks for their completed logs.
Practicing music or techniques on your instrument is not just playing through the same things over and over. In order to really practice and improve at something, make sure you are using the following practice techniques:
- Tempo - Play things at a variety of speeds. Learn your music slower than the correct tempo and faster than the correct tempo so that you are flexible to play at any speed. Try every new technique you learn slowly at first then gradually speed it up.
- Repetition - Many of the things we learn on an instrument require "muscle memory" to perform correctly time and time again. Practicing music and techniques many times develops the muscle memory for you to perform that music or skill successfully in the future.
- Isolation - An efficient musician must be able to first identify a problem they might be having then isolate that problem to practice on it. On a difficult piece of music, isolate a few notes at a time and gradually add more. When learning a playing technique, isolate the fundamental movements or actions that create that skill to discover which aspect of the skill is giving you trouble.
Learning Fast Passages of Music
When learning a fast passage of music always practice slowly first. Focus on playing the correct notes well in tune. Do not speed up the passage until you can play it accurately at a slower tempo. Focus carefully on intonation, many students play fast passages very out of tune because they never take the time to slow it down and focus on intonation.
Learning a New Piece
When learning new music work on small sections at a time, even just 2 notes at a time. Try not to get overwhelmed with the big picture. Every piece of music is just a collection of notes, rests and other symbols. You can learn the notes one at a time, like piecing together a puzzle. Practice small sections then larger sections and eventually you will have the entire piece learned.
Learning a Challenging Passage
When learning a difficult passage, try practicing slowly through the whole part and then try the "add-a-note" method. Play the passage at the desired tempo but add only one note at a time. For example, practice the first two notes of the passage at the correct speed for the piece. When you can play those correctly add the third. When you can play the first 3 notes correctly add the fourth and so on...
Try not to get frustrated with yourself if you aren't successful with something right away. You won't get the most out of your practice time if you are getting frustrated with yourself and focusing on negative things. Try taking a short break and when you feel more calm continue practicing.
Importance of Posture and Position
Always practice with good posture and instrument position. If you practice with bad posture or position you will train your fingers to play in tune when you are playing with bad position. Then what happens on a performance when you are trying to play with correct position? You play out of tune!
Be Your Own Teacher
If you are able to, practice in front of a mirror at home. Play something that you have memorized, like a scale, and study your instrument position, left hand and right hand position while you are playing. Better playing position contributes to better playing ability. Try to notice any areas in your position that could be better. Concentrate specifically on anything Dr. Sturm or your private teacher has asked you to work on.
Practicing for a Performance
There's a time for running through a piece beginning to end and a time to stop and work on small sections. In the beginning stages of learning a new piece of music, stop when you make a mistake and try to correct the mistake. When you are getting close to a performance date, you must practice running through the piece without stopping for anything, even if you make a mistake. You can't stop in the middle of a performance or audition so make sure you have practiced playing straight through without stopping.