3 practice tips when there’s no time to practice

It's not how often, but how effectively you prepare that makes the difference

We’ve all heard it… “practice makes perfect.”

This little saying has followed many a musician and artist throughout their lives. Perhaps we’ve heard it in a different form (perfect practice makes perfect, etc.), but the meaning remains the same. If we want to get better, we usually assume that we have to practice more often.

But are we actually doing so? And if we are, are we practicing effectively?

A brief survey of God and Gigs readers revealed that over 35% of the musicians who responded practice two times a week or less, and nearly 20% hardly practice at all. It’s not likely that these musicians don’t believe practice is important. After all, many of you worked very hard to become professionals. Rather, these results likely indicate how difficult it is to maintain a rigorous practice schedule once you’re working consistently. As your performances, rehearsals and other work related duties increase, your available time for practice decreases.  So, rather than simply trying to find more time to practice, let’s make sure we maximize the times that we do practice. Here’s three tips to more effective practice routines.

  1. Plan ahead – As you juggle performances and various songs to learn, you might find it hard to keep track of the material you need to rehearse. To combat the problem of directionless practice, plan your sessions in advance. Make a list of what needs to be worked on and schedule specific times that you will rehearse those selections. For example, Saturday’s performances can be practiced on Tuesday, while a gig on Monday might  be rehearsed on Thursday. Planning ahead will help you stay on track when you have a lot of music to prepare.
  2. Create a consistent process – By making your practice sessions routine and predictable, you can eliminate many of the distractions that can derail your practice time. Pick warm-ups and technical exercises that you repeat every time you begin, and try to keep a regular approach to learning your material. This way you avoid the pressure of reworking your strategy every time you have new music to learn.
  3.  Keep a record of your progress – sometimes we can become so overwhelmed by the amount of music we are practicing, that we forget to make note of what we’ve already learned. By tracking the songs, skills, and techniques that you have mastered, you will build both your confidence and your effectiveness during your practice sessions. Whether electronic or handwritten, keep records of each practice session’s results – what you did well, what still needs work, and what you will attempt during the next session. Our teachers did this for us when we were learning, and it’s still a great tool even when we have entered the professional ranks.

While it’s true that no amount of practice can make us perfect musicians, we can always improve our practice – which will improve everything else.

For more ideas on improving your practice habits, explore these resources.

The Musician’s Way – Practice Links

Tips on Memorization – Dylan Schiavone 

A Talk on “Effortless Mastery” by Kenny Werner

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