Washington, DC Freelance Percussionist and International School of Music Faculty Member, Bethesda, MD
How many times have you heard your teacher or mom or dad say this and you think to yourself, “OK, now what?”. When I took lessons as a young student many years ago, I constantly asked this question. I would go to my room, pick up my sticks, and play around a little thinking I had “practiced”, but when I got to my next lesson I never played my assignments as well as I wanted. Has this happened to you? It can be very frustrating! So, I thought I would share with you some fun practice ideas you can use throughout the week before your next lesson to better prepare. Because when you play well in your lesson, the lesson is much more fun! Give them a shot and see what you think!
Practice at the same time every day for shorter periods.
I think this is probably the single most important piece of advice I can give. If you have a goal, for example, of practicing for a total of two hours before your next lesson, it is far better (and easier!) to practice twenty minutes each day rather than for two hours the day before your lesson. No one wants to practice for two hours all at once, and if you have seen your music every day since your last lesson, you are far more likely to play it better in your next one. Practicing at the same time every day helps you not to forget!
Play for a friend!
As musicians, we practice to perform, right? Chances are you have friends who also take music lessons. Why not play for each other? Once you have practiced your lesson material to the point where it sounds great, play it for someone else! That way, when you have your next lesson, it will not be the first time you have performed the material for someone. You are guaranteed to play it better, I promise! Practicing and playing with friends is a great way to have fun with music.
Practice small sections of music at a time.
If you have lots of material or a long solo to prepare over the week, it can seem like a huge task on top of everything else you have to do. I recommend breaking the music down into small, equal parts and working on a section each day, and on the final day of practice, put it all together! Attempting to play a large amount of music from beginning to end each time can be very tiring and not very fun. And, of course, we should always have fun while practicing! Speaking of fun, here is another neat way to practice…
The 10-Penny Technique.
Put ten pennies in a row next to each other on the left side of your music stand. Your goal is to play a small section of your music perfectly. Remember…small sections! Once you play it perfectly, move one penny to right side. Continue doing this with the same section of music until all ten pennies are on the right side! But, guess what? If you make a mistake you have to move ALL of the pennies back to the left side and start over. Your goal is to play the music ten times in a row perfectly. If you can do this, you will perform beautifully in your next lesson! If ten pennies seem like a lot, try five to start and gradually move up to ten.
Finally, end each practice session by playing something you can play very well and that is a lot of fun!
These simple techniques can help you look forward to practicing every day. Give them a shot and see what you think!