Performances are exhilarating, allowing you to showcase the skills you’ve developed and show off the results of your hard work in front of an enraptured audience. Unless you have superhuman abilities, dedicated practice is the only way to develop those performance-level skills.
Although practice isn’t always as glorious as a concert may be, it’s a necessary part of improving your abilities. Practicing correctly and with intention can be the secret to leveling up your skills – so how do you do it? This guide will help you understand the necessary components of a solid practice regiment.
Set Up: Where to Practice an Instrument
Your practice space might seem insignificant, but consider it your private stage! A good practice space should have the following characteristics.
- Quiet, with limited distractions: Find a secluded place where you can focus without distractions. Avoid rooms where many people will be coming in and out or where distractions like phones, TVs, and pets might take away from your practice time.
- Comfortable: Just like a ringing phone can distract you from practice, discomfort can also. Make sure you have a comfortable chair if you practice your instrument while seated. Comfort also means that the temperature, humidity, and ventilation in the room should be adequate. It’s difficult to practice when you’re sweating or shivering, plus the elements can affect your instrument.
- Is considerate to others: If you live with other people or share walls with neighbors, it’s polite to take their schedules and your noise level into consideration when picking your practice space and time. If you’re new to your instrument or self-conscious about others hearing you play, you won’t put your best effort into practice. Your practice space should be a private, safe space where you can make mistakes and not feel like a sold-out concert hall.
- Acoustically suitable: While it’s not always possible for an amateur musician to practice in a professionally-built room with excellent acoustics, there are some variables you can control. Add soft furnishings like pillows, blankets, rugs, and heavy curtains to reduce echo. Carpeted rooms are also better than hard floors like wood or tile. If possible, add acoustic panels to your walls and ceiling to improve sound quality.
How to Practice An Instrument
Just like there’s a right way to play a given piece of music, there’s a right way to practice. Though you may have different goals or intentions depending on your skill level, generally speaking, an excellent solo rehearsal has a set structure.
Devise a specific goal for the practice.
To maximize your practice’s efficiency, set goals for each rehearsal. It could be to nail a tricky passage, run through a setlist, or improve a specific skill. Regardless, selecting a particular intention for the practice can help you stay focused and give you a motivating purpose.
Tune your instrument to ensure you’re getting the best sound possible. Tuning can help improve your ear and make you more sensitive to pitch. Additionally, tuning gives you a chance to check in and make sure your instrument is in working order.
You may not think of playing an instrument as a physical activity, but regardless of which instrument you play or what type of bow you use, you utilize dozens of different muscles and tendons. Just like stretching before a run, warming up can help your muscles and tendons loosen up to avoid injury. It also serves as a great time to practice basic techniques, scales, and more.
Work on your goals.
Reflect on the goals you set at the beginning of practice and decide how you’ll achieve them. Then start playing!
Recording your practice sessions can help you better understand where you need to improve but can also help you have something to show your instructor if you take lessons.
Journal and reflect.
After your practice, it can be helpful to keep a journal to make a note of what your goal was, how it went, and what you might like to work on next time. If you had a particularly good or bad day, write it down for next time!
How Often Should You Practice an Instrument?
If at all possible, you should practice your instrument daily. However, practice frequency depends on several factors, including your skill level, goals, and schedule.
Regardless, consistency is critical. Practicing regularly, especially if you can practice at the same time every day, will make your instrument part of your routine. Even if you can only carve out 15 minutes daily for practice, it will help keep music a part of your life.
How Long Should You Practice an Instrument a Day?
Practicing for short amounts of time is better for most musicians.
According to Dr. Robert H. Woody, professor of music psychology, “The most focused experts are subject to mental fatigue, especially when trying to power through a marathon practice session. This is why several shorter sessions spread throughout a day (i.e., distributed practice) is a better option than a single prolonged session (massed practice).”
Long rehearsals can result in overuse injuries, frustration, and even regression. If you’re on a tight deadline for an upcoming performance, consider practicing more frequently for shorter periods.
How to Motivate Yourself to Practice an Instrument
If you’re new to an instrument, motivation may come easily because it’s a novel new thing. Once you’re past the honeymoon stage, though, it can be more challenging. Even more so for professional players who may experience burnout!
Plus, practice often forces us to face the songs and techniques we’re weakest at, and that’s not always fun. So, how can you motivate yourself to practice?
1. Set specific, achievable short-term and long-term goals.
Short-term goals, such as for an individual session, can give you something to focus on and provide the practice time purpose. Long-term goals can give you something more significant to work towards, like a specific song or performance. Keep your goals achievable so you can experience the joy of achieving them! It can be demoralizing not to meet huge, out-of-reach goals consistently.
2. Set a timer.
If you really don’t want to practice, set a timer. Practice for 15 minutes, even if it’s just running through your warm-ups. This will help you stay consistent, even if you’re not in the headspace to dedicate a focused rehearsal. You may find that once the 15 minutes is up, you feel like playing a little bit longer!
3. Shake things up.
Don’t play the same warmups every time you play, and work on different skills in different blocks of time. It will help keep your skillset more well-rounded and ensure you don’t get in a rut of always playing the same thing. Similarly, if you’re stuck on a singular passage and have grown frustrated, try playing something else for a little while.
4. Take plenty of breaks.
If you have a long practice session, divide it with a few short breaks. This will help you stay focused, avoid injury, and avoid burnout. Sometimes, walking away to stretch for 5 minutes can be precisely what you need to have a breakthrough!
5. Remember, it’s called playing an instrument.
If you’re having a tough time getting motivated, look for the fun in your music! Find an exciting, silly, or funny passage to play. Stage a performance for your pets or an enthusiastic family member, like you might have when you were a child. Focus on the joy and playful aspect of creating music instead of turning it into an obligation.
CodaBow Is There for Every Practice and Performance
To practice and grow in your skill level, you need the right bow by your side. Turn to CodaBow for quality carbon fiber bows that will follow you on your entire musical journey — from student all the way to master. Browse our selection online and request an in-home trial to find the right match for your playing and level.