Music majors spend a majority of their time practicing. Outside of rehearsals, I easily spend 12+ hours a week in a practice room. Here are five tips to help you get the most out of your practice sessions:
1. Listen to Professional-Level Examples
While learning a piece, find professional recordings of it. Find a favorite version and gain inspiration from it. Listen to the rhythms and notes, and really get a feel for the style of what you’re playing.
Also, listen to any and all professional music! Listen to both pieces that you’re playing and those you’re not playing. Listen to music for your instrument/voice. Also listen to music completely different from that for your instrument or voice.
Exposing your ears to as much good, professional music as possible is really helpful in expanding and improving your listening abilities.
One great site for finding professional recordings is Naxos.
2. Use a tuner
Playing long tones with a tuner can help you with your overall pitch and tone. It’s also important to know what your pitch tendencies are for notes. This makes it easier to fix tuning problems when performing with others.
My personal favorite tuner is TonalEnergy.
3. Practice sight reading often
One of the best things you can do is to practice sight reading. The more you practice sight reading, the easier it becomes. In turn, you’ll read new pieces more quickly and easily. Standard etude books are one good option for sight reading material.
You can also find websites that provide examples, like Sight Reading Factory.
Remember to look at the key signature, time signature, and tempo. Look for any difficult rhythmic spots, and go. Don’t let yourself stop. Try to keep a steady tempo and keep going.
Then, go back and work at spots you really didn’t get. Sight reading abilities are so important, and it’s never too late to build up this skill set.
4. Have some basic technical warm-ups you do every day
This includes things like long tones and articulation and scale patterns. Doing a warm-up packet every day can significantly improve your technical skills, which makes playing in general easier. There are a variety of different warm-up options out there, depending on your school and/or instrument.
5. Record Yourself
Recording yourself allows you to really hear any mistakes you’ve made and what you actually sound like. It’s a great way to check things like rhythmic accuracy and dynamics. By recording yourself, you really get a sense of what to work on in your practicing!
These are my top five tips for practicing better and getting the most out of your practice sessions. During your time as a music major, you’ll learn a lot about practicing and you’ll practice often. I hope these tips help by providing you with a place to start and improve on your current methods.
Struggling to find the right music school for you? Read now: 3 Tips for Choosing the Right Music School.