Tips on how to improve how you practice.
“A little and often” is what you will often hear me say. It is better to practice for a shorter time on a regular basis than do one long practice session per week. This is because the brain works in mysterious ways! By repeating correct patterns regularly and then “sleeping on it” you will find that your playing will improve more quickly. This is because the brain works by reinforcing connections between synapses. By repeating an action regularly you are reinforcing your brain’s capacity to reproduce that pattern. However, it is important that you do not allow yourself to repeat a faulty pattern as this will reinforce it and hinder you from acquiring the correct one.
Tip: if you find it difficult to manage your time, try drawing up a timetable and plan when and for how long you will practice each day. Decide what you are going to work on in your practice session and set yourself a target for what you want to achieve. At first it can be useful to keep a note of when you practiced and what you worked on. Review your timetable and achievements every week to see how well you are doing and whether you need to change anything. After a while you will find that you have developed better practice habits.
By practicing in an efficient way you can save a lot of time. Put simply this means:
- Identify your mistakes
- Identify what is causing the mistake (the cause may not be in the place where you go wrong – often it is something in the previous bar i.e. you have not set up a position change correctly)
- Act to correct the mistake: work out a strategy for learning a correct pattern. This may mean finding a different fingering, practicing a position change slowly, breaking down a passage into easier elements and practicing them slowly before putting the elements back together etc. If you can work it out yourself, you act as your own teacher. Performers who can identify and solve their own problems progress much more quickly.
- Above all DO NOT REPEAT FAULTY ACTIONS. This only serves to reinforce them. Be a thinking learner!
Remember – quality over quantity. It is better to practice in a focussed way, planning and concentrating on what we need to do to improve, rather than just ‘playing through’ in an aimless way. In this way we will enjoy our practice more and be able to achieve more in a shorter time.