Freebie Friday: How to Practice

How-to-PracticeNews flash: there are seven days in a week, 24 hours in a day and 60 minutes in an hour. Do the math and you come up with 10,080 minutes in a week. Most music students only use 30 of those thousands of minutes in a lesson with an instructor. That still leaves over 10,000 minutes a week that are begging to be filled with music!

How will you use those remaining 10,050 minutes? For newbie music students, I recommend that you spend at least 15 minutes a day practicing. Again with the math… that’s only 0.149% of your remaining minutes outside of lesson.

Most people can easily find 15 minutes to spare every day. However, most people can also waste 15 minutes doing stuff during practice time that doesn’t actually help them become better at their instrument. It’s important to practice, but you need a plan so that you practice well.

Keep the following four things in mind as you practice and you won’t be a newbie for long!

1. Practice often. If you spend 15 minutes practicing every day, you will progress much faster than if you ignore your instrument all week and spend two hours practicing the day before your lesson. Make it a habit to practice before or after something that you already do every day. Pick up your instrument right after homework or dinner. Put a reminder note on your mirror so you’ll practice after you brush your teeth. Get creative and build practice into your routine.

2. Practice correctly. You’ve heard it said that “practice makes perfect.” A more true statement would be that practice makes permanent. The way you practice will be the way you play, so be careful to practice correctly. Make sure to pay attention in lesson and take good notes. Ask questions of your instructor so you are clear on your practice plan before you leave. Many instructors will email notes home explaining your lesson material. You can even ask your instructor to shoot a quick video on your phone or tablet computer so you can see and hear how to practice during the week.

3. Practice with your “Why?” and your destination in mind. Don’t let your 15-minute practice time be aimless. You should have already set some musical goals with the guidance of your instructor. Focus your time and practice what your instructor assigns. There’s a reason why you chose to learn this instrument. Remind yourself of your “Why?” when you practice. There’s also a destination that you’re trying to reach as a budding musician. Keep your destination in mind and your practice time will help you get there.

4. Practice what you enjoy. Though practice should be focused and purposeful, it should never be a chore. Make sure that you’re working on music that you like. If you’re not happy with the music your instructor assigned, speak up! You will practice better if you are working on the music you love.

Your instructor should provide you with a detailed outline of what to practice. This may include skill exercises along with playing songs. Your instructor’s mission is to help you achieve your goals. Follow his/her leadership and you will be surprised what you can learn!

This lesson is an excerpt from the Beans & Strings Guitar Method by Eric Foster-Whiddon, copyright 2013. Difficulty level: Newbie.

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