Whether you’re a beginner or a professional musician, you need to practice music. Let me rephrase that. You need to practice music well.
In our busy lives, it can be hard to practice “enough.” But if you know how to practice music efficiently, you won’t feel like you have to practice as much to get the same results.
I went from complete beginner to co-principal flute in my university wind ensemble in just five (5!) years. All because I knew how to practice music so I could improve as quickly and efficiently as possible. And I want to help you do the same.
Why Should You Practice Music?
That question may seem obvious, but it’s still important to think about. If you want to practice music efficiently, you have to understand why you need to practice.
There are plenty of reasons why you should practice music regularly. Some are more practical than others, but they’re all great reasons.
So, let’s take a look at some common reasons why you should practice music.
Improve your playing
Again, this may sound obvious. But you simply can’t get better at your instrument without practicing it. Unless you have a high level of natural talent, you have to practice your instrument to improve.
Why do you want to improve your playing?
Well, if you see music school as part of your future, you need to reach a certain level of playing to start your degree.
Even if music school isn’t part of your plan, being a better player will open up opportunities. You can play in community groups and explore more advanced repertoire.
Set and reach goals
This is another part of improving your playing, but it deserves its own point. If you practice music regularly, you can set and reach new goals.
A goal could be as small as increasing your tempo for a small section of music. Or it could be as big as memorizing a recital’s worth of music.
But in order to reach those goals, you have to practice! Plus, the more you practice, the easier it will be to set goals. Why?
Because by practicing music, you’ll figure out where you want to improve. That way, you can set goals that align with where you’re at and where you want to be in the future.
Unless you were one of those kids whose parents put them into music lessons, odds are you like your instrument.
So practicing music can be an excellent way to spend your time. If you love your instrument and the music you’re working on, practicing will be that much more fun!
Of course, your practice should have some sort of structure. However, you don’t want to take things too seriously. If you ever feel stressed by music, play something for pure enjoyment.
When to Practice Music
So you know you should practice music. But when is best?
Well, the best practice schedule will depend on your specific situation. If you work full-time, you won’t have as much time to practice as a music school student.
While your schedule is unique, there are a few things to consider.
If you’re in school
Whether you’re in high school, college, or music school, you’ll probably have more time to practice than someone who works full-time.
So take advantage of your extra time to practice music. Once you leave school and start working, you won’t have as much time to practice. So it will be much harder to improve as quickly.
If you’re in music school, you already have the convenience of practice rooms in the building. So if you have a break between classes, you can sneak in some extra practice.
High school students and college students outside of music will have to work a little harder. You might have to dedicate time to get to the music building to practice.
However, you can still work practice in between your classes.
If you have a day job
I worked a full-time day job for over a year, but I was still able to maintain an active practice schedule. How did I do that?
I woke up early. That’s right. I made sure to get up an extra hour early before work so I could practice.
When I got home from work, I also practiced a bit. Same thing for after dinner.
While working full-time, I was able to manage an average of over an hour and a half per day. I also took full advantage of my days off.
Of course, you shouldn’t only practice on your days off. However, you should take advantage of the extra time you have when you don’t have to work all day.
If waking up early isn’t practical, consider taking your instrument to work. Whenever you take a break, pull out your instrument and practice. If you can eat on the job, you can even spend your full lunch break practicing.
How to Practice Music
Now you know why and when you should practice music. But how do you go about that?
Ideally, you will have your own practice routine. However, developing that can take time. So, I have some tips that you can use right now.
Over time, you can experiment with other routines and find what works best for you.
Start with fundamentals
As a flutist, my tone is at the center of my playing. Unfortunately for me, my tone is currently my biggest weakness. That means that the first thing I do is work on tone.
After I finish working specifically on tone, I move to technique. While I’m naturally a technical player, I still have to work on technical exercises and scales.
Depending on your instrument and playing level, you might have your own set of technical exercises and scales to work on. But they’re important for any instrument and at any level.
If something comes up and I’m unable to practice music as much as I planned, I will at least have touched on the basics.
Move to etudes and pieces
Once I complete my fundamentals, I switch gears and focus on etudes and pieces. I might sight read some music or work on an etude or piece that I’m actively learning.
For the pieces I’m learning, I focus on the more difficult parts first. If I have extra time later, I will run through the pieces in full. But at this point, my goal is to learn each section and make sure everything is even.
If I also have some pieces that are at or near performance level, I try and run through those. You have to make sure you balance pieces you’re learning with pieces you’ve already learned.
Leave room for fun stuff
While some days, my practice sessions are serious, that’s not always the case. If I don’t leave a bit of time for fun, it can be harder to practice the next day.
So I like to try and do something fun at the end of a practice session. That could be sight reading a piece I’ve always wanted to learn. It could be finding the sheet music to a pop song that I’ve heard a lot. Or it could be me trying to figure out said melody on my own.
You may find other things fun, and that’s okay. Whatever it is, make sure you incorporate some fun stuff into your practicing.
How to Learn a Piece of Music
Part of being able to practice music well is knowing how to learn a piece of music. The less time you have to focus on a specific piece, the more time you’ll have to focus on other pieces.
So, what goes into learning a piece of music?
Read, practice, perform, repeat
While no two pieces are the same, there is a basic framework you can use to learn a piece of music. From sight reading to performance, you can use the same process for most pieces. You just might have to make small adjustments here and there.
More to it
While those four steps can serve as the basis for learning a piece of music, there’s much more to it.
If you want to learn more, I highly recommend you check out my new eBook “How to Learn a Piece of Music.”
I’ve been working on this eBook for over a year, and it’s finally ready! You can download the full eBook here. Or subscribe below to receive a free sample!
Do you want to up your practice game? Please, check out the new eBook and let me know what you think. And be sure to leave any ideas for future eBooks down in the comments!