A couple weeks ago I did a post: 4 Ways for Improving Music Practice Time. Now I’m sharing Part 2 with you! Today I have 5 tips to incorporate during your music practice time.
1. Learn to play tunes you already know to help with tricky timing.
What other musician besides me struggles with timing? I know I’m not alone in this, so I’m going to share what I have found helpful when I find a particular arrangement of notes that makes it difficult to figure out the timing.
If I do not know the song I’m struggling with, I can try to find that same series of notes in a song I’ve heard and am familiar with.
Already knowing the tune helps me know how those difficult notes should be played, how long each note should be held, and how the finished product should sound as far as timing.
Figuring out the note progression in a song I know and then transferring what I know to the new song will make the timing in that tricky new song not quite so tricky as it seemed.
2. Use a metronome.
I’ll admit it: I’m not fond of a metronome, but it is helpful with both timing and speed. A metronome helps you to stay on track while you are playing. With that steady tick, tick, tick ever-sounding as you play, it is easier to keep a consistent speed.
The tricky note progressions I mentioned earlier would also be easier to figure out with a metronome, since its regular ticking keeps you on track as far as what measure you are in and the speed at which you should be playing.
If you don’t have a metronome and don’t want to spend the money to buy one, there are lots of great metronome apps that you can download onto your phone for free.
Another option besides using a metronome is to count out the timing or tap it out with your foot. This isn’t as precise as a metronome, but it does still work good.
When I am practicing guitar, I prefer counting the timing to myself rather than using the metronome. And when I’m practicing the chanter (the practice instrument for learning bagpipes) I tap the timing with my feet.
I mainly just use the metronome when I’m practicing flute. After all it’s hard to count aloud and blow across the embouchure hole of the flute at the same time.
What I like most about the metronome is that the ticking speed is adjustable. That means when you are beginning a piece, you don’t have to play at the same speed as when you are finishing it up.
You can play slowly, so you don’t stumble around as much and make mistakes that you have to work out later on. Which leads right into my next tip.
3. Practice slowly.
When you’re just starting to learn a new piece of music, you should start by playing slowly and reading the music carefully. If you play too quickly and don’t pay close attention to playing correctly, you will make lots of mistakes which will make learning the piece more difficult. And the more mistakes that you make and repeat, the harder it becomes to master that piece of music.
By making the same mistakes over and over again, you are learning those mistakes, just as you are learning the piece of music, and your fingers will want to repeat those mistakes when you play the piece. That is why beginning a piece by playing slowly and carefully is the best way to begin.
I will admit that I don’t always like practicing slowly, but it is necessary to learn to play a piece well. Even if your new piece is a lively one that you already are familiar with, you will still need to start slow and gradually speed up as you get better at playing the piece.
4. Repeat parts that you struggle with.
Most pieces of music have particular sections that are more difficult than other sections of the music. The difficult parts usually take a lot longer to learn than the easier parts. One way to help with learning the difficult parts is to play only the parts that you are struggling with.
By singling out the difficult spots, you can focus on really learning them and figuring them out. In the long run this will save you a lot of time during music practice since you won’t be playing over and over again the parts you already have down.
This tip is something I have done many times. Often, when I have found the tricky spot, I decide on a certain number of times that I will play it and then do that. I don’t play the whole piece, only the parts I am struggling with. This really helps to make learning the piece a whole lot easier.
5. Take a break if you need one.
Let’s admit it. We all need a break once in awhile, and music is one area where breaks are necessary. If a piece is difficult, it is possible to practice it to death. I have personally experienced this.
I have had times where I was practicing and practicing and practicing on a piece, and the more I played it, the worse it sounded. So what did I do? I set my guitar on its stand, put away my music stand, and walked away. I didn’t come back to my music corner until two days later.
And what do you think happened when I returned to resume practicing that troublesome piece? I played it better than I had ever played it! In fact, I was nearly finished with the piece.
Sometimes when you’re struggling with a piece of music, all you need is a break. This isn’t always the case; you can’t always leave a piece of music alone for awhile and come back to find you’ve mastered it.
But when you’ve been practicing and practicing and still aren’t getting anywhere, then it’s probably best if you take a break from music practice, walk away from your instrument, and give it and yourself some space.
How about you? Do you have any tips for getting more out of music practice? What is something music related that you would like to hear about in an upcoming blogpost? Let me know in the comments!