If you’ve decided to learn how to play an instrument, the chances are that you want to get as much out of every session as possible if you practice alone. If you’re part of a group, it’s even more important to get everything right, as it's not just your own time you’re wasting if it all goes wrong. With all that considered, we wanted to take the time to go through our top tips to make the most of every practice session. They ensure that you spend your time as efficiently as possible. While we couldn’t possibly speculate on your level of musical talent, these suggestions will help you to become as good as you can, as quickly as possible!
1. Get Your Surroundings Right
Atmosphere and environment can have a massive impact on your productivity, and music is not immune to the same factors. We cannot say where that environment should be, or what should or shouldn’t be in the room as the fact is that it differs from person to person. You may feel most comfortable somewhere in your own home, or you might consider such familiar surroundings to serve up too many distractions. In that case, it is better to head out elsewhere than risk a negative impact on your session. Experiment with different locations until you come up with one that you are certain leads to the best results.
2. Work Towards Something
It is easy to grab your instrument of choice, open up the music and put on a course. However, you should always have a clear direction in mind and an end goal. Ultimately, you want to be a proficient musician, but if you can break the journey down into various steps, all the better. They do not need to be anything fancy either – it could be something as simple as being able to sight-read a certain passage of music by the end of your next session. Once you understand your capabilities, you can adjust your targets accordingly.
3. Come Prepared
You want to treat your practise sessions like they are the most important thing in the world while they take place. That means cutting down on distractions and having no reason to do anything other than play and learn. If you need certain instruments, accessories, books or courses, make sure you have them to hand before you start. Any time spent getting them when you’re already in the zone can negatively impact the session as a whole if you lose focus.
4. Introduce Warmups
You may not be an athlete, but even as a musician, it is important to add a warmup to your routine. This is particularly true if you play an instrument that requires some muscle work. Get whatever you use to play the instrument thoroughly warmed up before practising. Otherwise, your warm-up will happen anyway, but it will eat into your practice time.
5. Focus on Efficiency
Your practice sessions should be designed to be as useful as possible, not as long as they possibly can be. If possible, ignore time limits altogether – if you’re only practising because you feel like you have to, you won’t receive anywhere near the full benefit. Even if you have a certain amount of time set aside, if you feel like you’d rather be somewhere else, it is perfectly fine to finish up early.
6. Take the Right Approach
Positivity goes a long way in every aspect of life, and we would always recommend that you adopt such an approach to learning music. You’re hugely lucky if you manage to get everything right the first time, but you should not see mistakes as failures. Instead, they are learning opportunities and give you something to work on even when you don’t have the instrument to hand. Don’t get hung up on errors, but do give some thought to why you’re not getting it so that you have more options with which to tackle the same problem next time.
7. Listen to Yourself Back
In the digital age, you will almost certainly have something to hand with which you can record yourself, even if it is not of professional quality. It is fine to listen along while you practice, but your mind will not be fully focused. With a recording, you can listen back with a fresh ear and identify anything that doesn’t sound quite right.
8. Keep Notes on the Music Itself
Unless you’re aiming for a qualification in music, you don’t necessarily need to achieve results in a certain way. You may find a way to play a riff or make an original tune. If you’re concerned that you might forget how you did it, make notes on the passage of music as you go, jogging your memory when you come back to it. If you struggle with terminology or pronunciation, come up with your own translation that you’ll understand as soon as you see it.
9. Dangle the Carrot
If you do particularly well in a session, make sure to reward yourself. It not only feels good but will condition you to strive for fantastic results going forward. Subconsciously, you’ll know that once you reach a milestone or achieve a goal, you can indulge in your reward of choice absolutely guilt-free.
10. Make a Session Record
Even if you have a fantastic memory, it can be difficult to immediately recall what you did and when, or how much progress you made towards a specific goal. If you set to work on a specific song or passage, keep a note of it. This aids efficiency, so you won’t keep going back to something you have already mastered. It will also aid in goal setting – you’re the only person that will see these notes so you can afford to be completely honest. If something needs work, but you want to move on, you can always leave it to breathe and come back later.