How & Why To Organize Your Practice Time – Part 2
Thursday night kendo practice by Vincent® via FlickrSo if you read the first article that I wrote (shame on you if you haven’t) then you already know how to manage your practice schedule and practice area. Now it’s time for the real meat and potatoes of the discussion, and that is what you need to do to make your practicing more effective and more efficient.
The first thing that I want to suggest is a practice log/journal. It seems kind of cheesy, but why should you keep making the same mistakes and learning how to do them really well, rather than learning how to correct your mistakes and get better, faster. This is another idea that I use with my own students, but it’s something that we all should do in order to really know what we are doing that works, and what we are doing that doesn’t work. One thing I tell all my students is to practice accuracySo, to do this the best way, you should be following the practice schedule concept that I talked about in the first article (I did say shame on you if you hadn’t read the article didn’t I?). Set up your notebook with the day, time, location, and the amount of time you’re going to practice at the top of the page. Next you’ll want to create the three large blocks (warm-up, review, and new material). These are all the things that you should already be familiar with, but now you’ll start really figuring out what does and doesn’t work for you.
Within each of the large blocks you’ll want to split them up and fill out information for each thing you do. Write down what activity (i.e. sight reading, ear training, scales, etc…) you were practicing during each of the blocks, why you were practicing that, what if any problems you had, and what you did to try to fix it. Knowing these things are important to making sure you’re practicing what you need to practice and why you are practicing things. But, you also need to look at how you are practicing things.
|Warm-Ups||Scales||2 Minutes||Get Fingers Moving||Kept playing a natural 7 instead of a b7 in the Mixolydian Scale||Played the last 4 notes of each of the scales to hear the difference more clearly|
|Arpeggios||3 Minutes||Get my fingers moving differently from scales and to hear the chord types||Had trouble shifting position to get the third octave of the arpeggio||Worked on playing the shift only, then added before/after the shift|
One thing I tell all my students is to practice accuracy. Speed and dexterity are two things that are amazingly easy to build up, but they are only easy to work up if your playing is accurate. If you make a mistake chances are you were practicing at the incorrect tempo for that time. While you’re learning new skills it’s vitally important that you practice at the speed that allows you to make no mistakes consistently. Once the pattern, scale, technique, or whatever else you’re working on becomes second nature for you, then it’s time to work on speeding things up a bit and developing that side of things.
Along with this though, take things apart. Not every concept/technique needs to be practiced in its entirety from the beginning and every time you play it. Everything that you will ever learn in music has multiple pieces, and rather than always taking the largest possible bite you’ll gain more proficiency and learn the material better when you break things down into the smallest components and learn them individually.