You’re never too old to learn to play an instrument. Playing an instrument can be a joy for anyone, whether you choose to begin with the piano at age 4 or the guitar at age 40. The important thing to remember for those who pursue the study of a musical instrument is that the success of the endeavor ultimately comes down to one thing: practice. No musician can ever become proficient with his or her chosen instrument if he or she neglects to practice.
Listed below are a collection of important tips for student musicians who want to get the most out of their practice sessions.
Choose a Good Practice Place
Practicing an instrument takes dedication and focus. The process will be much easier if you have a quiet, secluded area free from distractions like TV or the conversations of others. It can also be beneficial to designate a specific area of the home for this purpose, and return to it with your instrument whenever you practice.
Whether you make a practice space in the corner of your bedroom or have a whole room dedicated to the purpose, make sure that any supplies you may need for your practice session are nearby before you begin. Getting up to search for needed supplies in the middle of practicing can distract the mind and make it difficult to dedicate the necessary attention to the process.
Give Yourself a Goal for Each Session
Learning an instrument can feel overwhelming and frustrating at times. However, entering into every practice session with a goal in mind can help you stay motivated and on track.
Picking up your instrument to practice without a pre-established goal can leave you feeling unsure of your progress at the end of the session, so choose an objective for the day before you sit down to play, no matter how small. Examples of goals include mastering chord changes, learning a picking pattern, or even familiarizing yourself with the fingering of new chords.
Don't Rush through Pieces
Practicing an instrument is not only about the memorization of pieces. There will be occasions in which you will need to focus on the memorization of whole songs. However, the point of practicing is to develop good technique and generate the muscle memory needed to play a piece correctly.
Rushing through a piece from beginning to end each time you practice leaves you vulnerable to making repeated mistakes that become ingrained into your playing. Such mistakes are much more difficult to undo later. Instead, it is best to learn correctly the first time.
Focus on small parts of a piece at a time. Make it a point to repeat passages in which you miss notes until you have played each passage the correct way multiple times. The tempo of the song and the number of bars that you play can be gradually increased as you become more familiar with the piece.
Find a Practice Schedule That Works for You
If you really want to play well, you should set aside time to practice your instrument every day, but each musician must develop a practice schedule that suits his or her own needs. However often you choose to practice, remember that sessions don’t have to be played at any specific time or manner.
If you have more energy in the morning, consider practicing before school or work. If you are at your best later in the afternoons, practice in the evening when you return home for the day. Also remember that your practice time can be broken up into multiple segments, if it makes the process more enjoyable.
Whether you dedicate 30 minutes or two hours to practicing, taking a break between sessions can make learning an instrument more enjoyable for some. This is especially the case for young musicians, who may find it difficult to focus for prolonged periods of time.
Always Warm Up
Both beginning and experienced music students should make it a point to warm up before practicing a piece. Starting out slowly with a scale that allows your fingers to get proper exercise can help prepare your hands, fingers, and wrists for the workout that they receive each time you pick up your instrument. Those who neglect to warm up may run the risk of developing hand muscle injuries, such as carpal tunnel and tendonitis.
Look for Useful Tools to Help You along the Way
There are many phone apps, websites, YouTube videos, and other technologies that can help improve the way you practice. One of the best ways to gain some perspective about your progress is to record yourself in audio or video format as you play. Then, listen back to the recording to determine whether or not you’re playing the correct notes.
Remember That Playing Proficiently Will Take Time
One of the most difficult aspects of learning an instrument is to demonstrate patience. Though you will likely be eager to see results right away, it’s crucial for new musicians to remember that learning to play an instrument proficiently takes a lot of time and a lot of hard work.
Instead of being frustrated about the time it takes to play music well, focus on small victories along the way. Feel good about mastering the first few bars of a piece and give yourself recognition when you successfully memorize new chord progressions. Musicianship can be a true source of happiness for those who appreciate the process of learning to play, rather than just the idea of proficiency.