by Columbus Music Schools on 03/04/15
Everyone knows it takes practice to become a better musician. What we often give less thought to is whether the way we practice is actually delivering the most benefit possible. Bad habits can sneak in and actually become counterproductive. Read on to learn some of the most common practice pitfalls and how to avoid them.
1 – Practicing for Too Long.
You weren’t expecting this one, were you? The fact is, marathon practice sessions may not be in your best interest. Most students experience good progress with around 30-40 minutes of practice per day. If you have a lot of work to do, break it up into more than one sitting. Two 40-minute sessions will generally be far more productive than one hour and 20-minute slog.
2 – Practicing Too Little.
It can be a challenge to find time to practice every day, but the simple fact is that you can never master something you don’t spend time on. Schedule in practice, just as you would a class or a doctor’s appointment. If you wait until you “have time,” chances are it will never get done. If it seems impossible to find one 30-minute chunk of time, break it into two 15-minute sessions during the day.
3 – Playing the Easy Passages Faster Than the Hard Ones.
This is an easy trap to fall into, especially for piano and other keyboard students. It’s just as vital to understand correct tempo as it is what notes to hit. Because most students master the beginning of a piece first, they start off too fast only to hit the brakes when the passage gets more difficult. You can break this habit by finding the most difficult section and establishing a comfortable speed for playing it accurately. Then apply that tempo to the entire piece. As you master the difficult section, you can gradually increase the tempo consistently throughout the piece.
4 – Staring at Your Hands.
This is another common problem for many piano students. Even if you think you have a piece completely memorized, keep your eyes on your sheet music. That not only ensures that you will actually be reading (and playing) the correct notes, but establishes good habits for sight reading a new piece. If you do need to glance down, do so without moving your head. That will make it easier to find your place again on your sheet music.
5- Not Challenging Yourself with New Material.
It’s so much easier to practice what we already know. Unfortunately, it doesn’t produce much progress. Challenging yourself with new material improves your skills, expands your repertoire and keeps you from getting in a rut. Find new pieces which excite you, and you’ll be more likely to enjoy your time spent practicing.
6 - Practicing Mistakes
One of the key benefits of regular practice is that you are able to call upon your muscle memory to accurately execute the correct sequence of fingering. So when you don’t address mistakes in your practice, you’re actually reinforcing them. In other words, you’re practicing your mistakes. Stop and isolate those areas which give you trouble until you have them mastered. You want to be practicing hitting the correct notes, not the wrong ones!