We all know the old adage “practice makes perfect” but here at Forte we believe “practice makes better”. We know (because we’ve been there!) that practice time can sometimes be cause for eye rolls, excuses, and big sighs. We’re hoping with our five favouite practice tips and tricks, we can eliminate some of the whining of practice time and kick start some motivated music making!
Here are our top 5 practice tips and tricks that can be applied to any instrument:
1. Deliberate Practice
Deliberate practice is a set amount of practice time with a clear set goal. What we love about deliberate practice is it can be as short as 10 minutes! Whatever the amount of time allocated, the student is to set a goal (ex: play or sing through the hardest section of my piece without hesitation or pausing) and focus only on accomplishing that goal. A small goal accomplished is motivation to keep practicing throughout the week and there is nothing more satisfying than getting through that “hard section”.
2. Break It Down
We know that everyone has very busy schedules, so don’t be afraid to break your deliberate practice time down into smaller chunks. Dedicate one day to your scales and one day to your pieces. There is no rule that says you have to do all of it every time you practice. This is great because it breaks the musical tasks for the week into small, achievable pieces.
3. Practice Can Be Silent
This is one of our favourites because most people assume that practicing should always contain sound. There are many wonderful and silent ways to practice your pieces at home; in the musical world we call this score study. Score study is the act of dissecting your piece from beginning to end to understand its musical form, meter, tempo and dynamic markings, expressive markings, and text. This usually means turning to your trusty musical dictionary. A silent practice session allows us to better understand our pieces and be able to interpret them fully – so go ahead and spend some quiet time with your music.
4. Perform It
For a piece that is in the final stages of polishing, there is nothing better than testing it out on an audience. A little bit of nervous energy helps to keep us on our toes and test whether or not we have done our homework with out deliberate practice. This is where the practice makes better should fall into play – plus we believe the gift of music is best when shared with others!
5. Memorizing 101
We know memorizing can be a pain; the trick is to know the method that works best for you.
• Draw it: Try drawing out your piece (yep, even your piano piece) on an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper. This can either be for large sections such as the introduction, A section, B Section, ending or coda, or for singers you can do a word for word transcription with pictures. Once you’ve come up with an artistic and hopefully colourful masterpiece, play or sing from it! This helps engage your imagination in an entirely different way and aids in memorizing your piece.
• Write it: Another great trick for a visual learner is to write out the text of your piece or write yourself some verbal cues for the musical sections. This is trickier but still possible for pianists; for an introduction with octave spanning arpeggios try to write something descriptive and imaginative such as “rolling up and over the green hills” or something that will trigger your memory. For singers, it is helpful to write out the poem of your text and to keep trying until you no longer have to sneak a peak at your music!
There is no doubt about it that practice is the main road to progress and these are our five favourite practice tips and tricks to get there. We urge our students to include deliberate practice time into their schedules, not to obtain perfection, but to achieve personal growth and success. Happy practicing!