Ways to optimise your practise

October 07, 2015

When I first started playing the viola, practice was almost impossible for me. Why am I in here in the practice room whilst my friends are all outside having a good time? Over time, I realised, it was not how long you spend in the practice room that made the difference. Excessive practice can cause injury and be frustrating. It's what you do in that time that makes the difference. After all, when starting an instrument it should be fun and rewarding right? Here's some tips to make your practice time worthwhile:

Find a good spot

It may seem obvious, but you will be more focused if you have less distractions by entering a special practice area. Whether it's a certain room or just a corner of your bedroom, it will help you prepare for the type of work you will be doing. Technology can perhaps be a distraction so try and limit the amount of computers etc around. I always turn my phone off for practice. Mindful intention is everything, and having the ritual of going to the same place every time can help set that intention.

Plan, plan, plan!

Before you start, think; what I am going to achieve in the next hour or so? Am I going to work on this passage or the next? Give yourself a goal and a time limit, rather than just bashing at it for hours on end. You'll probably accomplish a lot more if you have a very focused objective. Set a timer perhaps and work on one section in as many ways as you can until the times up. Break it down into smaller and more manageable sections, that are easier to digest. Go slow, go fast, break it down into rhythms, play it backwards. These will all help vary your practice, creating new pathways in your brain. 

Practise away from your instrument.

Musicians often forget that we are athletes too. A great technique used by athletes is 'Visualisation'. Practising without your instrument allows you to focus on the music without getting stressed about notes, intonation, shifts etc! Perhaps take your ipod on the train or tube with the score, in this empty time you can achieve a lot!

Reward hard work!

There's no better feeling than acing that exam or doing a great performance. Practice is addictive. The more thoughtful practice you do, the more you achieve. And that gives a great sense of achievement and fulfilment. Treat yourself after a big performance or exam! You've earned it!

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