Taking a music lesson is easy! Your learning is being guided by a teacher – an expert in the field and an inspiring person to be around. Your instructor is there to remind you about posture and technique, intonation, how to read your music.
Practicing at home, without a teacher’s guidance, a student may suddenly feel a little too independent. From Beginner to Advanced students, from child students to adult students, and parents of students, they all ask one common question: How do I practice at home when you’re not there to guide me?
My advice is for students of all ages and disciplines – feel free to tailor each tip to make it work for you!
1. Set Small, Manageable Goals
If you overwhelm yourself with huge lofty goals, it will be a lot harder to reach each one, and it increases the chances that you’ll stop challenging yourself altogether. Instead, set one small goal at a time, and focus a little time each day on achieving it. Before you know it, you’ll be on to your next small goal!
2. Trick Yourself
Are you an expert procrastinator? Get out your instrument and set a timer for just 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes is over, you can move on to whatever else is happening in your day, but you can feel accomplished having dedicated that time to your goals! And here’s the really “tricky” part: By the time 10 minutes goes by, you’ve had just enough time to really get into something, and you may decide you’re having too much fun to stop and end up practicing for 20 or 30 minutes!
3. Make it Fun
Music is magic! Music should be celebrated! Make practicing a ritual, a meditation, or a celebration. Get yourself a latte and play music in your favorite part of the house or yard. Turn the lights low and play by candlelight. Sometimes I put on a Harry Potter movie in the background with the sound off and watch while I do my scales and arpeggios. Embrace whatever you love about playing music and use it in your practice sessions!
4. Play Along
Practicing can be a solitary and lonely experience, but it doesn’t have to be! Play along with your favorite music, YouTube videos, or videos from your teacher. During the pandemic, Zoom lessons made it impossible to play along with my students, which I love to do, and do a lot! I started recording “Practice Buddy” videos for them to practice along with between lessons. Now that we’re coming out the other end of the pandemic, these videos are still helping my students practice at home. Makes me wish I did this years ago!
5. Just Don’t Wait!
We all have jam-packed daily lives, so don’t wait for a convenient time to practice. Fit it into your daily routine. For young beginners it’s easy to fit a quick 10-minute practice in, for example, before getting ready for bed. For older Intermediate and Advanced students with more material to fit into a practice session, don’t just wait for ‘the perfect’ time to practice. If you don’t make the time, you won’t get the time.