Good Practice Habits

July 1, 2015


Good practice habits are crucial for any musician looking to improve.  Consistency with practice is important in maximizing the amount of progress made in weekly lessons. I always recommend setting goals such as learning a song or finishing an exercise in a method book.  When goals have been set, it is important to find a time to devote to practice.  I find that it is much more effective to practice frequently for short periods if instead of attempting to schedule a long, intense practice time.  Students will be more prone to practicing regularly if they know that their practice session only lasts for 5 minutes instead of an entire hour.

Your practice schedule should mimic your lesson structure. The first thing that you should do is tune your instrument. It’s impossible to sound good without starting in the right tuning. Following tuning your instrument, you should move on to a warm-up. Warm-ups can be found at the front of your Dave Simon’s Rock School Method Book. These are typically finger exercises that work on flexibility and speed. Most warm-ups should be pattern based or scale based. This is a good practice habit to develop from the start

Following the warm-up, move on to your book exercises. Most students don’t enjoy the book as much as they enjoy working on songs, so it’s best to get this out of the way first. Review over any old book pages first, and then move on to any new assignment. If you are having a hard time with any part of the exercise, be sure to focus on the specific measure that you are messing up. Most students like to start from the beginning, so don’t be afraid to start from the middle of a song.

After you work on book exercises, work on any new song that your teacher has given you. A good practice habit is to try playing along with a recording. I highly recommend getting some speakers to put next to your instrument. You can practice both new songs and old songs. I like to develop a repertoire, which is a set of songs that I know by memory. These are very useful when grandma asks you to play over the holidays!

Focus is another important aspect of maximizing practice time.  The height of focus begins usually at the very beginning of a practice session.  As the session continues, the focus gradually diminishes and the amount of information that the student grasps becomes much less than if their brain was fresh.  From personal experience, I recommend a short, focused, and consistent practice schedule.  It won’t be long before noticing that a list of goals have been reached and you are awaiting the next challenge!

Jared Erlinger