How to Practice Smart

  • Our weekly classes alone are not enough for your child to succeed on his/her instrument. After the newness of the instrument wears off, sometimes it takes a little motivation to keep at it. Parents, continue to see your child through the hills and valleys of their progress. Keep them practicing, and keep them involved! Below are some tips and strategies to help reinforce your student’s musical learning.

    Set a place and time to practice...Establish a quiet, distraction-free place to practice.  Entering a special practice area, whether it's a certain room or just a corner of the living room, will help prepare your child mentally for this very particular kind of work. Experiment, and find a time of day your child has the focus and energy to practice. Sometimes practicing for a few minutes before school can be great if a child has a busy afternoon schedule.

    Map out a practice session like a workout...Lots of musicians start with a few actual stretches and breathing exercises before they pick up their instruments. Even if your child doesn’t go quite that far, a common scenario is to start with scales as a warm-up to loosen up their muscles and get their brain thinking about technique. Next, move on to the "working" part of the practice session, where the musician will analyze and try to solve problems in the music. End with a “cool down” by revisiting some music they already know well.

    Set 2-3 short, reasonable goals each practice session...Before your child starts, they should think, ‘What do I want to accomplish today?” Pick 2-3 things that need some work and can be accomplished with 5-10 minutes of dedicated practice. Here are some simple steps to help break down tricky measures of music.

    1. Clap and count the rhythm with a metronome.

    2. Go through and name all the note names.

    3. Sing/speak the note names in rhythm while you finger your part.

    4. Play the passage (slowly at first) on your instrument with a metronome. Once the notes become comfortable, increase the speed.

    *Breaking down a piece of music into smaller chunks helps make learning a new song less intimidating.

    *If your child is not sure what they need to focus on, have them ask their teacher for a few concrete goals to work toward before the next lesson. 

    Practice smarter, not necessarily longer - don’t always start at the beginning of the song every time!...It can feel really good for a young musician to hear themselves playing the beginning of a piece beautifully, but they may wind up wasting the limited time and energy they have before reaching the parts of the song that truly need their attention.  Just playing through the music isn't the same thing as practicing. Again, you can accomplish a lot in a short amount of time if you have a few focused objectives.  

    *Please note that not every individual has to practice for the same amount of time. Work for specific results, not time on the clock.

    * If your child becomes frustrated or angry, have them stop playing and switch to a different activity. Have them return to practicing when they are refreshed and in a better mindset.

    Take care of your instrument...Your child’s musical instrument will serve as their friend and partner as they continue their studies. Having a broken or poorly maintained instrument slows down the learning process and can be quite frustrating for young musicians.  It is imperative your student cares for and cleans their instrument. As a parent, make sure your child has the needed supplies, and ask your young musician to demonstrate how they care for their instrument. If something seems wrong, please notify your teacher as soon as possible.

    Remember, short, frequent, and focused practice sessions are better than longer, sporadic, and unfocused sessions.

    Happy Practicing!! 

    -Ms. Zapata

    Ada Harris Band Director