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  • Amanda Sullivan

Tools for Practicing 101

Updated: Oct 26, 2018

Having trouble getting to a higher level of playing? Do you feel like you are banging your head against the wall? Wish you had some aid to help you become more consistent in your practicing?


Here are some tools I use with my students to help practicing become more structured, effective, and enjoyable!


So let’s start with the Practice Log:




Here is the log I use for all of my students. The first thing I suggest is setting a weekly practice goal. How many times can you realistically practice this week? 3 days a week? 5 days a week? Of course, practicing 6 days a week is optimal but to make any progress in between lessons I suggest a bare minimum of 3 times a week.


Start with 3 times a week. Once you’ve built consistency then try adding a day a week.

Next, I divvy it up into Warm-up/ Technique, Theory, New Material, and Review Material.


Warm-up/Technique: This is usually contains a right hand or left hand exercise or both


Theory: This is usually a music theory concept: ex) a major or minor scale, chords that correspond with that scale, interval exercises


New Material: Any new piece or song that is introduced in that week’s lesson


Review Material: Any pieces or songs that have been learned in previous lessons that still need work or need to be maintained or re-visited


Every section is timed.

I time each section for these reasons:

1. It makes you focus and to not get up from your seat until the timer goes off

2. You innately discover how much you can learn in a certain amount of time and what to expect from yourself

3. It prevents you from spending too long on one issue/section of music AKA it prevents you from banging your head against the wall

4. It helps you fit in everything you need to touch upon during your practice time




The Metronome

Reasons to use the metronome:

1. So you develop the ability to keep a steady beat and play with solid rhythm on your instrument

2. Once you develop the ability to stay in time with a metronome, you can play in time with other musicians

3. You can work a piece at a low tempo and bring up the tempo in measured tiers

4. It teaches you to listen

Sometimes the relationship with the metronome can be one of love/hate. When I first started the metronome, it took me a while to get used to it. Once I did though, I loved it. I always encourage students to work with a metronome as soon as possible.


Notebook/Journal

It’s always good to have a notebook on hand while practicing. It’s good to write down thoughts during practice such as these:

1. What am I doing that is working?

2. What am I doing that isn’t working and is frustrating me?

3. Any specific questions you have for your music instructor

4. Metronome markings- low marking for practicing slow and higher metronome markings as goals

5. Specific areas you worked on during that practice session

6. Any thing you’d like to research about the piece later

7. Any notes on recordings of the piece you are working on that will aid you in your own interpretation

8. Anything you notice about your technique or your body (ex: my wrist is starting to hurt/ my neck seems to feel strained)


Mirror

Yes, a mirror! Not only do I want you to see your smiling face when you practice but I want you to be observant of your technique and how you are sitting with your instrument! I’ve noticed some technique issues in a mirror I would have not noticed otherwise.


3 Ring Binder or Folder:

It’s important to have all your practice log, handouts, and loose sheet music all in one place! That way you know where to find what you need and be organized and prepared for your practice sessions and lessons.




#practicing #practicelog #metronome

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