A young woman practicing the violin

Keys for Effective Music Practice

Introduction To Music

Are you looking for the key to learning music? Or perhaps you say to yourself, some people just come out of the womb as Whitney Houston, but that sure didn’t happen to me. Well, the good news is, you’re both wrong (to some extent)! Jokes aside, the truth is, practice is where the progress happens, so it’s an essential part of every musician’s life regardless of what they do or where they’re at in their musical journey.  Here are some steps to ensure your time between lessons—and the lessons themselves!—isn’t wasted.

7 Steps To Getting Better At Playing Your Musical Instrument

  1. Allot enough time for practice sessions to make headway, but be realistic about your goals. Schedule practice sessions into your week, leaving one day for rest. This will help you meet your weekly practice goals and help practicing to become a habit. It will also be more effective than setting abstract, lofty goals, i.e. “I’m going to practice for 3 hours every day until I’m amazing,” yet if you were to factor in all the non-negotiable things you have to do in a day, you would see that you simply don’t have that kind of time. Something is better than nothing, however, it should also be noted that the ability to get into the “flow” of a practice session has been shown to be related to the number of hours spent in a practice session.
  2. Rid your environment of distractions. Put your phone in airplane mode, if possible. Set a timer so you’re not tempted to keep checking the clock. The more “soundproof” the room is, the better. A “do not disturb” sign on the doorknob works for hotels; why can’t it work for a practicing musician?
  3. Do appropriate preparation for practice sessions. Hydrate, if you’re a singer. Tune your instrument, if applicable; tuning is important not only for your instrument, but also for your ear. Do the needful preparation prior to each and every practice session. Things are always easier once they become habits. This will ensure that when it’s time to grace a stage someday, even in the midst of adrenaline and excitement, it will be nearly impossible for you to forget to hydrate/tune, which in that situation suddenly become extra crucial.
  4. Start with a warm-up, followed by exercises. An integral part of every practice session! By beginning this way, you’ll set yourself up for success, be able to take stock of where you are, protect yourself from injury, and even make discoveries and progress—regardless of what your instrument is (yes, even your voice is an instrument!). For reference, a warm-up serves the purpose of stretching things out in a relaxed and easy way, which then prepares you for exercises; they help wake up and heighten things like agility and ear training. 
  5. Do the work your teacher asked you to do first and foremost. There’s a reason they’ve assigned what they’ve assigned. If you hit a wall and can’t seem to make progress after spending significant time on it, take a break from that piece and work on something else. If you’re still stuck, take a break from practicing; take a walk or do another relaxing, unrelated activity, then come back and try again. This will help you get out of your head. If you consistently can’t make sense of the work your tutor is assigning—whether it’s the why or the how–try talking to them about it. Our common goal is to see you succeed.
  6. Focus in on the difficult parts of a song. Take them out of context and utilize repetition, relevant exercises, and a bit of simple detective work to help you figure it out. Then, gradually zoom out, putting the passage back into context bit by larger bit. Once you can do that portion well 3 times in a row, you’ll know it wasn’t just a fluke and you’ve built some muscle memory that you can rely on in future attempts.
  7. Include something fun/satisfying in each practice. This is a good strategy for helping to keep yourself motivated; no one can push you to practice and, thereby, progress except you. This practice is also good for helping you to not get in your own way and set you up for success on even harder pieces that you’ll try that day, as we often tend to enjoy things that we’re good at. As the saying goes, “you can overcome any ‘how’ if you have a ‘why’.”

Take Your Musical Skills To The Next Level

I can tell you from having spent countless hours practicing throughout my life that, without fail, following these steps has helped me stay on track and stay practicing, even on days when I don’t feel like it. This is because I don’t have to spend too much time thinking about my game plan for each session if I’m not up to it that day. Additionally, however, the beauty of these steps is that they are still general enough to give you space to make them your own each and every time you enter your practice space. No two practice sessions should or will ever be the same.

Now, let’s go find a music tutor and put these tips to work!

Melissa G Profile Picture
Melissa G
Music Tutor | + posts

Melissa fell in love with music from an early age. Consequently, she's spent a lifetime making and pursuing the understanding of it. Her passion for music is rivalled only by her love for teaching. From hip-hop to opera and everything in between, she is eager and able to take her students where they want to go and, thereby, into a deeper appreciation of themselves and the world around them.

Link to Tutor Profile