Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your practice time:
1. Pick a quiet, well lit practice area away from distractions.
2. Identify the time and key signatures of the selection you are practicing. Not following the key signature (seeing what notes remain sharp or flat throughout the piece) is the #1 mistake musicians make when reading a piece of music.
3. Identify notes (especially accidentals), phrasing (breathing), and expression marks (dynamics and articulation) in the music.
4. Practice counting and clapping rhythms out loud first before playing them.
5. Practice moving your fingers on the instrument in rhythm while saying the note names out loud.
6. Isolate difficult technical passages and practice those small sections first before taking on larger phrases or the whole song/exercise. Spend more time with the parts that you are struggling with than the parts you already can play well! If you are having difficulty with a technical passage (a lot of notes in a row), change around the rhythms so that your fingers get used to playing the particular note combination you are practicing.
7. Practice slowly first to be very accurate before increasing the speed. Practicing with a metronome (Metronome Online) is a great way to ensure rhythmic accuracy.
Here is an example of a 15 minute practice routine:
(PLEASE NOTE: Setting up your instrument does not count towards practice time)
- 0-5 minutes: Warm up with scale exercises, long tones, or a piece/exercise that you know very well (try to avoid anything too fast or too high to start with).
- 5-12 minutes: Select and isolate hard technical passages. Start by counting the rhythms out loud while fingering through the passages, practice fingering along while saying the note names out loud, and then play it all on your instrument.
- 12-15 minutes: Practice isolated passages/songs/exercises and try to perform them 3 times in a row perfectly. Practice makes permanent, so strive for successful repetitions!
With a little time devoted on a daily basis, even the hardest technical passages can be mastered. I wish you the best of luck in your practicing journey-please let me know if you have any questions at all about efficient practice habits. Have fun practicing!