We’ve all been there before. You’re coming fresh off of a productive, inspiring practice session only to pull out your instrument the next day and *poof!*, all your hard work has seemingly been forgotten. You feel as though you have to work on the same section of music over and over again in order to get it back to the level you left it the last time you practiced.
There has to be some way to get this piece of music under your fingers faster, right?
Oftentimes, the issues mentioned above are caused by a lack of efficiency in the practice room. Logging a large number of hours practicing loses some of its value when the time spent is not done so in a useful manner that promotes meaningful progress. In order to get the most out of our time spent with our instruments, it is important to place the majority of focus on the quality and effectiveness of work we are putting into practice.
What are some ways to increase my productivity and efficiency when practicing?
Keep a practice journal
Practice journals are a great way to stay organized and hold yourself accountable with your music-making! Documenting practice allows you to see exactly how much improvement you have made on a particular piece or skill over a period of time. The journaling method is particularly useful because it can be personalized to fit each individual’s preferences. For example, I like to keep my journaling to a minimum by simply tracking what I played and for how long each day. However, you can feel free to track as many details about your session as you wish!
Make a plan for which music/sections of music you are going to practice ahead of time
This tip goes hand-in-hand with keeping a practice journal. Planning out and keeping a record of your sessions ensures you are not letting any repertoire fall to the wayside as you juggle a wide variety of music. I recommend creating an overarching plan for an entire week of practicing, making sure you dedicate an equal amount of time to warm-ups, scales, etudes, excerpts, ensemble music, solo repertoire, and/or anything else you may be preparing.
Practice sight reading daily
Over time, incorporating sight-reading into your daily practice routine improves your ability to learn new repertoire at an accelerated pace (not to mention your overall sight-reading abilities, as well). Your brain and your body will learn to make connections faster and with more accuracy when they are pushed to comprehend and perform a brand-new section of music every time you play. This will, in turn, translate to a greater ability to learn and retain more in-depth work on a piece in a shorter amount of time.
Listen to recordings during your practice session
You do not have to spend every second of your practice using your mouth, fingers, or voice to make music in order to have an effective session. Taking a few minutes to listen to some recordings gives your body a break while still engaging your mind in the practice room. Letting your body rest allows you to regroup and refocus as opposed to running yourself into the ground with exhaustion. There is always something to gain from critically analyzing a performance, whether it be a self-recording or a professional recording from another artist. As soon as you have given yourself an appropriate amount of time to relax your muscles, you can apply the knowledge gained from listening to your own playing.
Feel free to comment below with more ideas or methods you use to improve your efficiency and effectiveness when practicing!