Musical Instrument Practice Tips > Easy Piano by Ear

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Musical Instrument Practice Tips

Ever get DOG TIRED of practicing your instrument? Whether you are learning to play piano, guitar, violin, flute or any other instrument, chances are you are not alone. After the initial enthusiasm of finally beginning your journey as a new musician, it is typical to wake up one day and realize that this is going to take a lot of practice and patience. There are a few musical instrument practice tips that will help.

However, any good and lasting thing takes time and determination to bring to fruition. Yes, playing a musical instrument is very physical in nature, but it is also a very psychological and mental discipline.

Use one or all of these 5 sure fire musical instrument practice tips to get your fingers and your brain moving:

1. Use A Recording When You Practice! There is no faster and more honest way to get a true assessment of your own instrumental playing ability on a particular piece than to video record your practice session. A picture truly does tell a thousand words. You will not only notice musical details but posture, instrument position and overall confidence in your bearing (or not).

2. To best learn your favorite pieces quickly look for these highest essential markings:

* Key Signature
* Treble or Bass Clef Changes
* Tempo Markings
* Dynamic Markings (forte (loud) or piano (soft)
* Time Signature (how many beats are in a measure)

3. Create A Plan of Attack: You have 3 choices which are listed and explained below:

Metronome Method – After you have comfortably learned the note in your music start to use the metronome at a very slow speed. For example, begin with 80 ticks per minute and add 4 each day to work your way up to 100. This works well if you already have laid the ground work and already know the music notes well. If you still struggle then simply move the metronome back to a smaller number and go through the same process. Remember: if you can’t play it well slowly, you certainly CAN NOT play it well up to tempo.

Chaining Method: Learn 2 to 4 measures at a time really well before moving on. For example if you are learning a 16 measure piece or musical exercise simply start out by mastering only 4 measures the first day. That’s doable, right? Of course. Then just add 4 more measures the next day to add to your “chain” and you will have the whole piece learned in just 4 days!


Visualizing Method: Instead of just hurling extra practice at a troubling passage in a piece you need to break down the EXACT one or two measures where you are having trouble. Then LOOK AT YOUR HANDS! Visualize the chord structure you are struggling with and make a permanent picture of it in your mind. It is OK to memorize by picture or chord shape instead of just “hoping” your fingers will magically fall into place when you hit that measure. If you are a visual learner this may be a BIG breakthrough in your musical training.

4. Avoid Practice Traps – Just like trained pros in football who miss catching the ball or ballerinas who accidentally slip and fall all of us have certain bad habits we need to avoid.

A. For beginner pianists starting at the beginning of a piece and just playing it all the way through every day and calling that practice is a bad habit. Learn to break your piece into bite size pieces (4-8 measures) and master the content before moving on.

B. Avoid spending most of your practice time on passages you already know well and are comfortable with. Instead focus on the technical work that bogged you down at your last lesson and focus in on that. Decide to begin your practice at your roughest spots for the next week and you will see dramatic improvement within one week.

5. Speeding and Skimming are No-No’s – By speeding through those passages that you don’t play well at all it is easy to convince yourself that MOST of the piece sounds great. Beware that speeding over tough spots that can only be fixed with SLOW practice will simply delay your headache for later when you will have to fix the bad spot to perform the entire piece well.

Skimming over a piece at the beginning and being a good sight reader sometimes leads the budding musician to believe that he/she really doesn’t need to practice it anymore. It’s kind of like a roller skater who makes it around the roller rink just fine the first time and immediately considers himself a pro. If you find yourself saying ” but it sounded better at home” during your next music lesson or jam session you may be a skimmer. To fix this make sure you practice each piece or section of a piece 3 times daily with the last time aiming for playing without errors. If you can do this you are no longer skimming but actually “working” at your practice and making progress.

Jan Durrant is a music teacher and online music publisher living in Texas. It is her goal to share her musical teaching experience from the classroom and private studio with music students around the world to help them learn to read music. Find over 100 free music lessons, music video tutorials and easy sheet music at Piano For Beginners.

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