As the old joke goes, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”
“Practice, practice, practice!” However, while the importance of practice is well-known to any music student, the key to effective practice is not as widely understood. Our Cello teachers at Lessons In Your Home believe that quality is more important than quantity, especially for young students. Today we share some of our favorite practice routines to help you improve your playing.
The Importance of Quality Practice Time
As a music student, you may have heard the saying, “Practice makes perfect,” but the truth is that “Practice makes permanent.” Therefore, it is important to practice correctly in order to make permanent improvements in your playing. Here are some effective tips to help you make the most of your practice time with the cello.
Turn Practicing into a Game
One effective way to practice difficult passages is to turn it into a game. Instead of simply playing a passage a few times until you get it right, challenge yourself to play it correctly ten times in a row. If you make a mistake, start over from the beginning. This approach helps to reinforce the correct playing in your memory and motivates you to focus on getting it right every time.
Don’t Just Play What’s on the Page
Another effective technique is to practice a skill beyond where it appears in the music. For example, if you struggle with a difficult shift in a piece, practice the shift forwards and backwards. Additionally, try playing difficult runs in different rhythms than what is written in the music to isolate the hard parts. By practicing something harder than what is in the music, you will find the piece easier to play when you perform it. This technique also helps you identify which parts of the passage are challenging and why, allowing you to focus on improving those specific skills.
Five Minute Practice Bursts
One of my favorite techniques is to divide your practice time into five-minute bursts. Take a piece you have already learned the notes and rhythms for and divide it into phrases. Practice one phrase at a time, focusing on intonation, rhythm, expression, and technique. By working on a high level of detail in each phrase, you will avoid boredom and stay focused. Move on to a new phrase after five minutes, but not necessarily the next phrase on the page. Playing phrases out of order increases variety and helps your brain encode the information better.
Find the Best Practice Routine for You
The key to effective practice is to find a routine that works for you. The tips we have shared are effective for many of our students, but they may not work for everyone. Contact Lessons In Your Home to be matched with a cello teacher who can help you find the best way to practice. Effective and interesting practice routines not only make you a better musician, but also make the learning process more enjoyable.