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  • Writer's pictureElisabeth Hope

Practice Tips for Teens, Part 2

Updated: May 3, 2020

More effective time management and practice tips

missed Practice Tips for Teens part 1? Start here.

5. Write down your goals.

Research tells us that we are much more likely to achieve a goal that we’ve written down. Write down your big long-term goals (“make it into All-State Orchestra this year” or “improve my sight-reading in high positions”), your medium-term goals (“perform this piece in next month’s recital” or “have this etude completed in two weeks”), and your smaller daily goals for each piece or exercise. This helps you to focus on more than just learning the notes. Perhaps three daily goals for the opening of your concerto could be “refine phrasing,” “connect vibrato,” and “start the first note beautifully.”

Write down these goals so that you can see your progression over time, and so that you can aim your efforts and make sure that you covered all your bases (Wow, it looks like I haven’t focused on keeping a steady tempo in that tricky run in a few days. I’d better do some good metronome work today.)

6. Mental practice

This is an amazing way to get yourself ready for a competition or a big performance. When you’re getting ready and you want to know if you have the piece solidly in your mind’s computer, try it without the printer of your hands and instrument.

Instead of playing through the piece, close your eyes, imagine yourself in the place where you’re going to give the performance, and imagine your way through the whole piece.

If you make a mistake, the problem is not in the printer. The problem is in the computer! In this case, you need to go back to the drawing board and truly figure out that section of the piece. This is a great way to narrow down the amount of time that you’re spending on practice, because you know which parts you feel confident on and which parts you don’t. Mental glitches are often the cause of physical glitches when you’re playing through the piece.

7. Listening

Speaking of having your piece figured out, remember back when you were a kid and Mom had that CD going on all the time and you were listening to your Suzuki pieces constantly? It’s still a good idea!

Listening to your pieces is always helpful, whether it’s a Suzuki piece or an advanced concerto.

This is a wonderful way to get your music in your brain so that you know it, cutting down the amount of time that you actually have to spend working it out in practice sessions. Listening to your pieces helps with learning notes, rhythms, phrasing, style, memorization, and countless other things. Add listening to your music to other routines in your day such as getting ready for the day, commuting to school, or doing homework so that your time spent actually with your instrument can be focused exactly where you need it to be to work out the physical aspects of learning your music.

8. Use whatever time you have—no amount is too little to make progress!

I used to wait until I felt like I had a good chunk of time to be able to practice, and sometimes that meant skipping practice altogether. Learn from my mistakes! You can make great progress in any amount of time that you can spend with your instrument. If you focus on one little thing that you’re going to make better, you can use a two-minute chunk of time to make wonderful progress on your instrument.

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