Updated: Feb 25, 2020
As a student myself for many years and now a teacher, I have developed a few tips I have found helpful in cultivating productive and consistent practice habits. Practicing for 10 to 15 minutes at a time can be a more manageable way of staying focused. If you are a parent you have probably seen how difficult it can be for a young one to stay focused and practice. I always think it is best to split up the practice time to make it easier on the child to practice productively, verses practicing for 30 minutes unproductively. This works for adults as well, but you may find you will be dividing up an hour into two 30 minute sessions. The key to splitting up the practice time is to make sure you are still practicing everyday instead of trying to cram a long practice session in the day before a lesson or performance. Another great tip for young ones is to keep their practice books open on their music stand. This will create less friction between practicing and not practicing when everything is always out and ready to go. For the parents out there: when you are unsure of how to help your child practice here are a few quick tips. Have your child say the notes out loud as they play their songs (if they are beginners), or have them clap the rhythm of their song before playing it. (Check our practice tips for parents here: https://www.hannahandcomusic.com/post/how-to-practice-with-your-child )
For older students, a good way to make sure your practice time is productive is by keeping a practice journal. This can be as detailed or minimal as needed but keeping a list of what you will be working on will help you keep your practice specific. A practice journal also helps you to manage the goals you are trying to achieve. This allows for you to be more motivated to practice when what you need to practice is already written out for you to follow and your goals are set before you. The same practice of keeping your books open and keeping your instrument out will again eliminate the friction between you and your practice time.
Don't forget your metronome! Whether you need to work on slowing down a passage or just working on staying in time, working with a metronome is crucial. A metronome allows you to stay honest during your practice time by helping you identify passages where you may be making some mistakes due to playing the rhythm incorrectly or just identifying your need to slow it down. Starting slow and working up to the correct tempo is always the best practice and is best done with a metronome. Finally, what I find is most important for a student, child or adult, is to never be too hard on yourself. If you find you are getting too frustrated, it is best to step away for some time and come back to it with a clear head. Productive practice does not come from frustration but from determination, focus and confidence in your abilities.