In The Zone (Practice Makes Perfect)

In the last instalment of this series of quick lessons I discussed warming up when practicing. Taking this a little further I wanted to look at ‘What to practice’ and getting into the ‘Zone’.

It seems obvious that if you have a plan before you start you will achieve more, however far too many pupils pick up the first or favourite piece of music and go for it without considering what they are doing.

What do I want to accomplish today?

Just playing through your music in some random order is NOT practicing. Prepare yourself mentally and think what your goal is for the session. Before you start, think ‘what do I want to accomplish today?’ ‘What overall result do I need?’ If you’re not sure what you need to focus on, ask your teacher for a few goals to work toward before the next lesson, write them down so that you don’t forget.

If you don’t have a teacher then think on this: When you play, where do you usually make your mistakes? Always a good place too start and once this is perfected to a standard you are happy you should ask, when should the bellows change direction during the music? How can I make the music more expressive and which sections should be loud or quiet? All of these questions can be allocated to the whole song or just a phrase. Decide what you are going to fix or improve. Remember there is nothing wrong playing a four bar phrase over and over and over until it is correct, boring though it may get. Don’t forget to set a timer to end a 15 minute session.

Keep it simple: music and a metronome only

So, now you know what you are going to practice, how do you get into the ‘concentration zone’ and make it work for you? Focus is the key. Have a place to play where you will not be distracted. No TV in the background (even if there is no sound). No people wandering around. Don’t look out the window. No bags of sweets or drinks, you’ll be done in fifteen minutes, they are not needed. Keep it simple: music and a metronome only – make sure you are comfortable before you start.

Finally – Enjoy! It is really important to separate practice and playing for fun. If the balance is not right then it won’t be fun, it will become a chore and you are not going to want to keep going. The balance of each will be different for each player so like all things in life a work/fun balance is important. Work is important but it is just as important to have fun!

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