“Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” (Vince Lombardi)
Developing a system of effective practice habits not only leads to better musicianship and playing, it becomes a life skill that can apply to other pursuits. Practicing is about time management, focus, continual small improvements, setting long term goals and the struggle to keep moving in the right direction in spite of plateaus and setbacks. It doesn’t matter whether you are planning a Carnegie Hall debut or are taking lessons as a personal endeavor; working on improving practice methods is a worthwhile journey for just about anyone. And while some musicians (like Mozart) are exceptionally gifted, recent studies of their estimated practice time indicate that there were no shortcuts; they simply started their 10,000 hours at a very early age and spent several hours a day making progress.
One thing that we have all said (or heard from students) is that “it sounded better at home/in the practice room.” A year or two ago, a singer who had been called in at the last minute to substitute for a major operatic role at The Met was interviewed about practice (during the intermission). He told the audience,
“My performances are usually about 75 or 80% of what I’m able to do in practice, so I put all of my energy into great practice to set the highest possible standard when performing.”
What makes the difference between effective and ineffective practice? Read the appropriate sections (For Parents, For Students) for ideas and resources on setting up a good practice routine.
Click here to order a copy of Calmer, Easier, Happier Music Practice. It’s an outstanding CD set that covers specific issues in managing practice time for students of all ages.