1. Make space for practice
Create the right space for your practice. Somewhere quiet and where you won’t get disturbed – your own space for your own practice.
Keep all you need regularly for your practice easily available out or near your practice space. If you are learning with a teacher, then have any notes that they have given you available for you to refer to.
2. Make time for practice
It is important to set aside time (ideally every day) for your practice.
A practice schedule is a very useful way to organize your practice time especially if you’re not quite sure what to practice and for how long. If you have a limited time for your daily practice session it is very useful to set a regular time and then, using a planned schedule, simply work through your prearranged material. If, for example, you have only half an hour in which to practice then you could divide your time into roughly four sections which could include WARMUP, STUDIES, PIECES/TUNES and EXTRAS. The details of these sections will vary according to your level of ability and what you’re working on at any one time. It is important to vary the content of these sections so that you don’t get stale and bored. KEEP IT INTERESTING AND CHALLENGING.
Here is a sample 30-minute schedule to give you an idea:
5 mins – WARMUP (e.g. exercises, scales, patterns)
10 mins – STUDIES (e.g. technique development, scale/chord studies)
10 mins – PIECES/TUNES (e.g. preparation for performance/exams, unaccompanied or with playalongs)
5 mins – EXTRAS (e.g. ear training, sight-reading, transcription)
3. Keep a practice diary
Use some kind of notebook and each time you practice keep a note of what you do. This needn’t be a whole essay just something really quick that will remind you of what you practiced. The great thing about this is that each time you practice you have a choice of whether to repeat what you did the previous day or move on to something new. In reality your practice will be a mixture of these because repeating the material you find more difficult will enable you to progress.
4. Make recordings of your practice
This will give you a great opportunity to really listen to what you sound like. You need to be brave but it is what other people hear when you play! So using this will give you a great way to know what to improve and actually enjoy where you’ve got to in you instrumental development.
5. Use a practice mirror
Have a mirror available to watch yourself as you practice. Like the recording process this will give you a good idea of how you look to your teacher and your audience. This is not just for posing, but to enable you to watch for any bad habits in terms of bad positioning and also for any nervous tics that often happen through tension and through trying too hard.
6. Don’t leave it until tomorrow
Even a little practice will make a difference!