Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Practice Routine

As you use tuneUPGRADE as your music practice tracker, you might start refining and tweaking your daily practice routine. But what makes a good music practice routine? How do you set up routines to make your practice time as effective as possible?


Here are my personal top10 aspects of an effective practice routine.

1) Don't procrastinate - start as soon as you can!

According to Dr. Barbara Oakley's course Learning How to Learn, learning a new thing tends to activate areas in the brain associated with stress and pain. Your brain instead begins to focus on non-stressing tasks, like watching TV or browsing the internet - but the trick to avoiding this is simply to start! The moment you do, you'll wonder why you procrastinated in the first place.

2) Practice more often for less time rather than less often for more time. 

Cramming never works. We all know this, yet we do it anyways. To get better much more quickly, even on your busiest days, try to spend a few minutes with your instrument instead of skipping any practice whatsoever, even if it's just to do a brief review of some challenging areas. Of course, it's great to exceed your target practice time each day as well - just don't slip into thinking that you over-practiced yesterday, so you don't need to practice today.

3) Break down your routine into exercises, songs, and working on your repertoire.

Warm up with exercises, especially if you can tie exercises to songs you're about to work on. Learning how to do barre chords for a song? Warm up by practicing them. Playing some improvisational parts? Warm up using the right scales for the keys you're playing in. Once you've warmed up, spend time on the songs you're learning, and ensure you always spend some time playing pieces from your repertoire that you haven't touched in a while to keep them fresh!

4) Always include time to rock out!

Over-regimenting can be discouraging. Sometimes you just want to have some fun with your instrument. Make sure you always have time to rock out how you want to - don't plan every minute of your practice time - leave some open time to let your creativity flow!

5) Take effective practice notes.

What tempo did you leave off at last time? What sections were most problematic that you should start with? What chord changes gave you the most trouble? At the end of each practice, update your practice notes to capture what you did well and what needs work. At the start of each practice, review your practice notes to see where you should start. Don't always start at the beginning of a piece if the middle is the hardest part!

6) Break down pieces into distinct sections.

Number your measures. Label your sections. Write out your own harmony/chord charts. Arrange your pieces how they make sense to you. Take some time to analyze each piece and identify patterns, find the hardest sections, and try to work on those first, as those would need the most time to get sounding great.

7) Set goals by piece or exercise.

In your practice notes, always have a 'next step' goal you can focus on! Learning a whole piece can be daunting. Break it down a bit at a time. If a specific section is giving you trouble, set your goal to focus on that and get it up to a certain tempo!

8) Record yourself.

There are many reasons to record yourself playing. First is to record your sessions and mark them with the date and piece you played. Sometimes it can feel like you practice and practice and aren't getting better. That's usually not true, so referring back to how you used to sound vs. how you sound today! Listening to yourself as your pieces get more proficient will let you easily identify areas that don't sound as good as you'd like. And of course, having records you can play back for your music teacher can help them guide you as well!

9) Practice correctly as much as possible.

The moment you make a mistake, STOP. Slow down as much as you need to in order to do something correctly. Incorrect practice leads to incorrect performances! Never speed up until you can do something completely proficiently at a slower tempo.

10) Technology can be a wonderful tool!

Turn off your distractions of course, but otherwise, leverage whatever you can in the modern world to improve your skills. Tutorials on youtube are plentiful. Online metronomes are great. Software that automatically harmonizes like iRealPro can let you feel like you're jamming along. Listening to recordings can give you a huge leg up on how to play a piece. And of course, leverage tuneUPGRADE to track your practice and maintain your notes to accelerate your learning!

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