Having a good music lesson experience has much to do with the quality and credentials of your music teacher. But it also depends on you, particularly, how well prepared your are, going into the lesson room! Since most music lesson students of any age and level might benefit from advice regarding their music practice habits, we compiled a 10-point list to help you avoid frustration in music lessons and speed up your learning process:
1. Practice daily, if possible. At a minimum, at least three times per week. Learning a musical instrument is very much like learning any other discipline, including sports, in that the results are a direct reflection of your efforts.
2. Determine short-term and long-term goals for your music practice routine.
What would you like to accomplish within a week, within 3 months, a year, etc.
3. Set an amount of time aside for practice that is appropriate for the goal(s) you have set yourself. Be realistic; you won't turn into a virtuoso overnight. Be patient.
4. Make sure that you are practicing in an environment that minimizes distractions (no TV in the background, no pets walking across the keyboard, etc.) Practicing your instrument should be a special time of the day during which you will give your instrument exclusive attention.
5. Do not play through the entire piece again and again, in hopes that the next time you will play it, all will be perfect and as it should be. It won't! According to a popular definition of the term, "insanity" is the process of doing the very same thing over and over again, expecting different results. Repeatedly playing through a piece has nothing to do with practicing or learning; rather, it's a waste of time!
6. When learning a piece of music, don't try to learn the entire work all at once. Instead, subdivide the piece into sections that may be from one to several measures in length. Then focus on these individual sections and learn them one at a time. You (or your music lesson teacher) may limit the number of sections to be tackled in any given week.
7. Practice very slowly! This is much-repeated advice, and yet it is not always heeded among music students of any age and ability. When practicing slowly--very slowly--you must be able to envision every movement of your body to produce the sound on your instrument BEFORE you actually execute the movements. You must be in full control of the process. If you cannot fully control your body, some of your playing is "automated" and your practicing tempo is too fast. You are wasting precious practice time.
8. In slow practice, do not get tempted to let your thoughts wander elsewhere (outstanding homework assignments; shopping lists; movie dates; etc.). Instead, focus fully and exclusively on the task(s) at hand.
9. Practicing slowly and with such single-minded concentration is akin to programming a computer--in this case, your brain. If computer programmers make mistakes in designing software functions, the result is that the programs don't work reliably. They may crash, freeze, and have a host of other performance problems we're all too familiar with. The same applies to "sloppy" practicing. If your brain is never "fed" a piece of music properly, how can you ever expect to play the music as it should be?
10. Related to slow practice, memorizing pieces wholly or even partially is a great way to deepen the learning experience. After all, if you remember music without the benefit of a score, you know the piece much more intimately. Secure memorization also allows you to experience more fully the creative and expressive side of music-making; you don't need to spend any more effort on reading a score in front of you but instead can fully give yourself to "communicating" with your audience.