Practice Tips


Practice Tips

Practicing individually at home is an important and necessary way to improve at playing an instrument. However, some students (and parents) are unsure exactly what should happen during that practice time. Here are some helpful suggestions from Ms. Bergman to make sure practice time is useful and productive at your house!  

1. Set up a designated place to practice in your house.

A room with a door works well for practicing, both for sound-dampening reasons, and for getting rid of distractions while practicing. It’s best if a student has a music stand to use, but pinning the music to a bulletin board (or taping it to a door or wall) will work too! (Folding music stands are available at local music stores!) 

2. Try to spread out your practice sessions.

Check in the handbook to see how many minutes you should be practicing each week. It’s up to you when you get those minutes done, but it’s more effective (and less painful) to spread out the time. You will learn more and be a better player if you practice for 30 minutes on five different days, than if you cram in two and half hours on Sunday night.  

3. Make sure you’re always using correct posture when practicing.

Sit or stand up tall, hold the instrument up correctly, and maintain a good bow hold ALWAYS! You’ve heard the phrase “Practice makes perfect,” right? Well, it’s a lie. The truth is that “Practice makes permanent.” If you always practice with bad posture, then you won’t be able to play with good posture, and your tone quality and musical potential will suffer. If it helps, put a small stuffed animal next to you or on your stand while you practice, and pretend he’s your teacher. Whenever you look at that stuffed animal, pretend that he’s reminding you to check your posture and bow hand!

4. Don’t just play straight through the music.

It’s ok to play through each piece once or twice when you practice, but your main job is to break it down into smaller parts. Think about which sections we’ve been working on in class, and work on being able to play those sections perfectly. You should be practicing the challenging spots more than the easy spots. This is the only way to improve, and be a better orchestra team member. The best plan is to break down the music into smaller, more manageable ‘chunks’ to practice over and over, until they’re perfect. Once you can play one chunk perfectly, work on another small chunk. Then, start to put the chunks together. Keep in mind that faster isn’t always better. It’s best to start slowly, in order to make sure every single note is accurate and perfect. When you can play something perfectly at a slow tempo, then you can start to speed it up. Using a metronome is a great way to keep a steady tempo. (Metronomes are available for purchase starting at around $20, if you’re interested. Or check for a free app on a smart device!)

5. Figure out ways to make your notes sound even better.

Are there any markings in the music you should be paying attention to? Be a good detective and find all of the dynamics, bow lifts, slurs, low or high fingerings, accidentals, tempo markings, etc. in your music. Also remind yourself about things that should be happening that aren’t written on the page such as posture, tone quality, vibrato, playing in tune, and keeping a steady tempo.

6. You can play other music, too!

If your school music is going well, feel free to spend some of your practice minutes playing other music. If you take private lessons, play in a youth orchestra, or play at church, you’ll want to make sure you keep practicing that music too. Practicing scales and etudes are also a great way to improve your technique. If you’d like extra music to play, there are MANY books for violin/viola/cello/bass available through Ms. Bergman, online, or local music stores. Many students really enjoy having books that include movie themes, fiddle tunes, praise songs, Disney music, etc.

7. Have fun!

Find ways to make practicing more exciting and enjoyable for you! If there’s a recording available of your music, play along to the CD or online sound file. Get together with friends and play music with each other. When you’re ready, give informal “concerts” to your family and friends, to show off what you can do. Make sure you’re enjoying being a musician, since you’ve worked so hard to have these skills on your instrument! That’s what making music is all about!