11 Tips for Practice Time

Now that you've established your desire to learn how to play a musical instrument, the next step is to fully commit to it. Any successful musician will tell you that in order to excel in your instrument you should continually practice. Here are some tips to keep in mind before, during and after every practice session.

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Aim to Practice Everyday

Violinist practicing

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Even the best musicians strive to practice their instrument daily. Make practice a part of your daily routine. Determine when is the best time for you to practice. If you like practicing in the morning, get up at least an hour early so that you won't be late for work. If you're an evening person, do your practice before going to bed or before you become sleepy. If you skip a practice day, don't worry, but do try to make up for the missed practice session by extending your practice time for at least 5 minutes for your next session.

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Never Forget Your Finger Exercises and Warm-Ups

Flash Picking an Electric Guitar

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Finger exercises and other form of warm-ups are crucial if you want to be a good player. Not only will it make your hands and fingers more flexible, it will also reduce the danger of injuries. Every instrument player must do warm-ups first before playing or performing. You won't run a marathon without stretching first, right? The same principle applies to playing an instrument.

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Practice for at Least 20 Minutes Daily

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Why 20 minutes? I find that this is a manageable time for beginners, it's not too short that you get nothing done and not too long that you end up feeling bored. When I say 20 minutes it refers to the lesson proper itself. Devote 5 minutes for warm-ups and 5 minutes for cool downs, just like a regular exercise. That means you must set aside at least 30 minutes a day for practice sessions. That's not too long, right? You can spend longer than that falling in line at a check-out counter. As your interest grows you'll find that your daily practice time will also extend.

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Listen to Your Body

Girl being assessed for ear problems.
Girl being assessed for ear problems.

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Sometimes musicians forget the importance of being fit not only in mind but also in body. If you're straining to read the music sheet in front of you, do have your eyes checked. If you're having trouble deciphering tones coming from your instrument, consider having an ear exam. If your back hurts every time you sit down to practice, determine if this has something to do with posture. Listen to your body; if it feels something is not quite right, schedule a check-up as soon as possible.

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Make Your Practice Area Comfortable

girl playing guitar in living room

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Is your seat comfortable? Is the room well ventilated? Is there proper lighting? Make sure that your practice area is comfortable and free from distractions so you can concentrate. Also, consider adjusting your practice schedule depending on the time of year. For example, during summer when the temperature is hotter, you can schedule your practice in the mornings when it's cooler. During winter and if possible, set your practice time in the afternoons when it's warmer.

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Remember, It's Not a Race

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Keep in mind that each person learns at varying speeds, some are quick learners while others take time to progress. Don't be ashamed if you feel you're progressing slower than your classmates. Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? Keep that in mind when you're having self-doubts. The best musicians reached their level of success through determination and patience. It is not about how quickly you learned to play a music piece; it is about playing from your heart.

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Be open to your teacher

Music teacher instructing school orchestra

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If you're taking individual or group lessons make sure that you communicate with your teacher. Consult your teacher if there's an area you're struggling with or if there's something you don't fully comprehend. Your teacher is your ally, she is there to help you. Be open and don't feel embarrassed to approach your music teacher if you're having difficulty about a certain lesson or music piece.

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Take Care of Your Instrument

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Your musical instrument will serve as your friend and partner as you continue your studies. It isn't enough that you're a good player, you must also have an instrument that is of good quality and in top condition. Take care of your instrument; if you feel it's starting to have problems, don't wait and have it checked immediately.

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Reward Yourself

Hanging with friends at the coffee shop.
Hanging with friends at the coffee shop. Luis Alvarez/Getty Images

If you've just learned a piece you've previously had trouble with, by all means, reward yourself. You don't have to splurge, just doing something you particularly enjoy is a reward in itself. Grab a latte at your favorite coffee place, rent a movie, get a pedicure, etc. Rewarding yourself will give you a moral boost and further inspire you to learn.

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It's Okay to Have Fun

Father and son playing musical instruments

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We all want to be good at something but for me loving what you do is more important. Never forget that despite all the hardwork you will and are facing, playing a musical instrument is enjoyable. As you improve, your love and enjoyment of music will also grow. You are embarking on a wondrous journey, have fun!

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Get Your Equipment Ready

Before each practice session, make sure all the materials you will need are prepared and within easy reach. Aside from your musical instrument of course, here are other things you can use during your practice sessions

  • metronome
  • tuner
  • method books/sheet music
  • music stand
  • instrument stand
  • CD player to play along with