How do I practice successfully?

This question is certainly about all musicians, teachers, students and music lovers. How and when can I practice well and in a concentrated manner, which methods of exercise help me further and how do I best integrate the exercise time? Practicing is not just about survival, but more about quality and effectiveness. “But how can I improve this if I always practice alone without control?”, One or the other pupil wonders. That’s why I was all the more enthusiastic that “practice” was the topic of the first teacher conference in the new school year. The teachers have exchanged ideas in different groups and I would like to summarize here some thoughts that were addressed in our discussion group “Successful Practice”.

“Effectively and successfully practice” is consistent, very focused work on new skills or weaknesses that are just above our ability, just outside the comfort zone. We agreed that practicing successfully means mastering the instrument or voice so that the piece of music is played or sung without effort. The feeling of success in practice comes when you get into the feeling of “flow”. (“Flow” – a mental state of complete concentration and complete absorption in the activity, which proceeds as if by itself, a creative or activity intoxication that causes a happy feeling)

How do I reach this condition regularly while practicing and not just from time to time? Here are some suggestions that were collected during our discussion.

Concentrate on just one activity and task and minimize any confounding factors. Therefore, turn off any distractions such as computer, TV and smartphone. Formulate a clear goal for your practice unit. (In one of the next posts, I will return to the topic Übeziele and present my exercise diary). Also, a fixed planning of the exercise time in the daily and weekly schedule can be of great help. Practicing should be part of a routine in the daily routine and take place regularly. For younger students, parents should help with the planning. Try different times to find the right time of day for you. Create a quiet place where you feel comfortable and not distracted, with enough light and air to meet your needs.

But not only the external circumstances must be correct, internally the player must be ready for practice. In stress and under pressure, it is not possible to work calmly and concentrated. Breathing exercises help the body and mind to prepare for practice. Sit for a few minutes, close your eyes and focus only on inhaling and exhaling. Subsequently, a brief warm-up for the muscles can prepare the body for intense play. Before you face the difficult technical challenges of the piece of music, you should plan a Einspielphase with the instrument. This can e.g. be easy pieces or exercises, scale, etc. It is always important to start at a slow pace. The muscles remember the movements better when they are executed consciously, correctly and slowly. The tempo can then be gradually increased. Important are breaks between long practice units and also within a practice phase. New movements are saved more efficiently by frequent repetitions with intervening pauses. Watch yourself practicing and discover how to learn best, because there are very different ways of learning. That is why it is important to try out new methods of practice at home and in the classroom and to invent some of them yourself. The most important thing is the joy of the instrument, the sound, the music, but it may also be that practicing is not fun at short notice. That too is part of it and should not be an obstacle nor to give up on a challenge at the same time. There is always a way to the goal and patience is needed.

To better understand yourself, taking a practice phase can be very helpful in getting more objective feedback. These are just a few suggestions on this topic, which have reminded me of some points to practice each day successfully.

Have fun practicing!

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