Music practice can be so much more than the ‘normal’ routines you go through in your practice session.
In fact, the following suggestions for practice away from your instrument can definitely enhance your learning and progress if you use them regularly.
These techniques are fun, help you to approach learning from different angles and support all the other exercises you work on as well.
Here’s what you can do if you can’t get to your instrument for practice:
As you may or may not know from reading this blog, I had my first gig with a newly formed band last weekend.
I had planned to practice, particularly on one song which needed work, during the day (the gig was that evening), however, my little one would not sleep unless I was lying down with her.
That cancelled out my practice session.
Recently I wrote an article on creative visualisation and I decided this was the perfect situation to put “practice what I preach”.
It is quite a well-known fact that sportspeople use creative visualisation to improve their performance and musicians can use it too!
So as I was lying down next to my daughter I closed my eyes, relaxed and visualised myself playing the chords on the piano, hearing them, feeling my hand positions etc. and I imagined everything in as much detail as possible.
While doing this, I made the mistakes I was making before so just did my imagined practice in order to iron them out, exactly as I would do in ‘real life’ and in real time (by breaking parts of the song down and working on them) until I could play the song through without incident. The verdict?
It worked, doing the practice in my head was just as good, and in some ways better, than if I had physically done it on the piano.
It was better because I found I really had to concentrate hard to get the results and this meant that the learning was deep.
We had a great gig and I’m looking forward to the next one.
I will also be using this technique more because it is great exercise for the imagination and adds another dimension to learning, making it a deeper process.
Learning to read music should be part of any instrumental or vocal training.
If you focus on learning to read rhythms well, you are also learning to subdivide a beat and this is one of the most important skills any musician could focus on, since developing good rhythms is perhaps 90% of the work in music.
Reading rhythms is one thing my students and I always enjoy practicing and again, you can do it anywhere.
All you need is a metronome and a resource book.
The book you get should be in graded exercises (meaning they get harder as you go along) and remember always to set your metronome tempo at a slow speed to start with and just speed up as the exercise gets easier.
I have a book called “The Rhythm Method for Safe Music” by N. Peterson, an absolutely fantastic resource that I have been using for years now.
Unfortunately, it has been difficult to find this book on the internet and I will look into how I may be able to get my hands on it and sell on my site.
It teaches rhythms using French time names, something I was sceptical of at first but have found really works and it has improved my sight reading enormously.
I am much more confident in reading music than I have ever been because I do this exercise as part of my practice routine, however, I don’t have to be in front of the piano to do it.
Computer Resources and Games
Every month I post a list of useful resources that you can access on your computer.
This month (October 2011), I have included some websites that provide free resources you can use online so that you can practice reading, note identification, song writing and much more.
Using online computer resources to help you gain other musical skills is a stimulating and fun experience.
Just try not to get sidetracked when looking for them and perhaps check out my site for previous months’ recommended resources, which include free programmes to help improve aural skills. (Just go to the sidebar and in the search area type in “this month’s 10 most useful music programs”) which will bring up loads of options for you.
Although listening to music seems like such an obvious activity for musicians, many don’t do it nearly as much as they could.
Sometimes we just get too busy, or have too much of our own music to write or learn that listening comes down our priority list.
However, there is always something to gain from it such as;
- Understanding of how music works and much more
When you actively listen to music. Just lie down or sit with your eyes closed. Don’t do anything else but listen and choose carefully what you wish to listen to.
In this act, just let the music take you where it will and reconnect with the experience of enjoying music for what it is and not thinking too much about it.
Being able to let go and get in touch with our initial feelings towards music, the pure enjoyment, the reason we wanted to participate in it, is important to reconnect with, especially if we have been practicing hard.
I’ve talked about the importance of reflecting upon our learning experience in this blog and you will see me do my reflections from time to time as well and post them here.
By reflecting on where you are in your learning and where you want to go, what important lessons you have learned etc. you are carving your path of learning, taking charge a little bit more and cementing what you have gained.
I make reflective learning a regular part of my practice by writing a paragraph in my Practice Diary every week.
This really helps to solidify learning and gives a clearer picture of what is happening for you on many levels.
The experience of doing reflective work always makes me feel better and appreciate the time I have spent doing music.
All you have to do is sit quietly and write for about ten minutes.
I hope you have found this article helpful and also have some ideas of how to vary your practice.
Please leave a comment and let me know what you think!