From the HSM Newsletter: Tips for At-Home Practicing

From the HSM Newsletter: Tips for At-Home Practicing
Posted on 02/27/2019
Practicing Tips

Students and families often ask me how they can make the most of practicing at home. Sometimes, it can be a struggle just to get the instrument out of the case! Below, I’ve listed some of my favorite ways to ensure a focused practice session, even if you only have 10 minutes.

Eliminate Distractions
When possible, practice in a quiet room. Turn off televisions, computers, and radios and put tablets and smartphones in airplane mode. Let the other people in your household that you/your child is practicing and ask them to support a quiet space for the duration of the session.

Fundamentals First
We all have so many commitments, one never knows when practicing will be interrupted (even if you do your very best to eliminate distractions!). That’s why it is always best to start with fundamentals on your instrument. Usually this means a slow scale, focusing on pitch, proper technique, and sound production. In addition to scale studies, wind and brass instruments can practice long tones as a great way to work on breath control, intonation, and consistency of tone. Similarly, violinists can work on the Tonalizations in their Suzuki book.

Slow & Steady (wins the race)
While the adage may seem trite, in all my years of music learning and teaching, I’ve never seen more success than that yielded by slow, intentional practice. My love and advocacy of this type of study started way back when I was an undergraduate music student at the University of Minnesota. While at the U, my string quartet had the privilege of being coached by Sally O’Reilly. Through my conversations with her (and her students), I learned the true value of slow practice; here’s what I recommend:

  1. Make the metronome your best friend

  2. Play only as fast as you can play correctly (or better, perfectly!)

  3. Learn difficult passagework first and then put it back in context

  4. Work on one to two phrases at a time

  5. Once a phrase is learned, play the whole thing under tempo with a metronome at least three times before moving on to a new section.

Thank you in advance for being a part of the HSM community and supporting the music learning of your HSM Beginner!
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