Healthy Practice Habits by Rachel Li

Have small goals to achieve during a practice session.

It’s really good to have intentional guidance from the start; it motivates you to focus on achieving that goal instead of wasting time doing mindless play-throughs of the piece.

Use the metronome.

Of course a metronome is not needed at all times, but a metronome helps keep you accountable with your tendencies to rush or slow down, as well as aiding in maintaining a consistent tempo when necessary. Overall, using the metronome creates a grounded foundation from which the piece can grow.

Take the time to work on technique, not just the pieces you are working on.

Working on technique exercises on the side will keep you on your A game, and therefore, help you play your pieces better. It also keeps you accountable with consistently strengthening your general weaknesses.

Slow practice, especially for technically challenging areas.

Slowing difficult passages down helps you pinpoint what is making the passage so hard.  When you slow down, you also become more grounded and feel more secure.

Record yourself.

As painful as it is to hit that play button and listen to your own playing, this is a good habit to maintain. It teaches you to be your own teacher and reveals to your ears so many things that you are not noticing in your playing. It also keeps you accountable with your progress on the piece.

Find the difficult sections and make sure those sections are practiced daily.

It’s easy for us to play the easy sections over and over again, because it feels good to play well.  However, it saves a lot of time if we, from the start, pinpoint those gnarly sections and focus on them first, and then work on them daily.  This helps prevent the buildup of overwhelming frustration when you get stuck in a passage.

Look at the score.

When you are collaborating, it is so helpful to see your part in context with the other parts. It guides you toward knowing what it is that you need to focus on when you are learning the piece.

Take breaks.

You’ll actually realize that you focus better if you take small breaks. This is also good for preventing injuries.

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