Are you looking for ways to make music practice more effective? Read further to learn about effective ways to improve your instrumental skills.
Finding time to practice a musical instrument can be quite challenging. On top of work or school, the distractions can pile up too — like smartphones, video games, and social networking. Even family and friends can take time away from practice time.
Furthermore, you may want to learn to play an instrument but aren’t sure which instrument to try. (Let alone how to go about learning to play it!)
Well, this article will help outline strategies to establish a reliable practice routine to help improve your instrumental skills. Even better, it also reveals some of the potential health benefits of playing musical instruments. So let’s get started!
Music Practice: Playing Your Musical Instrument For Your Level Of Experience
Depending on your level of experience, there are many ways to practice. These tips apply whether you’re playing in concert halls and classrooms… or having fun in your living room.
Music Lessons For Beginners: The Basics
If you are a beginner:
- Practice for at least 30 minutes each day. The best way to get started is to treat it as an exercise routine: Start with a 5-minute warm-up. Then take 20 minutes to work on your lesson. And finish with a 5-minute “cool-down” afterward. (Feel free to have fun with it!)
- Do finger exercises and warm-ups. This will help make your fingers more flexible.
- Find a comfortable, well-ventilated practice area with no other distracting sounds.
- Have your music stand and sheet music within easy reach.1
Bonus Tip: You can find free or low-cost smartphone or tablet apps to use as a tuner, metronome, and timer.2
Advanced Musicians And Students: Good Practice Tips
If you are an advanced player, besides the basic tips above, you’ll also want to:
- Practice at least 45 minutes per day.
- Practice scales, arpeggios, and patterns in all 12 keys.
- Practice different chord and inversion patterns.
- Accurately identify errors, rehearse them and correct them.
- Focus on repeating problem sections until they are correct.
- Slow the tempo of problem sections to work them out until they are correct.3
For classical music, the best way to improve your skills is to practice alone.4 This includes studying the repertoire or practicing scales over and over again. That’s because classical music is very task-specific.
Study Music Theory: Notation, Signatures, Chords, Arpeggios, and Scales
Music theory can appear scary at first. It is full of nuances around notation, time signatures, chords, scales, and arpeggios. And the first step toward mastering a musical instrument is to become fluent in reading musical notation.
Start by memorizing all the notes and where they are on the staff. At first, writing the names underneath each note may make it easy to identify the notes. But this is like riding a bike with training wheels. It is best to memorize each note in its own space.
If you are playing the piano, then read and practice each staff of music separately. Take it slowly at first, until you become fluent with the notes in each line. Then combine the hands together.5
You need time signatures to keep track of:
- How many beats are in each measure
- What type of note gets the beat
This determines the pulse and feel of the music. It’s also a way of grouping individual beats into bars.6
It’s a good idea to get used to playing in different time signatures. Although many pieces are written in a time signature of either 4/4 or 3/4, there are tons of variations and exceptions.
Chords are the building blocks of harmonic structure. A chord is a combination of 3 or more notes played at the same time. Whether performing classical or jazz, it is essential to practice chords in all 12 keys.
Arpeggios are broken chords. Rather than being played at the same time, the notes of the chord are played one after the other. Practicing arpeggios can add rhythmic elements to accompaniment and develops finger technique.7
It is also essential to practice scales. Scales are another basic building block of music. There are major scales, minor scales, and blues scales. With a good enough knowledge of scales, you can eventually create your own music!
Classical vs Jazz: What Is The Difference And Can Jazz Improve Your Playing?
There are two major streams of thought on how to play and practice music:
- The classical method
- The jazz method
Both are well-regarded. However, the approach and outcomes are completely different.
Classical Music: Geared Toward Mastering A Specific Piece Of Music
Classical music is perceived to be fairly rigid. It emphasizes technique and the notes written on the page. Practicing classical music relies on sight-reading. You’ll study music written by master composers like Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach.
Playing classical music also assumes a fluency in reading both rhythm and melody. However, classical music is generally played from memory. So, the challenge is learning the notes from a specific piece of music and memorizing that piece.8
Jazz: Geared Toward Learning Patterns And Improving Improvisational Skills
On the other hand, a student of jazz typically relies more heavily on theory. And because jazz relies heavily on improvisation, you typically have more chords and inversions to master before being able to “get creative.”
Overall, playing either jazz or classical may shape your brain more than any other genre of music. But can jazz really improve your playing? There is evidence trained jazz musicians might identify pitches better than classical performers.9 Also, jazz musicians need to play any sound that gets thrown at them, regardless of the key.
However, both musical genres are equally challenging in their own ways. An accomplished musician will have comprehensive training in both.
Practicing jazz may allow you to master your instrument in a way classical cannot. Classical is a bit like reading a street map. The notes, chords, phrasing, and articulation are all notated. But, improvising with jazz forces you to engage with your instrument.10 By developing your understanding of theory and rhythm, you may become a better player.
Enroll In A Performing Arts Class: Get Professional Help With Lessons From A Music Teacher
Sometimes it is best to hire a professional teacher to learn how to play your instrument. Other options include joining a performing arts class and auditioning for an ensemble.
Now get this, music lessons can also exercise your brain. Musical lessons and recitals have also been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. These benefits can occur in as little as six months.
What is the benefit of taking lessons in a performing arts class? Whether you play upright piano, violin, French horn, or drums… performing with an ensemble may improve your skills. In addition, music can build bonds between people.11
So pick up that instrument. Set a practice time. And play your exercises as often as possible.