One of the most important aspects of learning how to play an instrument is learning how to practice. While only you can really know how you are spending your practice time, it is often helpful to have a plan for your practice sessions.
Use this practice sheet to help you keep track of your goals and what you practive over long periods of time. If you do this diligently, you will begin to see patterns forming which will show you have to best spend your practice time.
You might notice that you get better results if you practice in the morning, or you might find that the rest of your practicing seems to go better when you spend a few minutes on scales at the beginning of each practice session.
The best way to discover what works best for you is to set goals, follow through, and then evaluate. Here are some other helpful ideas:
- Accuracy counts
Keep an accurate record of your times, being truthful with yourself. Did you actually play for the entire practice session, or did you spent half of it getting things organized? Take a few minutes before you start practicing to put all the tools in place. Music stand, glass of water for a quick sip every so often and all your practice material should be ready to go BEFORE you start the practice clock. Instrument maintenance doesn't count, either - only the time you spend actively working on music. By definition, practice is the time you spend preparing your music for rehearsals and performances. Band or other ensembles doesn't count as practice time - they are rehearsals where you and the other band members put together the music you have prepared in your personal practice.
- Be reasonable
Set your goals that are reachable and reasonable for your level. Make yourself stretch a bit, but within reason. If you are currently practicing 20 minutes a day, your goal should be 25 minutes a day for the next week, not 40 minutes.
- Don't Beat Yourself Up
If you miss your goals, re-evaluate them and go for it again. Just because you fall short doesn't mean you failed - the only true failure is when you don't try again. If you couldn't make it to your goal, do a quick reality check. "Did I set a goal I could achieve, or did I simply pick one that sounded good?" Your progress will be based on three things: Your abilities, your committment, and your practice time. You will not progress at the same rate as the other students in your class - some may move faster, some may move slower. Keep working, and the improvements will come.
If you miss your goal for one day, don't try to make up for it the next day. If you didn't make it one day, will you realistically find twice as much time the next day? Just go for your planned practice time and don't let the missed day mess you up.
- Check your progress
If you are taking private lessons, your teacher will help you with this. If you are not studying privately, talk with your band director and ask for his or her help. Don't be afraid to ask. They would not be teaching if they did not have a desire to help the students!