Here are some tips on musician habits to avoid while practicing your instrument. Trying to break such habits will help you enhance your practice sessions and will greatly facilitate your learning process.
1. Not Reading your Teacher’s Notes
Your teacher, if you have one, is your best advisor. She knows how you play, the areas you need to progress in and your bad habits. Also, she is giving you many detailed practice notes during your lessons. Read these notes regularly to focus on the right things. If you ignore them, you will be frustrated and the result will be a poor week of practice. Your teacher will also show you how pieces should sound and the perfect position to adopt. Don’t forget to write down each tip that seems interesting for you.
2. Not Listening to the Piece You’re Working on
Even if you'll find a lot of indications on how to play the piece on the music sheet (pitch, rhythm, articulation, dynamics...), it is really important to listen to and memorize the melody. It is definitely easier to play a song when you can imagine it in your mind. It is also important to listen to the sound you are producing to compare it to the melody you already know. Feel free to record yourself regularly and listen to your performances to see what needs to be improved.
3. Not Focusing on What Needs Work
Even if it’s always enjoyable and rewarding to play pieces and parts we already know and that we perfectly master, save your energy for difficult parts and remain focused on the task at hand. That's what practice is all about. At the beginning of your session, don't start from the beginning of the piece if you already master it, but rather start with the problematic parts. Your time is precious, use it to fix problems and move forward. Repetition is also one of the best ways to progress and secure techniques. Do not try to run away from the pieces that cause you problems, just repeat them again and again.
4. Not Spending Enough Time with Your Instrument
We can never say it enough: regular practice is the key to progress. Ideally, your goal should be to practice every day, even if it’s for 20 or 30 minutes. But if you can’t, it’s not a big deal, just try to find some time during the week. Here are some tips to find time to practice effectively, between school or work, family responsibilities and a dinner with your friends. But don’t forget that music practice should not become a chore or a boring task. Take a look at our next advice to revitalize your practice sessions.
5. Playing It Alone All the Time
It’s important to practice alone, and spending time focusing on the hard things by oneself is natural in the learning process. But practicing for hours and weeks alone can also isolate you and make way for boredom. Music is sharing! Exchanging with other musicians, of your level or not, can be motivating for approaching your instrument differently, discover other ways of practicing and progress with the help of your fellow musicians. Great music happens when artists collaborate! With internet and social media, you can find groups near your (with Facebook or forums), or more naturally find local associations or events to meet other musicians.
6. Being Too Hard on Yourself
We've all experienced the "it’s not always the perfect moment to practice" but you still make the effort! It’s important to listen to yourself and accept that, sometimes, things will be harder. It’s not a sign of regression, just a bad mood, a tough night or fatigue. Also remember that learning to play an instrument will not happen overnight. Go easy on yourself, take a break in your practice sessions, just listen to the piece you’re learning, repeat easier parts or pieces if possible, or do some scales, but above all don't get discouraged.
7. Not Setting Goals for Yourself
It's probably something you've read or heard before… But it seems easy to forget to set any goals or to forget what we're working towards. Try to set attainable goals regularly and mark your progress, this will help you throughout your learning process.
8. Not Working on your Fingering
Never forget scales and finger exercises at the beginning of your practice sessions. It’s not a waste of time! You'll make your fingers more agile and it will make your training easier. In addition, by doing finger exercises at the beginning of each session, you will make your fingers more resistant and you will be able to play longer without getting them tired. Your fingers are your working tools, take care of them!
9. Having a Bad Posture
Your posture will greatly influence your learning process. If you play sitting down, sit up straight in order to be more agile with your arms and avoid back pain. When you play standing up (instrument allowing), adopt a natural posture and release all unnecessary tensions in your limbs. A good posture is crucial and often forgotten, especially since you don't have a teacher to correct you all the time. It is also important for your breath management. During your practice sessions, you’re focused on technique, notes, rhythms, but don’t forget to breathe regularly to stay calm and in control of your body.
10. Too early, too fast, wrong acceleration… Don’t Forget the Tempo.
The purpose of practicing is to improve your ways of doing things, not to perform. The best way to achieve this is to deconstruct the piece by playing it so slowly that it becomes almost unrecognizable. Use a metronome to make sure you stay in rhythm. It can be boring sometimes, however there is much wisdom there! More generally speaking, learn to love your metronome! Nothing keeps a musician more honest and expose mistakes like the steady click of a metronome.
It’s not always easy for beginners to keep the tempo honest, you may start too early, accelerate while playing… The most important is to realize that and to correct it quickly, before our memory records the wrong rhythm. As seen in the 2nd section, take the time to listen, record yourself and if possible, use music accompaniment to improve your performances. Don’t forget that you can use Metronaut app to enhance your practice sessions with music accompaniments that listen to you! You can record yourself, listen to the accompaniment and then play it at the chosen tempo, with or without a Metronome.