So now we know where we need to go and we know how to get there. Now we just need to make a list of things that we will need to get to our destination. Is our instrument in tune? Do we have a suitable area to practice? Do we know exactly what the point of this practice session will be? Do we have all the materials that we need?
If we have all of these things then we are ready to start. All of these things are important. If you practice with an out of tune instrument it will be hard to develop your musical ear as you will not get used to hearing what the notes should sound like. The place you choose to practice needs to be free of distractions as this will inhibit you from concentrating well. And if you do not know the point of each practice session, then you will not have any idea of what you are doing and therefore will not progress. If you do not have the correct material then you may not learn the technique correctly.
Practicing is not just repeating something over and over again until we can do it. It is performing something correctly until we are able to do it as well as we want to be able to do it. That is why we must work on each specific step of a technique (or song) to get it right. When we start each practice session we need to know the step we are working on and then concentrate on getting that part right. It is best to start slowly and try to get it perfect at a very slow speed before moving on and trying to speed it up. Only work on one point at a time - that way it will be learned more quickly and in a more thorough manner.
We have our destination. We have a map. We have directions. And we have all of the things we need to start the journey. This may seem like the hard part is done and in a lot of ways it is. But now it is up to us to put everything into practice. Work through your map making sure each minute step is worked on and perfected before moving on to the next part. For fast, effective learning it is important to concentrate completely when you practice. For most people they can only concentrate for a short time so you should do a lot of short sharp sessions instead of one long one. Anyone who has had to study for an exam will be familiar with the drop in recall after spending too long revising.
If you have tried for years to play an instrument and are not pleased with the results from your practice time try to have a more methodical approach to your practice. This approach is all about planning. Once you have a clear path it will make it easier for you to reach your goals. If you are clear and precise with your planning and thorough with the way you work through each technique, improvement will be faster and you will be able to see results a lot quicker. So let’s turn the phrase “practice makes marginally better” in to “practice makes perfect”.