Focusing on Deliberate Practice

Focusing on Deliberate Practice

How to get more out of your practice sessions. 

Joesphine Vains
Melbourne, Australia

Focusing on Deliberate Practice

How to get more out of your practice sessions. 

Question:

Hi Josephine, at the moment I'm feeling like I'm doing heaps of practice but not getting as much out of it as I want or need to. I have some big goals, like an upcoming audition and some orchestral work, but I think maybe I need to focus on some smaller goals? Do you have some tips on how to get more out of my practice session? Thanks!

Answer:

This is a common problem for not just students but professionals as well. I guess it’s wise to consider that you might be getting more out of your current practice regime than you think – improvement can be quite a slow and incremental thing. A good teacher should be able to show you some practice techniques in your lesson.

But if you’re on your own then I would suggest one approach would be to video yourself performing your repertoire or excerpts or whatever you’re preparing to perform. I use my iPad, but a phone can work. Review it straight away with a critical ear AND eye. Get a pen and paper and make three main points about the most glaring things with a positive statement for improvement , i.e. 1. I look too serious – next time I will show off more and look away from the instrument. 2. Intonation is bad in 5th position - I will practise 20-30 minutes on those key areas using playful and improvising techniques to solve the problem. 3. My dynamic range is not what I thought it was – next time I will focus on the extremes of dynamic range by making the pianos softer and fortes louder (you can highlight these in your music in colour, even if you perform by memory, still you need to use your eyes to reconnect with the score during practice).

Some of the quickest improvement I’ve seen in my own students comes when they see themselves play – they immediately digest what it is I might have been saying, and after the initial reaction (“I hate watching myself play!”) they see the challenge in trying to improve themselves with better focus and goals.

I am a big proponent of Deliberate Practice. Here’s a link to get you started. http://www.bulletproofmusician.com/how-many-hours-a-day-should-you-practice/

Looking for more? Try this article from Musical U and John Hawthorne on a better way to practice.