It’s nine-o-clock at night, have you practiced yet?

efficient practice

The first step in using time more efficiently is setting goals.  It is important for anyone wanting to master a certain, choice area of learning.  It is especially useful for music practice.   Using your practice time efficiently will help you make faster progress in learning to play a musical instrument.  Here are five great ways to a satisfying and rewarding experience:

Young girl playing piano in music lesson

  • Setting clear, achievable goals is very important for effective practice.

In the beginning, it is helpful to have great, reliable resources about the best way to do things. Your teacher can assist you in setting clear goals and help you identify problem areas that need wood-shedding.

If you are playing in an ensemble situation, be sure to ask questions and get help with solving any more difficult rhythms or passages that make you uneasy or uncomfortable.  The chances are there will be other students with questions about the same music.

Plan what you are going to practice and spend about 5 minutes making some goals for your practice session.


  • You need to play the notes and rhythms 100% correct when you practice.

Practicing at a slow tempo with all the correct notes will practice in good habits. Every time you play something correctly, your brain starts to remember the pattern.  Every time you repeat something you just learned to play correctly, your brain remembers the pattern and it gets reinforced.

It is not only important to play the correct notes and rhythms, it is important to play with the best hand position, body position and embouchure that you can.

Once you start paying attention to detail, you will be rewarded with improved sound and a noticeable improvement in your overall playing ability.

  • The Practice Sessions

Your practice session is the time to work out any problem areas in the music.  Learn to isolate small areas of the music, one at a time and play them at a slow tempo.  If you are still making errors at the slow speed, you might need to make the speed even slower.  Don’t worry, you are not expected to make your practice sound like a performance. This should be your private time, void of distractions like the TV or a group of people talking.

Practice new music at a slow speed to begin


This private time is just what you need to get absorbed into the task.  Practice new music at a slow speed to begin, stopping to work out anything that trips you up.  Once you have the part worked out, replay the part correctly five times.  Take time at the end of your practice to review some music that you already are playing well.  It will be a boost to your confidence to play with ease on something that was difficult for you in the past.

The best practice sessions at home for me have been before or after house chores, or errands.  The best work is done, when you are practicing in your chosen time.

  • “Watching the clock” does not work so well.Kitchen Timer

If you say to your self “I will practice tonight from 8 pm to 9:30 pm, and you end up delayed, you should practice anyway even though you got started late.  A short period of practice is better than none at all.

Some parents like to use a kitchen timer and have their child practice.  But if you child starts “watching the clock” or stopping to look at the timer, he is not practicing.  So, sometimes that method might not work so well which brings us to the subject of multitasking.


  • Multitasking

Our world has become much more sociable and reliant on our technology, checking our phones and computers to catch up with the latest news about our friends and activities.  Checking the computer or your i-pad, or phone every few minutes causes breaks in your focus and makes learning anything more difficult.

Allow yourself time to get absorbed 

A mind cluttered with a mental to-do list full of appointments and tasks will be distracting and counterproductive to efficient mastering of anything including a musical instrument.  A digital or paper calendar and list to jot down a list of practice goalsimportant dates and other reminders is very handy, but clear your mind.  Focus on one thing to practice and allow yourself time to become absorbed in the activity.  This flow is great for your soul. It is both very fulfilling and calming.


Practice with a focused mind and clear intent.  Roll up your sleeves and do some valuable work.  When the work is done, don’t be afraid to give yourself a small reward.  I have planned rewards.  It can be as big as watching a movie and eating ice cream with my family or as small as a small piece of dark chocolate.  Yum!

2 Comments on “It’s nine-o-clock at night, have you practiced yet?”

  1. Hi Jazz Mom.
    I agree with your writing on the importance of practise.
    I was taught by an awesome vocal teacher for 3 years and the importance of discipline that she taught us (at the time, us kids thought she was a tyrant) was very instrumental in my future music career. Instead of looking for who was more talented or gifted, she focused on the more important things such as discipline, focus and hard work.
    We were in a choir type setting so she had to bring out the best in all of us, regardless of the talent of individuals, for us to acheive something special together as a group.
    What your talking about in your post today, makes me think of her.
    I’m also a self taught instumentalist with my main focus being on the guitar.
    I guess after her, I didn’t want another teacher!
    But the lessons she taught me including structure, hard work and practise empowered me to learn new musical abilities on my own. The same as what your teaching here.
    Thank you so much for reminding me of the important things in growing as a musician and an artist.
    Thank you

    1. Thank-you Timothy,
      It was a pleasure to see your comment about the blog “Its nine-o-clock at night, have you practiced yet?”
      Practice is important. Sounds like your teacher was a very caring individual. I used to have the same thoughts
      as you about finding other teachers. Practicing is great in that it is private time just between you and your
      instrument. If you play enough, you discover so much. Also, I think you would agree, every time you play in front
      of others and with other musicians, it is an opportunity for discovery as well. Keep up the good work and take care. 🙂

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