7 Ways to Step Up Your Practice Game

I know that practicing consistently these last few months is no small feat. Whether you’ve maintained your motivation or you’re just now getting back in the swing of things, here are a few ways you can step up your practice game to optimize improvement:

  1. Set your intentions. Not to sound all clickbait-y, but you can step up your entire practice routine with just one simple word – intentionality. Make sure you set definitive goals (aka intentions) for what you hope to accomplish and how you plan to achieve these intentions. Simply practicing with intentionality will make a huge difference in your focus and long-term improvements.
  2. Slow down your long tones. One of the biggest mistakes students make when practicing long tones is not pushing themselves enough. Long tones should never feel entirely easy – you should feel slightly winded and a bit out of breath after each sequence. This ensures that you are maximizing your lungs and breathing potential. If your metronome hasn’t budged during your long tones in recent memory, take it down a few notches.
  3. Revamp your warm-up routine. If you’ve been using the same warm-up exercises for a few months, it’s probably time to switch things up to avoid hitting a practice plateau. Try a new book, change the order of your exercises, or ask others how they warm up for fresh inspiration.
  4. Avoid autopilot. Autopilot practice is wasted practice since most improvements you make won’t be long-lasting. As soon as you find your mind wandering from the task at hand, put your instrument down and close your eyes for a few seconds. Take several deep breaths, then refocus your attention to the music. Repeat as often as necessary.
  5. Tidy up your practice area. A cluttered practice space leads to a cluttered mind! It can be hard to focus on music when there is excessive visual distractions, so take some time outside of your practice routine to clean up and organize your space to reap the practice benefits.
  6. Incorporate performance practice. Although the majority of your practice session is probably spent polishing and perfecting, it’s important to include performance practice and mock auditions in your practice routine so you can build physical endurance and mental resilience necessary for performance.
  7. Record yourself. If you’re feeling stuck, turn to your best friend in the practice room – your recorder! Use a smartphone or other audio recorder to record the section you’re practicing and listen back for some brutal musical honesty. Regularly recording yourself allows you to hear yourself from a different perspective, and this will help you troubleshoot and problem solve to continually improve.

I hope these tips and tricks help you step up your practice game! What else helps you push past plateaus and continue improving in the practice room?

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