In the last post, we talked about how the secret to improving your music reading skills is through focused practice.
If you find yourself practicing and seeing very little improvement, then you will want to take special note of this method.
Yes, this can be a very discouraging reality, but the good news is that you can start implementing a solution right now and learn how to practice better.
In order for you to really understand how to apply these principles, we need to take a deeper look inside the world of “focused practice.”
The Elements of Focused Practice
Following represents a detailed list of what focused practice is:
1. It is an activity designed to specifically improve your performance, often with the help of a teacher.
2. This requires high repetition in one tightly defined area that pushes you out of your comfort zone.
3. Feedback on results is critical for improvement.
4. Mentally, it is highly demanding through an effort of focus and concentration in shorter sessions.
5. It may not be fun to identify and repeatedly do the difficult activities that will improve your music reading abilities, but it does work.
What You Can Do Right Now…
Here’s a few ways you can start practicing better right now:
1) Get a good teacher. Find someone that really knows their stuff, can identify your needs, design a good plan to implement, and is not afraid to push you a little bit.
2) Practice in small amounts repeatedly. Identify only 1 problem area and focus on practicing it repeatedly until it is resolved. This could be as small as 1 line, 1 measure, or even 1 note.
3) Be open to constructive criticism.
- Listen to your teacher. Don’t hire someone whose opinion you don’t trust.
- Record yourself practicing and evaluate your own performance.
- If you are working on music theory, make sure answers are available for you to check your work and understanding.
4) Keep your practice sessions short. Don’t take on 2 hours. Start with 10 minutes. Your mind will tell you when you are absolutely done.
5) Repeat the process. You can repeat this method in the same practice session over and over or wait until the next time you sit down to practice.
The point is that you can only work on 1 problem at a time. If the problem does not get resolved within 3 minutes or less, then you need to break it apart into an even smaller amount.
Change Your Perspective
At first, it won’t sound like a lot of fun to continually keep finding things you are not good at and work on them intensely, but your perspective will change once you see the quick results.
When you do find something that works for you, take note of it so that you can do it again. Really tune in to what you are doing and pay attention to how you solve every problem.
This is how you master the art of working smarter, and not necessarily harder.