How to Practice Like a Professional Musician

Updated on August 28, 2019
dumdummy profile image

Tong Keat has an M.A. in Violin Performance from MTSU, TN. He is the founder of Just Violin—a free resources site for violinists.

Practicing is an integral part of learning to play a musical instrument. It is how musicians improve on their skills and become better. A good musician does not turn skillful overnight, instead, it is through years and years of hard work. Practicing a musical instrument can be enjoyable and, at the same time, physically and mentally exhausting.

When it comes to choosing your method of practicing, it is very important to understand that good practice habits allow for rapid development of solid skills and techniques, while bad practice habits may hinder progress or even cause physical injuries.

A Four-Step Plan for Practicing an Instrument

  1. Set goals
  2. Coordinate mindfully
  3. Evaluate
  4. Repeat constructively

1. Set Goals

People with no musical background tend to assess music practice by the hours a person spent playing the musical instrument. Ironically, many musicians also share this misconception. Sometimes, musicians confuse leisure playing with deliberate practice. It is perfectly fine to play through your favourite piece for leisure as many times as you like. However, when it comes to practicing, there should be a clear goal about what to achieve in each session. Practicing without a goal is like building a house without a blueprint.

For professional musicians, they usually set their goals on the more challenging parts of their music. For students, it could be anything that the teacher has assigned them to improve on. If you have a somewhat monumental goal to achieve within a week (for example, getting the tempo up significantly), it is wise to break it down into smaller and attainable goals each day (increasing the metronome mark gradually).

2. Coordinate Mindfully

Mindfulness is extremely crucial to everything we do in our lives. Mindfulness means being in the moment. In your practice, being conscious and aware of each action and intention can greatly enhance the effectiveness of your practice sessions. It is not unusual for our minds to wander off while the fingers move in "autopilot" mode. Such practice habits do not yield any positive result.

It is through deliberate coordination in the mind that one learns to tackle the difficult spots in the music. Some people may find it hard to stay focused over a period of time. However, just like any muscle in our body, we can increase our attention span and stay mindful and conscious throughout our practice sessions by consistently training.

The "Four Stages of Competence" model describes how we learn a skill. It is also applicable to the music learning process. To get to stage 2, we need awareness. To get to stage 3, we need coordination. To get to stage 4, we need repetition.
The "Four Stages of Competence" model describes how we learn a skill. It is also applicable to the music learning process. To get to stage 2, we need awareness. To get to stage 3, we need coordination. To get to stage 4, we need repetition.

3. Evaluate

Evaluation is the most crucial part of practicing, because it tells you whether your effort was well worth it. For musicians, this could be recording our own practice sessions. We all know that we can get different insights into our playings when looking back at our own recordings. A lot of people tend to overlook the importance to this, or simply take it for granted.

If you have been stuck with a particular passage for a while, it is worth evaluating whether your method of practicing that passage is effective or not. If things have not been going well, do not be afraid to change your approach. Some problems are harder to identify than others, but never leave out the chance to seek a better solution.

4. Repeat Constructively

If everything has been working well, then it is time to put your practice method through the "solidifying process." This means repeating the entire procedure until it becomes a natural part of you. If you wonder why a challenging piece of music can be effortlessly performed by a well-trained musician, it is because, after countless repetitions, playing that particular piece has become a habit.

Please keep in mind that it is still important be mindful and to evaluate your own playing at this stage, as bad habits may still develop without your knowledge.

Once a musician has enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That's it. And what's more, the people at the very top don't work just harder or even much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder.

— Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Goh Tong Keat

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment
      • profile image

        FALAYI ABRAHAM ADEWUYI 

        8 days ago

        Good advice it help a lot. in fact I'm encouraged. thanks for these.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, spinditty.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://spinditty.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)