Maximize Your Practicing With These 7 Helpful Tools
Practicing is essential in the development of a musician. We often talk about the “how-to” of practicing, but how often do we look at the tools of practicing?
That’s exactly what we will examine in this post. Here are 7 helpful tools to maximize your practicing.
1. A Pencil
What is the most important tool to bring to your piano practice?
The humble pencil -- with an eraser!✏️
It's been said, it is harder to relearn something than it is to learn it correctly the first time.
Which is true!
But, we aren't always going to play the piano correctly the first time. This is where the pencil comes into play!
I use my pencil to write in:
✏️Fingerings that make a passage easier to play
✏️Counts to complicated rhythms
✏️Chord names when helpful
✏️Phrasing and rubato reminders
When do I write them in?
When I've made the same mistake 3 times. I use my pencil markings to prevent me from repeating my mistakes!
✏️Writing fingerings above and below the notes
✏️ Write the counts to rhythms in between the staves.
✏️ Erase any markings you no longer needs to keep the page clean.
2. The "Do No Disturb" feature on your phone. 📴
I'm not joking. It's not usually considered a practice tool....but hey.... it's at our disposal...so let's use it!
Are you anything like me with:
🎶 Limited practice time
🎶 High distractibility
If so, prioritize implementing this practice tool!!
The messages, emails, notifications, and phone calls can wait while you practice.
Use your practice time as a great excuse to escape from the "real world" for a bit.
Lay aside the worries of your day and the unending to-do lists and indulge in a few minutes of concentrated effort, creativity, learning, and self-improvement.
It's good for your brain and for your soul! 🧠
I often find that even 10 minutes of hyper-focused and efficient practicing resets my mood and nervous system....in part because I stepped away from the distractions and demands of my phone!
A paperclip can revolutionize your piano practicing!! 📎
One of the key ingredients of practicing is repetition. 🔁
Repetition develops familiarity with the music, muscle memory, and the ability to express oneself in the music.
Repetition is even MORE important when correcting an error.
In these cases, we must repeat the passage correctly more times than we ever made the mistake.
This is where the counters come in.
The counters could be any small household object; paperclips, erasers, pencils, Legos, beans, etc.📎
The important thing is that you use them. 😉
They serve as accountability to ensure you actually do the number of repetitions you desire. It can be so easy to cheat ourselves when practicing and this tip really helps!
I still use these tools every day I practice!
4. A Music Dictionary
Who uses a dictionary anymore? I do....a music dictionary that is. 📚
I highly recommend that you do as well!
When it comes to musical terms, most of them are written in a foreign language so it can be helpful to have a handy resource at the tips of your fingers when you are practicing for reference.
These terms will help you better understand the tempo and style of the piece....(ya know...important stuff!)😉
Why use a dictionary when you could look it up online?
Simple....to avoid distractions! If you are anything like me...when I open my phone to look up anything, I find myself scrolling social media instead of finding the answers to my questions.
Using the dictionary helps me stay on task and use my precious time to actually practice!
5. A Metronome
Metronomes can be a polarizing topic. Do you love them or hate them? Or, do you have a love/hate relationship with them?⏰
If you've been avoiding spending time with one lately, consider this a friendly reminder to attempt to befriend your metronome. 😘
Incorporating it into your practice routine really can be a game changer for your playing and help you practice more efficiently!👌 Metronomes can help you stay on tempo, find rhythmic errors, and increase you speed on a piece of repertoire.
(Stay tuned for future posts about how to practice with a metronome.)
6. A Practice Journal
If you aren’t a journaler by nature, hear me out. 📓
This tool is one of my favorites!
Why? Because a practice journal can be used by any student for any number of reasons!
Use it to:
📓 Record your daily efforts
📓 Grade your practice sessions
📓 Track your metronome speeds
📓 Rotate your technical exercises
📓 Plan your practice schedule and workload
📓 Celebrate your wins
📓 Jot down questions you have
📓 Document discoveries made
I’ve used many different versions of practicing journals throughout the years, depending on the stage of my life and my musical goals.
I’m currently developing a new kind of practice journal that focuses on the musicians’ mindset and helps to maximize the time spent at the instrument. If you’d like to help me test my beta version, contact me here!
7. A Recording Device
One of the most vulnerable things we can do as humans is truly see ourselves. It takes tremendous self-compassion and self-acceptance to see ourselves as we really are.
This is why a recording device is my final helpful piano practice tool. This one requires a level of vulnerability like none of the others.
I know...I know...
Watching and listening to yourself play is terrifying. ..you don't want to do it!
I've been there!
You've already lived through the mistakes the first time when made them and you don't want to revisit them through a recording.
I get it.....and yet....
When we observe our playing from an outsider's point of view we have greater perspective on the situation and clarity on what steps to take next. From the observer's seat, we might find areas that need improvement....but we might also find moments of brilliance and beauty as well.
Here's an additional added benefit of recording yourself:
There's nothing like performing your art for someone (or for a camera) that heightens the senses, reveals the work still to be done, and prepares one for live performances.
I've been performing for over 30 years now and I still get nervous when I press record! It's natural and normal....but also highly instructive!
So, if you haven't recorded yourself playing before....give it a try! See what you can learn from the process!
Maximize your practicing with these 7 helpful tools!
I'm sure I could have added a few other tools to the list (sheet music, repertoire recordings, additional reference materials), but this is a good start.
I use each one of these features every single day when I practice. You can find me at my piano at 11:00 every weekday, enjoying the art of learning and creating music at the piano! Happy practicing!
I'm on a mission to help music students maximize their practice sessions and feel no shame about their musical journey no matter their age, ability, or time restraints.
If you want support in your musical journey through personalized private piano lessons, contact me today!!
The process is simple:
1. Schedule a call to talk about your goals.
2. Select a lesson time.
3. Take your first lesson!