“The most important practice session of the week isn’t the one right before your lesson; it’s the one right after.”
The Musician’s Way, p. 296

As lessons or performances approach, many music students ramp up their practice time; then, afterward, they ease off.

I think that’s backwards.

We learn the most from assimilating new concepts and correcting faults.

So, by promptly applying in practice the feedback we receive from teachers and performance experiences, we maximize our artistic growth and ensure that we won’t forget key insights.

Here are 4 suggestions for optimizing post-lesson and post-concert practice sessions.

1. Take Notes
Soon after a lesson or on the day following an evening performance, listen to your personal recording and jot down issues needing improvement or reinforcement.

When reviewing a performance, let’s say, you might write the title of a composition at the top of a page and then jot down bullets such as these:

• Page 1 – more time between phrases
• Measures 12-13 – clearer 16th notes
• Line 4 – bigger crescendo

On the heels of a lesson, you could similarly write bulleted notes, but you might organize them by date – put the lesson date at the top of a page and scribble notes beneath the dated heading.

2. Draft a Practice Plan
With your goals documented, plot a deliberate practice schedule. Maybe write down your plan or use the free practice logs available on the Downloads page at MusiciansWay.com.

If you have copious items to work on, be mindful to pace yourself and pause frequently for practice breaks.

A well-paced practice plan will fuel your learning power and help prevent overuse injury.

3. Zero-In On Problems
With your notes on your music stand, tackle problems individually as opposed to running through lengthy spans of music.

In that way, you overcome one difficulty after another and expand your artistry in the process.

For a comprehensive approach to surmounting trouble spots, see “Solving Problems” on pages 54-70 of The Musician’s Way.

4. Enlist Peers
Just as you might ask friends to critique an essay you’re writing, you can bolster your musicianship by discussing your goals with fellow musicians and sharing your practice experiments with them.

For instance, after practicing for a few days, you could tell a friend what you’ve been up to, play or sing some excerpts, and request comments.

In so doing, you’ll benefit from another’s opinion and deepen your artistic community.

Related posts
Glorious details
Optimizing practice time
The power of specific goals
Self-evaluation: The key to artful practice
Solving problems in practice

© 2011 Gerald Klickstein

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