photo of musician practicing piano“Deep practice entails achieving mastery, integration, and transcendence with everything that you play or sing.”
The Musician’s Way,
p. 20

For budding and veteran performers alike, the fundamental source of confidence on stage is thorough preparation.

And although concert preparation encompasses multiple facets, the most crucial element is deep learning in practice.

Deep learning results when we wholly assimilate a composition, deliberately absorbing it’s artistic, technical and structural components.

I call that assimilation process Deep Practice.

The following 7 tips help musicians deepen the quality of their practice. Links point to other posts on this blog.

1. Combine Imaging with Executing
Choose music suited to your level, and then employ precise mental imaging along with actual playing or singing. Work at tempos that ensure ease and, as you execute, always feel ahead.

2. Vocalize Expressively
While imaging, expressively singing pitch names, rhythm syllables or fingerings. Use a metronome to anchor your pulse yet avoid mimicking the metronome’s blandness; instead, animate every musical gesture.

3. Use Varied and Interleaved Tactics
Practice individual excerpts in varied ways, maybe hands alone, with altered rhythm, or at varied tempos. Also experiment with interleaving material – you might tackle portion A for 20 minutes, practice portion B for 10, take a 5-minute break, and then return to portion A. (Update: See, “Varied, Distributed, and Interleaved Practice.”)

4. Consciously Direct Yourself
Take care that your sound and execution are the result of conscious choices and you don’t slip into mindless muscle memory.

5. Expand Your Attention
Instead of narrowing your concentration, expand your attention to monitor your sound, timing, mental focus and physical tension.

6. Record
Self-record periodically in practice to ensure precision and clarity. Start recording early in the process of learning new material, when your tempos are still slow, and then listen back with a critical ear.

7. Practice Performing
Do solitary mock performances at home as well as run-throughs in front of peers and friends. Video or audio-record, and then evaluate how you sounded and felt. Create a practice plan to remedy weaknesses and reinforce strengths. In time, through steady work, your evolving mastery will propel you to pinnacles of excellence.The Musician's Way book cover

Recommended gear for self-recording in practice:

  • Zoom H4N PRO (audio). Outstanding sound quality & features. A musician favorite!
  • Zoom Q4n (video & audio). Exceptional quality and value.
  • Zoom H2n (audio). An excellent, lower-cost option for self-study recording.
  • Tascam DR-22WL (audio). A less-expensive but good-quality choice.

For inclusive guidelines to practice deeply and build performance skills, see Parts I & II of The Musician’s Way.

Related posts:
The 3 Components of Deep Practice
Assessing Your Practice Habits
Keeping Practice in Mind
The Ultimate Practice Shortcut

© 2016 Gerald Klickstein
Photo © Dragon Images, licensed from

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