When I sit down to practice I use a few tools. They help me keep on track, help me to structure my practice and make it easier for the next time I practice. I encourage all of my students to try this method and see what results they have.
Tool 1: A Pencil. Crazy right? Practicing with a pencil is essential. ESSENTIAL! How else are you going to circle the areas that you need to spot practice, underline notes that are tricky, identify accidentals or articulation that you might miss? A pencil is super important to my next tool too.
Tool 2: My Practice Log. What’s this? I’ve started asking my students to write a practice log for every time they practice. This log includes what they’ve worked on including tempo, sections they had difficulty with (or were finally able to get), technical exercises they practiced, finger exercises and sometimes how they felt while they were practicing. Anything that they can write will inform what they practice or approach a problem then next time they sit at the bench.
Tool 3: My Metronome. The dreaded metronome for some is something that I use ALL THE TIME. Its the best way to help me count and keep a steady tempo. I use it for everything and encourage all of my students to use it all the time.
Tool 4: Post-It Notes. I use these for all kinds of notes to myself in my music. I’ve used them as a page turn handle. They are found in all of my music books to mark the piece I’m working on, they’re used in my technical books to identify where I’m at or what I need to work on. I don’t practice without them.
Tool 5: A Timer. My attention span is short and so I set it for a 10 minute period and work on a specific goal for the duration. When the timer’s up I stop, write down what I practiced in my log with my pencil, note the tempo I was practicing and reset the timer. I find I can sit for longer if I do this and I am more productive if I use this method.
What are your practice tools?