Practicing a musical instrument
is no different than working out in a gym or doing aerobics. Trainers tell a person that the key to building and toning muscles is consistency. Missing several days of lifting often means losing muscle mass.
What makes your hands move? The answer is muscles and tendons. They need to be 'trained' just like a body builder needs to isolate and work specific muscles. It takes time and patience to get 'six-pack abs' just like it takes time and patience to build good technique on a musical instrument. If practicing is not something that's easy for you to do, consider the following tips.
Practice Tip #1: Most everyone watches television daily. Consider every time a commercial comes on, practicing a different warm-up for the entire set of commercials. For example: commercial #1 -- long tones. Commercial #2 -- scales, Commercial #3 -- technical passages with a metronome, etc.
Practice Tip #2: Your metronome IS your friend!
Many smart phones have an app called 'mobile metronome.' It's free!
When practicing a passage, set the metronome a click or two slower than you can play the passage comfortably. The key here is to have relaxed hands!
Make sure to always practice technical passages with a metronome. Failure to do so will result in inaccuracy of rhythm.
'Slow and accurate' is always better than 'fast and sloppy.' Slow, consistent practice will eventually solidify a passage so fewer mistakes are made in performances.
Practice Tip #3: Remember that it will take TIME to build the muscles necessary for playing a musical passage well. Again, consider people who lift weights. They start with small weights and do repetitions of ten to twenty (for several days). The same is true for training the fingers and hands. Take a musical passage, set the metronome at a slower pace where fingers will work, and then play the passage (correctly) for a certain amount of repetitions to 'cement' the pattern into the fingers. Like a weight lifter, do this same pattern of repetition for a few days. Then, increase the speed slightly. This kind of practicing is boring (to most people) so consider this as one of the activities you do while watching a commercial.
Practice Tip #4: Practicing is not always fun! Many things in life require moments of grueling work. The good things always come from hard work. If you think that you can get by with minimal practice, your lack of preparation could show up in performances. There's a reason concert pianists practice eight-hours a day. They understand how consistency in the practice room makes for a better performance.
Practice Tip #5: The 'art' of practicing takes patience and perseverance. Be patient with yourself and don't try to go too fast, too soon. It's more important HOW you practice than how LONG you practice. If practicing incorrectly, wrong notes and bad habits can be learned instead. It will then take extra time to undo what was incorrectly cemented into the hands. Good practicing will involve tone studies, scales, technical exercises, followed by pieces of music. Even rock and pop musicians can follow a set practice routine. Good technical ability increases the overall choices of music available to a performer.
In closing, if you want to get better on your instrument, you will need to practice consistently by using lots of patience and perseverance. And don't forget that the metronome is your friend.
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