Practicing with Purpose — From your Teachers

Daniel Mandrychenko-

“Unequivocally, the most effective practice I have experienced is when I fundamentally desired to learn something. This is distinct from something that I thought I should learn. This desire was completely free of any egotism or conceit. I had an innate feeling that this particular piece, tune, or technique was an important addition to my musical personality. What’s more is that this desire to learn had no strings attached: I never put deadline on when the object of my learning should be mastered or how well it should sound. I was exclusively interested in the process of getting better, minute by minute. I can say that without a doubt this is the highest form of practice, what some refer to as flow. Besides practicing what I genuinely want to perfect, I’ve noticed some other patterns that help trigger this state:

  • I am more likely to enter this state after being inspired by a musical performance that I have seen or heard, particularly in a live setting.
  • I find this type of practice is more likely to happen during or after a period of sustained, regular (daily or almost-daily) practice.
  • Without fail, this type of practiced is marked with a feeling of healthy self-esteem before, after, and during the practice session.

Take time to ask yourself under which conditions are you the most effective practicer and when you have felt the “flow” during a practice session. It is essential to hit this level of practice at least once in a while. I should add, it’s also when practicing becomes the most fun!”

Chris Rorrer

“I’ve come to learn that practicing is a time of great joy. Even though the pieces you are working on can be quite challenging, practicing is a time that’s all about you! Every second of practice you put in, you are investing in yourself and your future, and the people whose lives will inevitably be touched by your music. Plus, it’s a time for you to block out the outside world for a bit and focus inward. This can be really helpful when school (or work) is crazy! There are many tools you can use while practicing, which your teachers will work with you on. For today though, I just wanted to give you an overarching purpose of practicing. It’s SO much more than just hitting the right notes and the right time!!”

Kim O’Brien –

”I have to admit, I did not ‘practice’ much as a young student; I would consistently begin my piano lessons frantically sight-reading and pretending I practiced. This is really funny to think about now that I am a teacher and I 100% know how much my students have practiced. This changed in around junior to high school age. I mentioned to my teacher a song I had learned on my own time and he said, wait a minute, you actually have been practicing, just not your assignment. I never thought of practice from that perspective. Practice was like homework I didn’t want to do; however, I had actually at this time spent almost 10 years ‘practicing’ most songs myself, without my teachers, I never actually told them that I was playing other songs. This was a huge lesson that I teach my students regularly:

  • You learn the most when you are teaching yourself
  • You learn more when you are having fun with what you are working toward

This being said, practice is not always fun, and when you reach a certain age and level, it’s important to know when to buckle down and when to take a break. If you are not mentally involved in your practice, you will probably ‘learn’ more mistakes and you will not be as efficient. Sometimes you should take a break, refresh, and try again later. If something is difficult, make it easier. You can break down your song into small parts, even just one measure or chord change at a time will give you big results. Yo-yo-ma once said he learned Bach’s Cello Suite no. 1 Prelude at age 4 by practicing one measure each day.

If you are practicing regularly as a routine, you will see results within a few days, and if you really dig in and work hard once or twice a week on top of that, you will see huge results. Have an organized vision and set mini-goals to make sure you accomplish something with your daily practice. You can learn anything you put your mind to, if you break it down, have fun, but also work hard, and enjoy your accomplishments!”

Isaac Visoutsy –

“The most essential practice recommendation that I have for any music student is the use of a metronome. A metronome is the simplest yet most effective tool at our disposal. If you don’t know what a metronome is, it is a device that marks time by giving a click at a specific rate. It helps us to keep time and over time develops a great inner pulse for the student. When learning a new piece, the most common mistake I see in students, and in my own practicing, is trying to blow through all the notes at an unreasonable tempo. Using a metronome forces us to listen carefully and practice slowly. The best way to use it is to start at a very slow, manageable tempo and once you can play all the notes at that tempo you turn up the metronome a few clicks. You continue to work up the metronome until you get to your desired tempo. It is always best to set a metronome marking with your teacher so that you are aware of exactly what tempo to strive for. There are many free options in the app store, or you can find cheap ones online. Either way, I highly recommend using one daily. Good luck and happy practicing!”