grow in june
giving te gift of music to children


September 2009

Practice Tips ( by Kathi Kerr )

You have always heard the saying, "practice makes perfect", but I have a better saying, "Only PERFECT practice makes perfect". By that, I mean that the actual amount of time you practice doesn't necessarily improve your ability, it's how you practice that's important. In this article I would like to address things that I've done or had students do over the years that are both good and bad, and how to improve your practice habits.

Suggested Practicing Lengths

For anyone practicing, no matter the age and level, there is a point during your practice in which you no longer retain information both mentally and physically, and both are equally required for singing or playing an instrument. This is what I call the tired point. Practicing beyond this point will make you feel lik you're actually getting worse, but rest assured you are improving. You'll see the difference the nexttime you play or sing. I do not recommend, however, continuing long after this point of tiredness. For each person this will be different depending on your age and level. Beginning students between the ages of about 5 - 9, the normal length of practice I suggest is 15 - 25 minutes. For an older child or adult beginner, it may be 30 - 40 minutes. For higher levels, it may be 1 - 2 hours, again, depending on the level and age of the student. You will know when you hit that tired point. You can, however, break up your practicing into segments. So if you can only do 30 minutes, take a break and then practice another 30 minutes at a later time. Practicing at short segments but often is the best way to learn over a period of time. When I was studying for an audition for college entry, I would practice 2 hours, then take a 15 - 20 minute break to stretch, walk and get something to eat and drink. Your body and mind need this break to recuperate so taht you can continue again and digest what you're learning, both mentally and physically.

Have your instrument in a convenient location

Make sure you place your instument in a place that you pass by and see often for ease of practicing and to keep it fresh in your mind to remind you to practice. Since I mentioned above that practicing short segments often is the best way to learn, this is a perfect way for the student to play for a few minutes every time he or she walks by the instrument. These shrot practices can add up to a lot of time by the end of the day and week. Also, try and make the surroundings as light and fun as possible, in a well lighted room, not in a dark room or basement where the student may be discouraged from practicing often.