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Practice

Very often, the children wanting to start lessons on an instrument are also the ones who have an interest in swimming, dancing, athletics, ice skating, drama or any of a dozen other popular activities. Obviously it's important not to attempt too many diverse hobbies, but with a little planning it's often surprising what can be achieved.

 

If you’re an adult thinking about learning an instrument, then make sure you will have time to practice regularly. Over half of my pupils are adults, and they all get a great deal of pleasure from learning, however by far the most common reason for adults stopping lessons is that they simply don’t have enough time to practise regularly. Either that or they are just too tired to concentrate after working all day!

 

Pupils - whether adults or children - need to practise every day. The length of each practice session will vary according to age and ability. As a rough guide, a young beginner should aim for around 10-15 minutes per day, whereas someone taking a Grade 5 examination will need at least 40 minutes. Ideally, practise until it's as good as you can get it!

  • Parents should try to encourage daily practice without being too forceful.
     

  • Try to have a regular practice time each day - it helps to acquire a good habit.
     

  • Check your posture before starting to play, making sure your fingers and wrists are in the correct positions, then try to relax as much as possible. If your muscles feel tight, try some simple exercises to warm them up - I can suggest some specific exercises to help with many problems.
     

  • There is a difference between ‘playing’ music and ‘practicing’ it. Practice should consist mainly of studying the most difficult parts of the piece - slowly at first - and gradually joining them together. By concentrating on the difficult sections, you will make the most efficient use of your limited time.
     

  • At the end of a practice session, try to play through a whole piece without stopping - even if you make mistakes. This is a skill which takes practice too, and is just as important as being able to play the difficult sections correctly.
     

  • Don't think of your scales and arpeggios as just a chore or something included in exams to make life more difficult. Use them as tools - they will help you to play more quickly, give your fingers the ability to play many passages without further practice and improve your sight reading. Remember, most pieces of music from which ever period or style are built from bits of scales and arpeggios that are simply cemented together. (Composers such as JS Bach were extremely skilful with the cement!).
     

  • For violinists, a music stand is essential to enable the correct posture to develop.