Practicing is one of the most difficult things you will have to do as an instrumental musician, and there is no substitute for regular, focused practicing. While it is especially important for beginners to practice in the same space each day, more advanced musicians can benefit from the reminder that your practice space should be helping you to focus in every possible way.
Take a moment to consider where it is that you choose to practice each day. Do you practice in the same room, or do you find yourself moving to whatever space is available? Evaluate the space you selected:
- Does it have ample light at any time of the day? Do you usually find that you are practicing during daylight hours? If your practice space needs to be illuminated, are your lamps providing enough light for you to see your music at any given time?
- Can you stretch your arms up above your head when you are standing? Higher ceilings make for less noisy practicing, but they are also essential for maintaining good posture for upper string players whose bows extend far above their heads when playing near the frog.
- Is your space relatively quiet? Are you getting easily distracted by street sounds, the sounds of pets, or family members coming in and out? Is there a computer or television in your practice space that tempts you away from your tasks?
- Is there a place where your parent can sit, observe, and take notes on your practicing without getting in the way of your playing?
Once you have located a space that meets that criteria, begin designing this place in which you will spend so much of your time and energy. Every practice space should have a few essential components:
- Music Stand that is tall enough to have the music at eye level while standing
- Full-length mirror near your music stand so you can observe your posture or bow angle at any time
- Sharpened pencils and erasers for making quick markings in your music when needed
- Timer to keep track of your incremental goals. A clock is useful, but a timer (one that will silently count down and sound an alarm when finished) is less distracting.
Standing while practicing reinforces good posture and position. However, as the amount of time you spend in your practice space increases (greater than 60 minutes), you may consider sitting in a sturdy, armless chair. Parents should check to make sure that the student’s posture and position are maintained while seated. Advancing students can benefit from more tools in their practice space:
- Chromatic tuner
- Recording device (audio and video if possible)
Even with the right tools, practicing is difficult! At times, you will feel discouraged, disinterested, and even angry in your practice space. Practicing is challenging enough. Don’t let the time of day you practice work against you. Select a time of day to visit your practice space that won’t regularly conflict with more exciting options. By choosing a time of day that you are most alert and least distracted will make the act of practicing much easier. Not easy, but easier.
Especially in the early years of studying an instrument, establishing what to do in your practice space can be a challenge. Create a habit of going to your practice space every day. Take out your instrument and materials. Set the timer to ring after a certain number of minutes. Do something. Listen to reference recordings, talk to your parent about what you remember from your last lesson, ask questions (your parent can write them down to ask at your next lesson), etc. If those discouraging and disinterested feelings arise during this time, stop the timer, leave your practice space, and return to finish when you’ve cleared your head or changed your attitude.