Practice Makes Perfect (or Does it)?

by Ron Troester, Voice and Piano instructor at The Lesson Studio

How to be Successful in Practice and Reach Your Goals in Musical Performance:

1. Be careful to find a time that works well for your practicing that isn’t interrupted by other activities, even if for only 15 minutes. Focus your energies to that time on getting better!

2. Choose a different point of focus for each day, and set aside a day for a fully coordinated practice session or rehearsal that assimilates what have been your points of focus earlier the week or in the previous few days. The pursuit of success requires you to cultivate a commitment to consistency. Quality practice time is essential to amount of success you will receive.

3. Use the approach of: generalization, specifics, generalization, details, generalization. Take time to look over the piece from beginning to end, and get a good sense of the time signature, style and the form. Recognizing sections that repeat can greatly reduce rehearsal time.

4. Do something to warm up your voice or fingers—scales, patterns, a familiar song. It begins the focus on what you are going to do and gets muscles ready for action.

5. Now be more specific. Take time to learn notes correctly—vocal line, or each hand on the keyboard, so that you have the patterns in your hearing and muscles right. It doesn’t matter how much time you take for this, but it greatly reduces re-learning parts that weren’t correct at the beginning. Use the syllables to find pitches and intervals that are difficult, fingerings that work best, and then write them in the music! This will remind you of what to do next time, without so much review time. And then review it often!

6. Pay attention to details. Find the trouble spots and isolate them—take great care to really get these comfortable. Then put these sections back into the song to get consistency in the whole piece. Be careful you are always thinking of the tempo, dynamic and phrasing markings.

7. Think of performance details as well during these times—are you rehearsing as you would perform it? For vocalists, this includes knowing the text, what it is saying, and how you can convey it in the best and most interesting manner. This is part of the rehearsal process.

8. Put the piece back together—from beginning to end. Now evaluate your work thus far. See what you can do successfully with the piece, and where to go back and detail specific sections again.

9. Don’t always start at the beginning to run through a piece—start at the back, or in the middle, then keep adding sections toward the beginning of the song and run to the end. It is common for everyone to start at the beginning and then the end sections don’t get rehearsed as well, and it sounds weak or not as comfortable.

10. Run the piece from beginning to end, thinking of performance level as you do. Don’t let just one time influence your rehearsal. Do it several times, and it will show more and more improvement and confidence. Muscle memory is the key—repetition, repetition, repetition!

11. Life happens – the unexpected or unthinkable shows up as Murphy’s law takes you to court. Sometimes you have too much on your plate or there’s additional stress, and you find it difficult to focus. So, you have to cut back on rehearsal time Then, what rehearsal time you have suffers because you’re exhausted or distracted. When the time comes for that special live performance gig you’ve been dreaming of, you stumble and fumble your way through, and it doesn’t go the way you would like. Change up the routine, take a couple days break, ask for another opinion or evaluation—then go back to your normal routine again.

12. Discipline is vital to your arrival, survival, and potential for thriving in the pursuit of being a better musician. Realistic pacing and realistic goal-setting are both key to helping you stay disciplined and keeping your commitment to consistency. Manageable goals are important—don’t expect it to all happen at once. Enjoy the small successes as well as when you reach bigger goals!

13. As you consider your performance on a piece of music, focus on showcasing your strengths and the ability to communicate your passion and interest in the music selection. In other words, what would you like your audience members to feel, think about, or even want to learn more about? These objectives in how your music can serve others will help you with choosing material for your song sets as well as selecting stories to share that resonate with your personal passions and your desire to make a difference. Music has the ability to inspire, encourage, entertain, enlighten, and educate. And most of all, you should enjoy this—HAVE FUN!

14. At the same time, don’t allow yourself to not push your skills. Take a moment to sight read something quickly—see how you do. Don’t make every piece about getting it all perfect. It is good to be able to know that you can learn quickly, as well as taking the time to work out more difficult music.

15. Ask yourself who has had an impact on your success. What specific qualities have they had a hand in developing or encouraging? What impact have they had on feeding your passions and objectives in the pursuit your musical success? Give thanks for the opportunities that will come as a result of your desire to be your best and do your best. Consider the impact that your being served has had on how you strive to serve others. Write down their names of those who have inspired you to serve, and thank them any way you can.

16. This positive attitude of using your unique gifts to serve others will give you peace and purpose through the rough patches and smooth stretches. It will help you press on past any unexpected stalls and crawls that will creep up occasionally on your journey to true musical success!

Ron Troester, Voice and Piano Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Ron Troester

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