Top 10 Practice Tips For Learning An Instrument

Top 10 Practice Tips For Learning An Instrument

These 10 tips will help you really progress on your instrument.

  1. Practice Regularly!
    Practicing every day is great. If you can’t do that you should aim to at least practice 5 days a week. This helps with the long-term memory. Your brain remembers what it things is important. So if you repeat something consistently your brain will decide it is important and transfer what you are doing into your long-tam memory.
    Like anything, what you put into practice is what you will get back from it. I have seen so many people be incredibly enthusiastic at the start of their journey and state body that they will practice for hours every day. That doesn’t seem to last for most people. A manageable chunk of time, even as little as 10 minutes of focussed practice every day, will see you make progress. And trying to add it up and practicing for an hour once a week is not the same as shorter individual session performed consistently.
  2. Have a Goal!
    Unfocussed practice will be just that! Know what it is you want to achieve, what you will practice and how you will practice it. Make your goals attainable for where you are now. Some pieces and techniques take a lot of time to master. To assume one can pick up an instrument and play very demanding pieces with little effort is on par with deciding to run a marathon with no training. Specific, attainable goals will give you a sense of accomplishment and that will encourage you to keep going!
  3. Warm-up Every Time!
    This will help you focus, work on your technique, and master the basics. To be a good player, or even a great player, means you need to master the basics. Some people try to skip working on intonation, timing, dynamics and specific techniques relevant to their instrument…yet these are the things that will help them learn the songs and styles they want to play!
  4. Don’t Avoid The Tough Stuff.
    We will never improve if we don’t tackle the challenging material. It is quite common for musicians to get a few basics together and then just keep rearranging the order of these things; for instance a lot of people learning the guitar quickly discover there are a lot of songs that one use a handful of chords. Once they have learnt these chords they keep playing much of the same thing, with just slight variations. In doing this, they never really move on as a player. By working on things you cannot play, what you can already do will become easier, and you will open up more possibilities for expression and enjoyment within your music.
    Break the challenging sections down into small components, and then build them up slowly and piece them together. You might even need to break it down to just a few notes and build on it one note at a time…but this approach will see you improve!
  5. Keep A Diary.
    This will help. It will help you focus on the challenges, work toward goals, and also help you realise what you have achieved already!
  6. Develop Muscle Memory.
    Focussed practicing is actually training your muscles to carry out a sequence of actions so that when it comes time to play your instrument you can create the sounds you desire. And the sequence needs to be performed correctly every time in practice so that it will be played correctly during performance. Practicing very slowly with great attention to detail will help you make the transition to playing at speed as well.
  7. Learn a Song In Small Sections.
    I used to try and learn songs by just playing through the piece from start to finish and then repeat it over and over. That didn’t achieve much! Learning the structure of each section of the song and practicing in small chunks, even learning one bar at a time and then building the piece up that way, will help you learn it so much faster and also commit it to memory.
  8. Use a Metronome.
    A lot of musicians neglect this. Yes, it is hard at the start! You will hate it. It can be confusing. But developing timing is essential for all musicians. A strong sense of timing will make your own performances that much better, but will also help with locking in with other musicians when playing with others.
    These metronomes are excellent for practice, with many useful features that go beyond keeping a simple click. 
  9. Practice Away From Your Instrument
    Visualisation is a very powerful tool. Picture yourself forming chord shapes, or transitioning from one chord to another. Imagine yourself playing or singing effortlessly.
    Try to work out songs by ear without your instrument in hand, and then pick it up and play it. How did you go?
    You can also practice your improvisational skills without an instrument handy. Try to sing a phrase, and then answer it with another. Once again, do it first without the instrument then try and play what you sang with it in your hands.
    Working with recorded music is also very beneficial. Clap rhythms out against a track, or sing a solo and work on structure and phrasing. You can also focus on listening to the interplay between instruments in a track. How do they relate. What can you learn from that and apply to your own playing?
  10. Be Positive.
    Having a positive mindset will help you achieve what you want. Consider the language you use to speak about yourself and how you approach self-criticism. Frame everything in a positive way. This does not mean you ignore or skip the aspects of playing that need work, but rather that you accept the challenge and work at the tough stuff, knowing that with the right approach and amount of work you will get it.


Working with a quality teacher also helps. If you want to go to the next level as a player or vocalist Engadine Music offers private music lessons for all stages of development; email or call 02 9520 3044 for more information or to book a time.

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