About 7 months ago my amazing husband bought me my first cello, an instrument I'd dreamed of playing for ages. I was too afraid to even remove it from the bag without direction from my teacher at first, but once I got going my nerves for harming the instrument subsided and instead I just was frustrated with my lack of ability to play well. I'm surrounded by good musicians and I know what GOOD sounds like. And the sound I was producing was NOT GOOD. Practicing could be frustrating. And often the things needed to sound good are fairly monotonous. So I started looking up helpful ways to keep my mind entertained, even while doing the grunge work of learning an instrument from the very beginning.
Having a pattern for my practice really helped me be efficient with my time, as well as helping me stay focused constantly because I knew there is an end to my daily endeavor.
The pattern I like to follow goes like this.
Warm ups- practicing my scales and getting some theory in while my hands warm up is always good. I like to do the exercises my teacher recommends at this point because she often times can pinpoint what muscle needs work to help me progress more quickly.
Improvisation- At this point I just try and make beautiful music. It finishes a warm up nicely and lets my creative juices start to simmer. Just jamming and playing what sounds good to my ear, to the best of my ability.
Sight reading something- This is often when I bring my work book into play. I'll sight read a couple pages before attempting to perfect them. For me this helps me to NOT become frustrated with the exercises because I'm not allowed to stop and work them over and over until they are "perfect". Instead I carry on through entire pieces. It makes me feel comfortable and confident reading music like I would read words on a page. It helps me look ahead and think on my feet too.
And the last thing in my pattern is perfecting a certain piece. At the moment I'm working on a very easy rendition of "Think of Me" from Phantom of the Opera. I try playing the entire thing and then practice bars until I think I play them to the best of my current ability.
This is the end of my practice pattern. Lately I've noticed my hands are strong enough to keep playing after I've accomplished all of this. So I've settled on playing things that are just fun and not terribly complicated. As a reward for my good behavior!
Some helpful practice tips I've heard along the way....
-Practicing for 15 minutes a day is better than practicing an hour every few days.
-Learn songs you love so you are motivated to continue.
-Video practice sessions along the way to show yourself your progress
-Do the monotonous exercises while you watch TV. It's less boring and it becomes muscle memory instead of overthinking it.
-Aim for something you might enjoy. Like performing at a recital or jamming in a duet with a friend.
-Take lessons. Paying someone is a good motivator to practice!
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