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By Kelsey Grindstaff

Practice tips to help all musicians

For a musician, the journey through the music world can be both exciting and strenuous, sometimes at the same time. Although performing for an audience can be nerve-racking, the biggest challenges are usually faced during practice time. Practicing can be fun and can definitely be difficult, but the difficulties often turn to frustration, especially for beginning and intermediate musicians. Because of this, I would like to give you some tips to help ease the frustration and hopefully make practicing much more enjoyable.

Review your basics. Especially as we advance, we tend to start to neglect our warm-ups. Warm-ups are simply the basic things we know, such as scales and arpeggios. Even if your musical avenue is vocal, scales and arpeggios are great to do. They help warm up the muscles needed for your particular "instrument" in much the same way as stretching before exercise. Going over our warm-ups for even five minutes at the beginning of each practice will help immensely.

Don't rush. Often, we feel like we need to practice everything in one sitting. This is not necessarily true. In fact, especially if you are working on a few difficult or long pieces, I suggest concentrating on only one song per session. Many times I have split up practicing into two or three segments in a day. I advise my students to do the same. It always seems to ease the tension.

In accordance with the above, don't make practice sessions too long. I usually suggest to beginners to practice using two separate 15-minute sessions a day for at least four days a week. For intermediate and expert levels, I suggest two or three separate 30- to 60-minute sessions a day for at least five days. In fact, you might find that cutting your practice times down and spreading them out will make them easier to schedule, cutting down on frustration. Practicing this way gives your brain a break, which also cuts back on frustration.

Know when to take a day off. When I was in high school, I got frustrated with a piece that I had been working on for about seven months. I just didn't seem to be getting anywhere. My teacher told me that I should just take a break from the song for a few weeks and work on something else. As much as I wanted to finish the piece, I took her advice. After about three weeks, I picked up the song and played it like I was a concert pianist. I was shocked. That was when my teacher told me that often, even professional pianists will ignore a song for months so that they can come back to it with a fresh mind. I never would have thought such a thing would work, but it did. If you have a piece that just doesn't seem to be getting anywhere, try taking a break from it for a while.

Remember, music is meant to be enjoyed. Although practice requires hard work, let us not make ourselves so frustrated that we end up hating it. Try some of these tips. I am sure they will help you as they have helped me and countless others.

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