Thoughts on practicing

This article made its way through the facebook newsfeed today. If you look at the basic practice guidelines near the end, you will notice something very similar what I tell my students ALL THE TIME:

1. WHERE is the problem?
2. WHAT is the problem?
3. WHY did I make that mistake?
4. HOW can I fix it?

You can’t make this leap at 6 years old, sure. When you’re a 6-year-old violin player, your half-hour a day is often filled up with playing all your pieces in the first Suzuki book and practicing 20 bow lifts with your thumb in the right place. But I go through this with every student over 12 or so, especially when they take a piece and swear up and down that they practiced all week and didn’t make much progress. Here’s the official newsflash I always try to share: you can practice 6 hours a day and get nothing done.

It’s a tedious process at first, but scrutinizing every mistake in learning a piece and setting thoughtful goals for yourself really does take you to the next level. It’s something I often repeat to myself to guide my precious little practice time I usually have.

2 replies on “Thoughts on practicing”

  1. Neil says:

    Hey Casey! More thoughts on teaching, please! I’m reading a bunch of the Suzuki books for parents and teachers etc. trying to expand my usefulness as a teacher. It is truly a humbling profession. Thanks for your insight!

  2. reva says:

    Have you read Julie Lyon Lieberman’s You Are Your Instrument: the Definitive Musician’s Guide to Practice and Performance? That is full of physical and mental processes to more effective playing, and has a few of my personal mantras in there – especially the QUALITY over QUANTITY aspect of practicing.

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