Every students of music continually hears about the importance of practice but rarely do they stop and think about why practice is so important and how to do it effectively. Practicing is only part of the battle it is far more beneficial to practice intelligently then to spend a great deal of time at it. There are a large number of students who do put time into practice but do not show improvement due to poor practice techniques. I require my students at scmusicstudio.com to practice at least 5 times a week. Think about how you practice and put effort into practice intelligently and with purpose.
Why we practice. Physically we practice to develop coordination and muscle. Warming up can be extremely important to developing dexterity and perfecting skill but it is often overlooked for being not as much fun as practicing the music itself. We also practice to learn the music itself and develop an overall sense of musicianship. Aside from the obvious musical benefits practice teaches discipline and focus especially for children which is an invaluable life lesson.
The most effective practice values quality over time. The singer who just continually sings through their songs will get much less benefit then the singer who breaks pieces down and drills difficult passages. The brain is much better at processing small amounts of information. Don’t try to work on a whole song in one sitting. You will do better if you take the hardest two measures of the piece and work through just that in one practice session.
Set goals for yourself during lessons or right before you start to practice for the week of exactly what you are going to focus on each day and stick to it. Practice is so much more rewarding if you set attainable goals and stick to them. Try setting long term goals as well. You might decide that when you are your child finishes a book you will have a celebration or reward at the end. Goals make everything better and motivate you to practice intelligently and effectively. Learning how to practice is one of the most important skill you will develop as a musician and in life.
Never cram all of your practice into one day. This is true for life, people who tend to cram before deadlines are never as successful as those who plan ahead and balance their work out. It is better to practice in smaller increments each day then combining all that time in at the end. You will learn more and you will learn it better.
Some people are great about practicing every day and can do so for hours. While this is wonderful and as a teacher I applaud you keep in mind that taking breaks can be very helpful. The brain processes information in such a way that continuing at something for too long can to start to lose its effectiveness. Walk away from your instrument and focus on something else for a few minutes this can help your brain work through what you just worked on so you can continue working on it longer and more effectively after your break. You may find you actually learn better if you add a few breaks into your practice time. Often when you come back from breaking you will find you can execute the section you were working on perfectly.