Hello and welcome to this week’s lesson, where I will be giving you my top practice tips so that you can get better quicker!
1. Use a Metronome
There are two reasons to use a metronome.
Firstly, it helps you to learn a good sense of timing so that you know where you are in the music.
To get the most out of a metronome, tap your foot so that you train yourself to internalise that pulse .
Secondly, it is a great way to help you increase your speed. Indeed, once you establish a baseline for a lick you can gradually increase the speed in small increments.
2. Record Yourself
Recording yourself helps you to hear things that you wouldn’t hear while you were playing.
It is very tempting to list everything that is wrong with your playing when you listen to the recording but this is a bad idea. Instead, when you listen back to the recording you can pick one thing that you need to work on.
Try to be constructive in your criticism. For example, saying “that was crap” is not going to make you play any better. Instead, say “that would have been great if my notes were cleaner”. Now you have a clear goal to work towards.
You don’t need a super fancy recording studio to record yourself; a mobile phone is fine!
3. Close Your Eyes
If you find yourself in a situation where you can’t quite get something right, try closing your eyes. You will find that you have access to a lot more processing power to focus on what you are practicing.
You will be amazed by how much better you play without distractions!
4. Keep A Practice Diary
Keeping a Practice Diary allows you to be so much more focused in your practice session. I suggest that you write down the following;
– what you are working on
– what you are working towards
– what isn’t working in your playing
– “I can’t play the Blues Scale using triplets any faster than 60bpm”
– “In six months I want to be able to play it at 100bpm”
– “I’m struggling with releasing my bends quickly enough on the way back down the scale”
Not only does this help you keep a single mind when it comes to achieving your goals but writing something down that isn’t working for you helps your subconscious to work on it while you are not practicing.
5. Take Breaks
Not playing is an essential part of practice!
If I am practicing a lick or a scale I will play it 2 or 3 times and then have a micro-break for a split second. This will give your brain time to process what you’ve been doing. It will also stop you from using “momentum” to carry you through your practice.
An essential part of practice is sleep which is why it is so much better to practice a little bit every day rather than a big session once a week.
I recommend that you aim to practice for 10-15 minutes each day (to start with) rather than playing for 2 hours on Sunday.
I guarantee you will see so much more improvement.
6. Pay Attention
I lied, here is a sixth tip which is the most important one. You must always stay focused and pay attention while you are practicing.
It is very easy to lose focus and just repeat things over and over without getting any better. Instead, you need to be present in your practice so that you can notice things that you are doing wrong and things you are doing right. This will enable you to cultivate the good stuff and fix the bad.
If you have lost your focus but still want to spend time with your harmonica you can switch from “Practice” to “Play”.
Playing harmonica is exactly what it sounds like. You are just making music without trying to improve yourself as a musician. This is also a really important part of your musical journey because it will remind you why you are practicing in the first place.