Practicing and Sight Reading Tips

I am often asked for practice tips, or ways to make practicing easier.  

First, I am not a believer in the phrase "Practice Makes Perfect".  There is no such thing as perfect.  The difference between a professional and beginning musician is how quickly they adapt to mistakes and fix them.  Every musician makes mistakes, and that human element is what makes music beautiful.  I encourage my students to strive for the ability to identify and fix their mistakes, not to be "perfect". 

I also recognize that our lives are busy and scheduled.  I ask my students to practice at least 3 days a week, for about 20-30 minutes at a time.  The time of day makes no difference, as long as the instrument is being practiced consistently.  As a young cellist, I found I was more focused in the morning and would often practice before school.  

Practicing can also happen without the instrument!  100% Mental practice should never take the place of physical practice, but it can enhance and make your practice sessions easier.  Take time to clap out the rhythms, practice saying the note names in order, and air bow the music.  These are all things that you will learn to do in your weekly lesson.

What do I do during my practice time?  
1. Warm-up.  Begin with finger exercises that are scale centered. 
2. Problem solve.   Practice the exercises assigned for homework in your Essential Elements lesson book. Start with the hardest pieces first and finish with a song you know well or have memorized!  Use slow, careful practice to eliminate mistakes.  
3. Personalize.  Add dynamics, increase tempo, go beyond the notes.  Remember, you are making music.
4. Variety.  Switch the order.  Try something by memory.  
5. Fun finish.  End with a favorite song.

What is Sight-Reading?

Sight Reading is the ability to play a piece of music without ever practicing or playing it first.  When practicing, use the Sight-Reading Checklist to start, and then go back and fix your mistakes.  When I use these steps, I can quickly identify my "hot spots" to practice.  This way I don't want my time practicing music that I already know how to play.  

See the "Sight Reading Checklist" (below).

Sight Reading Checklist

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