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Practising effectively

Our music coordinator and bass facilitator Jason discusses practising, and how to approach it in a way that leads to success.


Jason Gale

Practising effectively


In my second blog, I wanted to talk a little about practising. It can be rewarding, but also very frustrating and soul destroying. I'm very much someone who likes to perfect something straight away, and if I can't I get frustrated and lose interest easily. Over the years I've found a variety of ways to help me stay focussed. Hopefully these approaches can help you as much as they’ve helped me.


It’s not a race!


I find a lot of frustration comes from wanting to master something as quickly as you can. You're chasing that sense of achievement when often instant success just isn’t possible. Even your idols had to practise the things you're trying to achieve!


So whenever I come across something I find extremely difficult, I break it down into smaller chunks. This way, even if you only have 10 minutes spare in the day, you can still move closer to the finishing line without overloading yourself. Also, when you have a break from learning something, you'll sometimes find that when you go back to it, it suddenly makes more sense to you with a fresh head.


Remember, no one wins a race when they skip the training!


Slow things down!


A lot of students I've had get frustrated because they can't play something, which is often just because it’s too fast for them. The simple solution is to slow it down.


For example, if you're practising something that is at 120bpm, try slowing it down to 90bpm. Once you're comfortable at this tempo, bump it up 5bpm at a time, and repeat. You won't notice the tempo jump as much when you speed it up gradually. Once you get to the desired tempo, and you're finding it comfortable, you'll be surprised how slow it feels when you go back down to 90bpm.


It might seem annoying having to practise things slowly, but it's an extremely important part of good practice. If you can play a passage of music quickly, but not slowly, it means that you're not playing it at your full potential at the higher tempo.


Music is a language


Learning an instrument is very much like learning a new language.


When you're a child, and you're learning your first few words, you generally pick these up from your environment and from repetition, which are both relevant when learning an instrument.


Surround yourself in environments that mean you're exposed to positive influences and inspiration, and then repeat the new skills you have acquired over and over until you perfect them. The more you practise these new “words”, the better you will understand them, and the easier they will stay in your musical vocabulary.


Relating back to “It's not a race” – some kids learn to speak quickly and some are slower. It doesn't mean that one will be better than the other; it just means that everyone learns at a different pace and in different ways.


Remind yourself of your achievements


If you've been working on something that you find difficult, without success, take a break from it and play something you already know you can play. It's easy to forget that you couldn’t play anything when you first started, so I think it's important to revisit stuff that you now find easy. It's a reminder to yourself that you already have skills and that you're capable of learning something new.


~~~~~~~


There are lots of other approaches I could go into, but I wanted to keep this brief as practising can be overbearing at the best of times.


If you found this helpful, please get in touch and I will write a Part 2…


Good luck! :)

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