Organised practice

Tutor no longer registered
Cello By: Tutor no longer registered
Subject: Cello
Last updated: 07/04/2015
Tags: advice (for parents), effective practising, general advice for string players, how to practice, how to structure practice

Practising can feel like a chore at any age and stage until you know how to practise properly.

Hours of time can be wasted, excuses are made, guilt sets in and after a practice session it is so easy to feel like not much has been achieved.

The way to solve this is through organised practice. I encourage my pupils to practise everyday, even if for only five minutes as having the regularity is key to progression. However if it is not possible to play everyday use the time you do have efficiently. Work out how much time you can realistically give to practising, then note it down allowing for breaks. Once the time frame is outlined, fill with a variety of achievable tasks. 

For beginners, find ten minutes a day. Parents or guardians can help to monitor the time, adult beginners can set a stop watch or keep an eye on the clock. Then divide the time into tasks, perhaps 2 minutes on a chosen scale, followed by 3 minutes on a technical exercise or study followed by 5 minutes on a specific part of a piece (perhaps a phrase or just four bars). Aim for small, bite-sized, achievable chunks of practice and the most important thing to remember is to stay calm and relaxed throughout. Then the following day pick three new but similar tasks within the same structure.  It is always helpful to make a note of what has been covered. Your teacher should be able to advise with a practice routine.

For more advanced players the same applies. Work out the time frame and fill with achievable tasks. For example if you allocate 2 hours after school spend 10 minutes on open strings, 20 minutes on scales/arpeggios (but pick just one or two keys), followed by 20 minutes on technique/studies, then take a 15 minute break to stretch/free up arms, neck, shoulders and fingers and then follow with a good 45 minutes on a couple of small sections of a piece. Spend the final 10 minutes noting down what was worked on, if it was successful and plot the tasks for the next day.

For professional players the same rules apply but you can stretch the time out over a day. If I have a free day to practise I like to set my day out like an official working day: 1.5 hours of playing, 15 minute break, 1.5 hours of playing, 1 hour lunch, 1.5 hours of playing, 15 minute break, 1.5 hours playing. Use the break time or start of each playing session to stretch to avoid any pain and tension. In each playing session I will have specific goals to complete. Avoid checking your mobile phone. Treat it how an office worker would have to. It will really help the focus. 

Practising should be enjoyable, not a chore. Keep positive and if there are days where you really can't face it or have a battle with your child as they don't want to practise, be kind to them or yourself and find a better time to do it. Practising in a negative mood will not be productive. Encouragement on a good day is vital and never say the playing sounds bad!

Positivity, patience and structure will achieve great results.


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