Want to know one of the key factors to achieving mastery? Forming healthy and effective practice habits!

Naturally, your level of success will depend greatly on the quality of practice that you put into your musicianship.  And in order to achieve radically efficient practice and reach your goals, you must cultivate good practice habits.

If you aren’t sure where to start as far as good music practice habits go, here are five you can be mindful of the next time you practice:

1. Schedule your practice time

Structure and discipline are crucial in having quality practice time! In order to maximize your potential, keep a structured schedule and adhere to it strictly unless unforeseen circumstances arise. For example, you could set a reminder for yourself to practice at a certain time everyday for 3 hours.

Additionally, if you’re looking for an easy way to do this, you can use Modacity! Modacity allows you to set up reminders for you to practice your playlists at a specific time. Modacity also lets you set countdown timers on your practice items. This way, you can know exactly when it’s time to set something aside for the day.

2. Break your bigger goals into smaller ones

The best way to successfully reach your goals is to break them down into smaller actionable steps that are easier to manage. When you were younger and taking music lessons privately, did you ever receive stickers for each completed exercise until you completed your entire lesson book, a feat which had previously seemed impossible? You might be surprised, but this method of learning, though simple, can help train you to be a successful musician who practices efficiently. Next time you decide to practice, don’t just practice mindlessly. Set a series of smaller goals that you can achieve during this practice session which will help put you on the path towards your bigger goals.

3. Visualization

You may not be aware, but most great musicians didn’t get good by practicing their instrument for hours upon hours. In fact, good practice can actually still happen while away from your instrument.

This process is called visualization and it involves imagining yourself practicing your instrument just as if you were physically playing it.

Furthermore, in some ways, visualization can be more valuable than actually practicing your instrument. Your instrument can encompass a wide variety of distractions – like pedaling, dynamics, key signatures, reading music, and keeping time. However, when you exercise mental practice, you can focus 100% on one technique or element.

If you currently only practice while physically at your instrument, try adding 5 minutes of visualization a day before your actual practice session.

4. Compose regularly

It’s definitely good to be excellent at sight-reading. And developing great technique is of course part of achieving mastery as well.

But to gain full mastery of your instrument, you need a range of skills beyond just being able to read and play music.

In order to fully understand music on a deeper level, you should learn to compose. Try out varying chord progressions or get inspired by playing your favorite piece in a minor key (or major key if it’s in a minor key).

5. Keep a clear head

Last but not least, it’s crucial to learn how to manage your nerves when the stakes are high. When you’re in the middle of practicing intensely for a big performance, it’s really important to remember to breathe deeply and remain calm. Once you have everything else in place for a piece you’re performing, all that’s left to do is keep a clear head and stay focused.

Marc Gelfo

Marc Gelfo

Marc has been practicing music for 30+ years. After applying cognitive science & computer science to French horn, Marc became an internationally touring symphony musician. His experience includes teaching and performing with thousands of musicians around the world, including the San Francisco Symphony.