Key Points on Practicing Music

As I work on my research for my final project, I came across this gem from “The Science and Psychology of Music Performance: Creative Strategies for Teaching and Learning” by Parncutt & McPherson. If you are a practicing musician or a teacher trying to motivate your students to practice, these points are really worth taking to heart:

  • Engage in metacognition—become mindful about practicing and related physical and mental processes. Be consciously aware of your own thought processes.
  • Approach practice systematically. Do not go about practice haphazardly. Practice is more effective when it is structured and goal-oriented.
  • Engage in mental practice (cognitive rehearsal) in combination with physical practice.
  • Invest time in score study and analysis, particularly when beginning a new piece.
  • Plan regular practice sessions with several relatively short sessions distributed across time.
  • Acknowledge the relationship between time spent practicing and achievement and set out to invest the time necessary.
  • Be aware of the importance of motivation. When teachers and parents allow students to make some choices about goals and repertoire, student motivation is likely to increase.
  • Listen to high-quality models of musical performance. This is particularly important for beginning musicians. Parents and teachers should invest in a library of fine recordings and, if capable, play and/or sing often for their charges.
  • Support and nurture young musicians. Parents and teachers should demonstrate keen interest and involvement in music study and practice.

I would love to hear if anyone has any further practice ideas akin to the above list, or comments on these issues.

One thought on “Key Points on Practicing Music”

  1. These points are spot on. The majority of them apply to the way I was taught growing up.

    Much of my home practice was in the form of playing along with punk rock records for hours and hours a day with periodic visits from my parents to encourage me or drop off new music.

    My instructors throughout school took my musical tastes very seriously and not only encouraged me to explore all the facets of them, but they explored them as well.

    Teaching respect for music can be a tricky thing. I feel extremely lucky to have the experience I did.

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