We are often prone to think that the life of an artist is 95% glamour and 5% work. After all, nearly every trip to the grocery store ends with a checkout aisle wallpapered with musicians and actors living the good life. We see them stepping out of exotic cars, boarding private planes or breezing past the velvet rope at an exclusive restaurant. We don't see them honing their craft, practicing lines, rehearsing with their band or really, doing any of the hard work that leads to the finished product. But, except for a few rare instances, the artists who have met fame and success have worked. Hard. They know that there's art in the finished product, but there's art in practicing, too. (It just doesn't make for a good magazine cover.)
If practicing is looked at as an art form, though, then the next question is: "how do I practice?"
Generally, practicing can be divided into four different components:
1. Warm-ups (fingering, stretching and/or breathing exercises, long tones, etc.)
2. Technique (scales, intervals, etc.)
3. Repertoire (whatever piece the student is working on)
4. Exploration (improvisation, really whatever the student wants)
No matter how much time a student has, breaking down their time into these four categories will ensure that they have touched on all of the necessary components of becoming a well-rounded musician.
It is an endless debate amongst music pedagogues as to whether someone should practice what they are good at, or what they are not good at. Like most things in life, the truth lies somewhere between the two. While it is important to practice the piece all the way through, or the scales we know really well, it is equally important to spend time dealing with the hard stuff - the tricky passage or challenging song. Practicing, therefore, is a time when a student can struggle, but mostly their material should challenge them, inspire them and motivate them to work harder.
Good luck, and happy practicing!
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