Practice makes progress, not perfection.
My junior year of high school, I began putting more time towards practicing my instrument. I was now practicing several times a week and striving to play much harder pieces. Soon, the effort I had put into practicing began to show. I could play more technically difficult pieces, my tone sounded better, and I even landed myself a spot as the first chair flute player. This made me realize that if you put more effort into practicing your instrument, you will see tangible and quantifiable results. Here is a collection of tips for how to establish a practice schedule and in general, how to improve at your instrument.
Practicing more doesn’t mean that you have to practice everyday for several hours. Understandably, most students don’t have that kind of time in their schedule on top of schoolwork and extracurriculars. For this reason, it is important to learn how to work around your busy schedule. When you know you will have some free time during the week, plan to spend some time practicing! Set a goal for yourself of 20 minutes, 30 minutes, or even an hour of practice time. Work to fill all of this time with a productive practice session. Even a short practice session will push you toward success!
Furthermore, spending time practicing will not benefit you unless that time is spent doing something productive. Consequently, it is important to spend a portion of your practice time working on fundamentals like scales, articulations, lip slurs, and long tones. These are essential to your success at your instrument and can be applied to anything else you play. For example, if you spend time practicing your scales, it will be much easier to play a sixteenth-note run that uses the same notes from a particular scale!
Additionally, it is important to play pieces that are challenging, and not ones you already know. It can be tempting to play pieces or passages of music that you are already good at, but since you can already play them, it is not worthwhile to spend time practicing them. Play these pieces at the end of your practice time to end your session positively and finish with something you’re already good at!
In order to really push your skill level, you must also fully commit to more challenging pieces. Be particular about your playing by using a metronome, tuner, or referencing videos of professionals playing your pieces. Strive for expertise, and this will continually elevate your playing ability!
As a musician, setting goals for yourself can be daunting. Remember, practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes progress. Perfection can not be quantified, but the more effort you put into practicing your instrument, the more progress you will see!