Ten Prescriptions for Productive Practice

Playing is fun, and important, but real progress happens when we practice.

In fact, the most significant element in our development is our daily practice regimen. So, how we approach it is vital.

To help us get the most out of our sessions, here are ten principles for productive practice:

  1. For best results, practice 6 days a week.
    • Less than six, especially on a regular basis, and you’ll be playing “catch-up” too often.
    • More than six and most folks will find themselves burning out.
  2. Schedule your practice session the day before.
    • When you wake up you should already know when you are going to practice that day.
    • Show up on time. Treat it like a class, or job.
  3. Plan your sessions beforehand.
    • Have goals for each session.
    • Know what you are going to practice before you walk into the room.
    • In general, the more detailed your plan the better.
  4. Be mindful every minute you are practicing. Otherwise, stop.
    • Mindless practice is not helpful. Rather, it is wasteful and sometimes harmful.
    • If you can’t concentrate during your practice session, you might as well do something else.
  5. No phones, email or other distractions in the practice room.
    Really. Don’t let Facebook alerts, text messages or phone calls into the room.
  6. Technique matters
    • Address the basics every day.
    • Be aware of your body and move efficiently.
  7. Repetition is important…
    but only if it is mindful and purpose-driven.
  8. Slow practice is fast practice.
    Don’t play a passage too fast too soon. Rather play it well, and then speed it up.
  9. When there is a technical problem, look to the basics for the answer.
    • Is the bow placement correct?.
    • Is the left hand too tight?.
    • Do we know the distance of that shift?.
    • Etc., etc.
  10. No note is free.
    Every note requires that you pay attention, even the ones you think are “easy.”.

Want to take this list with you? Download this PDF.

Dr. Donovan Stokes is on the faculty of Shenandoah University-Conservatory. Visit him online at www.donovanstokes.com and check out the Bass Coalition at www.basscoalition.com.

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Share your thoughts

  1. I’ve been preaching all of this for years! Nice to see others agree. :-)

  2. Sounds like it would really help, I’m gonna start following these more often.

  3. Amazing advice. I want to see more of this.