Two Types of Practice
As musicians, it is important to recognise that we don’t have a lot of time. Between learning the new tunes for tonight’s corporate gig, memorising the latest song in your artistic project and doing life at the same time, there is not a lot of time to practice. Because of that, it is important to develop a strategies to use our time most effectively. The two types of practice exist so that we firstly maintain our current level of technical facility and musicianship and give ourselves the capacity to learn new things when more time becomes available.
Learning practice is the kind of practice you do when you play something for the first time. It can involve listening to recordings, learning to clap the rhythm, working out the notes and then putting it together. Learning practice is usually done a little bit at a time. You might learn the introduction, then the melody and then the bridge etc. You will probably only get part of your piece done at any one time.
Once you have learned how to play a part of your song, you need to make sure you remember it. This is called maintenance practice. This part of your practice is where you play over the part you worked out in your Learning Practice so that you don’t need to re-learn it. The idea behind Maintenance Practice is that you play something so many times that you don’t get it wrong any more and it feels like it comes naturally.
Structuring your practice – Use both Learning Practice and Maintenance Practice
When you practice, most of you will start with a Warm-Up, (long tones or tone exercises) you then move on to your Technical Work (scales etc.) and then on to your Pieces. When you start doing your pieces, make sure you do both Maintenance Practice and Learning Practice. You might want to play through the things you learnt yesterday because you can get them right and it feels good or you might want to learn new things while you are motivated. Sometimes it is nice to finish playing the things you played yesterday so that you end on a really good note.
Always remember to start each practice session with a plan. You need clear goals so that you are always focused and using your time effectively.