Successful practising itself needs to be practised and it is not that easy at all. Whilst there are very different things to practise and learn, depending on your discipline, there is universal approach to successful practising itself which works, regardless if you work on playing an instrument, singing, dancing or even any kind of sport. Originally, the following 10 golden rules for successful practising have been written for drummers and percussionists, but you will soon understand the universal idea behind them.
Almost 15 years ago, my teacher for drums and percussion at the time, Prof. Peter Horst, presented me with these 10 simple rules for successful practising and they have found a special space in my rehearsal room.
10 tips for successful practising
1- Let it flow. Sure, not every movement you make when you make music has to be smooth, but too often, we start to move too “staccato” instead of allowing energy to flow. Many of us consider this an extra layer to add to our performance at a late stage of preparations, but if we pay attention to letting energy flow from the very beginning, we will not only find learning a lot easier, but our performance will be a lot more secure and flow better.
2- Let go. Does this sound familiar to you: physically, we seem to be practising already, but our mind is simply not quite there yet? Tax returns, shopping lists, important phone calls or meetings are in the way of focus? Well, it seems obvious, but these thoughts need to be out of our heads for the duration of practise if we want to practise successfully (please refer to my previous article on allowing creativity).
3- Relax. Again, this might be stating the obvious, but we still tend to get tense if things don’t work out the way we want them to right away. Getting more tense is not solution for successful practising but relaxing is – sometimes, simply taking a deep breath will do the trick.
4- Smiling and playing do not contradict. Especially singers and dancers seem to train their smiles for performances, but smiling makes a difference to practise already – not only for any potential audience, but predominantely for ourselves! (also refer to points 3 & 8 of this article!)
5- The journey is the reward. This is by no means asking you to not strive for the best possible performance, but helpful for two different reasons: when practising difficult sections, it helps our mind to focus on what we have achieved already (the glass is half full, rather than half empty), but also, we come across the unexpected when things do not work out quite the way we wanted them to work out. This can lead to exciting new approaches (if we are in “open mode“).
6- Watch you centre. Not just a buddhist approach. Seriously, we can only sit or stand properly if we are aware of our body’s center. Especially for musicians, who tend to use their bodies rather off-balance, this is by no means a given.
7- Practise slowly and precisely. There is an art somewhere in winging, but only slow and precise practise leads to a precise performance. We tend to be impatient, but practising slowly and precisely gets us results a lot quicker in the long term!
8- You sound how you are. Your audience will hear and see exactly if you are happy, silly, sad or upset. As our mood has a direct impact on our performance, we need to watch our moods……also, we can use this awareness to our advantage and better our performances.
9- Rudiments, Rudiments, Rudiments. Drummers and percussionists know what I mean, but generally speaking, one could also say “basics, basics, basics”. No matter how advanced we may be technically, we always need to go back to the basics. Painful as this may seem sometimes, this will get you further eventually.
10- Can’t means won’t. If you convince yourself that you cannot do something, you will not be able to do it. So don’t convince yourself, but encourage yourself! However, make sure to apply common sense when you follow this rule….
I hope these 10 golden rules for successful practising will help you and remember: the journey is the reward.
Until next time,