Here are a few useful tips that I have learned and applied over the years, they will help you too if you will faithfully apply them.
– Know your instrument inside and out. If you’re really serious about your music then you should know as much as possible about your instrument.
– Keep your instrument well tuned and in good repair. Nothing sounds worse than an un-tuned piano or a saxophone with a faulty mouthpiece.
– 3 words to make you a better musician. Practice, Practice, Practice.
You’ve got to put in the time if you expect to become a better player. The amount of time you practice has a direct relationship to how well you play. As one of my favorite Professors once told me. “All I know is what I hear” Meaning, there are no excuses for a crummy performance due to lack of preparation.
– Practice hard, practice smart, practice consistently. If you leave off any one of these three things I can guarantee you that you won’t be very effective.
You must focus very hard as you practice. Block out any distractions as best as possible. Repeat the same passages over and over until they are second nature to you.
Number one rule, SLOW DOWN at first NEVER play faster than you can play correctly. It’s just like typing, 160 words per minute mean nothing if you have 50 incorrectly spelled words.
The notes, the rhythm, and the expression must be correct. Remember my first rule of music physics, “If you can’t play it slow, then you definitely cannot play it fast” slow down.
Spend time at the difficult passages. If you are raking leaves in the back corner of your yard, do you think that if you just continue to rake in that area that the leaves in the front of the yard will just magically be raked up? NO. You must go to the front of the yard and rake too. So, if you’re having trouble at measure 22, don’t continually start at measure 1 and try and play through the song. WORK ON MEASURE 22. that’s where the leaves are and that is what I call practicing smart. Know what your “ability to concentrate” time limits are. I can focus intently to the exclusion of everything else for about 1 hour. After that I need a short pause, usually only 5 or 7 minutes. Now I may be practicing or working on a project for 12 to 13 hours but, about every hour or so I’ll take a break because I realize that I’m not as effective if I’m not focused.
Here it is. There will be times when it will absolutely “feel” like you are never going to master a passage or a song. I’m talking about after you’ve practiced hard, practiced long, and yes even practiced smart and slow. Sometimes it will just feel that way. This is when you MUST be persistant, because here’s what I know. Assuming you are playing something at or around your level of proficiency, if you persevere, you will conquer. After playing music for all these years there are certainly some pieces that are very difficult for me to master. But I know from experience that if I just won’t give up, I will eventually get it. Think of it this way. If it were easy everybody you and I know would be doing it.