How do you apply deliberate practice in music?

Everyone knows that to become a better musician you need to practice. However, to practice effectively you don’t just need to put in the hours, you also need to spend your practice time wisely. Your time is precious so you want to make the most of any practice that you do. Deliberate practice is a focussed way of practicing that aims to achieve better performance improvements.

What is deliberate practice?

Deliberate practice stresses the importance of remaining focused in your practice instead of just mindlessly repeating the same tasks over and over again. We often assume that by gaining experience we are getting better. This isn’t always the case and often we are just reinforcing current habits rather than improving them.

It is well understood in practicing a piece of music that we shouldn’t just play the whole piece over and over again. It is important to repeat the most challenging sections until you master them – this is an aspect of deliberate practice. For example, you can play a whole 3 minute song 5 times in 15 minutes, but you can play a few tricky bars of the song 100 times in 15 minutes, and that will improve your overall performance of the song far more.

How do you do deliberate practice?

1. Identify what you need to improve and set a goal

For deliberate practice goals should be measurable and achievable within a relatively short time frame (maximum 2 weeks). For example, rather than just saying ‘I want to play this piece of music better’, look for specific sections/areas that you need to improve – ‘I want to be able to play the rhythm correctly in bars 10-14 at 120BPM’.

2. Work towards the goal

Review your goals at the beginning of each practice session and make sure that the session focusses on working towards them. Our Instrumentive music practice app has a way of recording your goals so that they are easy to see when you start practicing.

3. Use feedback to see how you are progressing

Feedback is a core aspect of deliberate practice. Therefore, it is very important to develop methods for getting continuous feedback. One way of doing this is measurement. For example, you might set a goal to be able to play a section of a piece at a certain BPM. Our Instrumentive app lets you save the metronome settings you are using in your practice, so you are able to see when you reach your goal BPM. Another way of getting feedback is self-recording. You can easily do this within the Instrumentive app and then listen back a few days later to see how you are progressing.

4. If it doesn’t work, try something else

The benefit of continuously getting feedback is that you should quickly be able to tell if something isn’t working. You can then try a different method.

Want to give deliberate practice a try? Our Instrumentive music practice app can help you with this. Set goals with the app, record every time you play, and listen back to see how you are progressing.