14 questions to ask yourself about your practicing

Video transcription:
Here are some questions you might ask yourself about your practicing. I think that in considering them, it could be helpful in understanding where your practicing might be improved! So with that in mind why don’t we start.

The first question is… How well do you understand your strengths and weaknesses? What I mean by this is do you know what you do well, what you are good at doing… Or looking at the other side of the coin do you know what you are not so good at? Perhaps it would be helpful to begin by making a chart like this one with a line down the middle… On this side you could write .. Things I’m good at and on this side ..Things I’m not so good at. Looking at things that have been written down can be extremely helpful!

Next… Do you set specific goals for your practice sessions? So do you begin practicing do you have a specific goal in mind or do you just say I want to get the piece better? Hmm. Do you start playing and when something doesn’t work stop and try to fix it? Hmmm? David Buswell said it well in his book . He wrote: Plan what to do, Know why you are doing it, Know what you wish to accomplish.

The 3rd question is… Do you set long-term goals (weeks, months, years)? For example taking a year to fix the left hand position of my pinkie finger or the position of my thumb on the bow? Something like this will not happen in a day… trust me.

Next… Do you set short-term goals (minutes, hours, days)? This is simply asking if you set time limits for things like a shift in a passage or the speed of a passage. Saying that if you do it for 7 minutes a day, it should happen in seven days for example.

And now… Do you evaluate the progress made towards your goals? If you can do something when you start practicing a passage at a metronome mark of 70, do you measure how far you get in a week?

The 6th question is… Do you plan the order of the activities of your practice sessions? In other words do you write down what you are going to do before you start practicing and stick to the order.

And the next is… Do you plan the time of your practice sessions? Have you ever thought about using your calendar to determine how much practice time you have each day for the week to come?

Here is the 8th question… Do you understand how to create practice strategies? Strategies are necessary as they help guide us towards the realization of how we imagine the piece to be. So with that in mind have you thought about using this imagination to try and think of new ways, create new ways to practice things ?

And the 9th question… Do you use specific strategies that relate to your practice goals? Do you say if I do this, then this, then that… it will lead me to this outcome?

Now no. 10… Do you reuse strategies that have been effective in the past? I once asked a student to create an imaginary box and when they tried something that worked put it inside the box so that they wouldn’t forget it. So that later they could use it again.

Moving on to no.11 Do you seek outside information to support your musical decision making? There are so many books, articles, out there on practicing, have you had a look at one recently? Or have you looked at all the available videos on YouTube of the piece you’re working on? Research, research, research!

Here is no.12… Do you organize the physical environment of your practice sessions? A guitarist friend of mine used to practice outside next to a pool and people would stop and listen. I thought this to be very egotistical at the time but now after thing about it he was always practicing in front of someone, and so he was always practicing to perform. smart cookie

And no.13… Can you reach your practice goals without the support of peers, teachers, etc.? Simply put can you do it on your own? Stephen Clapp once said to me that his job as my teacher was to put himself out of a job. I never forgot this! He was a very very wise man, incredible teacher!

And finally… Do you understand that setting your goals is very challenging?

Well after all that’s been talked about, I don’t think this question needs any commentary!