How to Practice a Musical Instrument

Playing an instrument is both fun and exciting, but it is also hard work! When you choose to enroll in a band or orchestra class, you are making a commitment to do your fair share of practice. Here are some suggestions to make sure you will stay on track during your first year of playing a musical instrument.

  • Practice for at least 15 minutes each and every day. Setting up a consistent practice schedule will help you develop your physical coordination, muscle memory, listening skills, and music reading skills. If you need to miss one day of practice every once in a while, that is okay as long as you practice each day that you are able.

  • Start your practice session with a daily warm up. A proper warm up should include slow, careful practice that works on the fundamental skills required to play your instrument. Examples of fundamental skills may include posture, hand position, breathing or bow hold, and tone quality. If you do a warm up every time you practice, then you will have an easier time learning full-length songs and concert music.

  • Learn your scales. A scale is a kind of pattern of notes that all musicians need to learn. Scales are important to learn because they show up in most of the music that musicians perform. Once you have an instrument, your teacher will give you more information about what scales are and how you can practice them.

  • Practice the difficult sections of your music first. When you are learning to play a piece of music for an upcoming concert, you don't always need to play it straight through from beginning to end. Think about what section of the music needs the most work, and practice just that section for several minutes.

  • Keep a practice journal. After every practice session, it is always a good idea to write down what you worked on, what you accomplished, and any goals you have for your next practice session.

  • Whenever you can, play for your friends and family. If you are feeling good about the progress you are making on your instrument, then perform for someone you know! Performing for others is a valuable experience, even if it is just for a minute or two.

  • Take breaks when you need to. Playing a musical instrument can be very tiring, especially during your first year of study. It is important to rest if you need to, and then finish your practice session when you are ready.

  • Spend at least one year learning your instrument before you decide that you don't want to play anymore. Learning a musical instrument takes a long time, and it can be difficult at times. Playing your instrument for at least a year will teach you persistence and hard work. If you ever feel like you want to give up, just remember that even the very best professional musicians were beginners just like you at one point.

Created by Daniel Zipin

With advising from faculty at The Ohio State University School of Music 

©2020