Advice to Successfully Practice Properly at Home

From time to time, all music students struggle with creating a successful practice routine at home. Spending many hours working at their music, the results may vary. The lists within this article have working within my piano studio to help students create a successful practice routine that will save time and also encourage fun experiences.

Suggestions for teachers to consider:

1. Practice means REPETITION, such as any physical action dictates.

2. If we play something enough times properly, the fingers learn to do the action automatically.

3. The fingers are the orchestra; as the teacher, we are the conductor telling the orchestra members what to do.

4. The experienced musician may be able to look at a piece of music and be able to read and interpret the many aspects of the material very quickly; with some practice of the challenging sections of the piece, it will be mastered quickly.

5. Beginner students are mostly interested in learning the notes properly; most of the suggestions of interpretation must come from the music teacher.

How can we encourage the student to practice?

1. Active portions of the lesson should be utilized to show how to practice portions of the piece; the teacher should remember what was assigned the week before.

2. Repetition must always be encouraged.

3. Challenges should be taught to be dealt with in isolation, one at a time.

EFFECTIVE PRACTICE = EFFICIENT PRACTICE

4. Practicing should be organized by the activity and not the amount of time spent on something.

5. Slow practice is important.

6. Use a practice planner so that there is clear communication between the teacher, the student, and the parent as to the weekly expectations.

7. Details should be included when necessary.

What learning environment will encourage a successful practice session?

1. A quiet space with plenty of light.

2. No electronic distractions, such as cell phones, t.v., or tablets should be present during home practice (unless an app on an electronic device has been assigned to be used by the music instructor)

3. Practice at a time of day that creates musical creativity. This will vary from student to student. Some students prefer to work at night, other students prefer to work during the day (morning or afternoon). Make sure to find the time of day that suits your schedule, this will allow the practice sessions to be fun and not “a chore”.

Getting Thicker Guitar Tracks

Have you ever put together a song but during mix-down you realized it just doesn’t have any thickness to it? A number of things could be the problem, for example: Instruments could be equalized similarly to others making them clash. In such a case it could be the bass and the kick drum. The answer here is to use a parametric equalizer and surgically remove some of the bass or midrange bass from the kick drum until the two no longer complete with each other. Adding some “click” in the kick drum will also help define it in the mix. And listen to other instrument groups as well to hear if there is any muddiness from similar equalized parts. Cutting frequencies is always better than boosting, remember that!

Using Guitar Pedal Effects:

Guitar pedals come in many sound shapes and sizes, or tones I should say! Used properly they will certainly add thickness to your sound. Let’s now look at an explanation of some types of effects you might use:

Boost and Overdrive:

These must-have effects are used to boost volume for leads as well as tone shaping rhythm crunch that will over-saturate your amp into tone nirvana! Some of these will even add clarity and sparkle at low settings, so I always have one clicked on in my pedal chain!

Chorus and Flanger:

Great pedals for making your guitar sound super lush and wide sounding. A chorus pedal can simulate the sound of a 12 string instrument.

Delay Pedals:

A delay effect adds depth, excitement, and can will definitely widen your guitar sound and thicken up lead solo parts!

Tremolo:

Tremolo, rotary simulators, and reverb also provide a lush and unique sound for your guitar rig which will have a thickening effect!

Double Tracking:

Now let us talk about doubling! Guitar tracks no matter how well performed can often times seem thin in the mix, even when using good guitar pedal effects. A natural instinct of many musicians will be to add EQ, either more bass, midrange, or treble. This can sometimes fix the problem. However more often times the best fix is to double up the guitar tracks! So then how do we go about this?

My preferred method is to record the rhythm track twice, panning one track full left, the other full right. Of course it will also take a bit of practice to play the rhythm parts in sync with each other. One good tip is not to always play the same rhythm part. Change it up a bit. For instance, in parts where you hit low notes, try hitting the same notes in a higher key or even a key that blends with it and not playing chords in all parts of the rhythm track. Mix it, record it, and see how it sounds to you!

The Acoustic Guitar:

And let’s not forget about adding a doubled up acoustic track! When doing this you may want to remove most of the bass and midrange from it to help it blend without competing with the other instruments. It will really give an edge and definition to your electric guitar tracks. When thickening up your tracks, this is really what it is all about and what it all comes down to. Lots of listening, making sure that one instrument is not overwhelming another instrument in the mix. Each one has their place, and each one may need to be adjusted by EQ until they all blend together well without competing with each other. Like I always say: “experimentation is your friend!”