Top ten tips for effective practice

Practice is a vital part of learning & performing- how do we make our session truly productive? The Finchcocks team share their top tips for meaningful improvement in practice…

Warming up:

Like any physical work out, warm-ups for musical practice are vital too. They are an opportunity to prepare your body and mind for work and to focus on how you’re feeling on a particular day. Scales and arpeggios are great for warming up the fingers, or written studies and exercises by Czerny, Hanon etc.

As the saying goes: Q:  How do you get to Carnegie Hall? A: Practise, practise, practise!

Set a goal:

By having a goal or a to-do-list for each practice session, you can progress much more quickly and effectively. Breaking down each goal into smaller, focused objectives is also helpful. Completing each goal should provide you with a great sense of accomplishment.

SLOW it down:

A practice tool used by beginners to seasoned professionals. Slowing down a passage can be helpful with learning new pieces, for accuracy, and to aid memorisation too.


If I had to ration myself to one piece of advice it would be, once you’ve learned a piece, to make sure you keep it in your fingers and embed it in your longer-term memory by frequently playing it at the start or end of your practise session!” Warren Mailey-Smith (course tutor)

Take a break:

“Think Ten Times and Play Once”   

Theodore Leschetizsky  

There is evidence to suggest taking a short break may help our brains solidify the memories of new skills we practised a few seconds earlier. This paired with short bursts of practice followed by reflection can increase our productivity. In his online blog, our tutor Graham Fitch, explores this method:   



…for self reflection and to other performances. Be creative! When choosing a piece, listen to a wide variety of interpretations (on youtube, spotify etc) to develop your critical listening and own interpretation of the piece.

“I advise you very often to stop and listen when you are practising and then you will find out a great deal for yourself.”

Frank Merrick

Backwards practice:

Try learning the last bar of a piece then, when you are happy with that bar, learn the last two bars, then the last three bars. Continue like this until you reach the beginning of the piece. When you come to performance, you might feel nervous at the start but then you will get increasingly confident as the performance goes on.” David Hall (course director)

Have a plan:

The key to good practise is having a structured plan and sticking to it. A lot can be achieved in even a relatively short amount of practise time with focus and a plan.” Warren Mailey-Smith (course tutor)

Make it fun!

Our tutors encourage participants to begin and end practice sessions with something fun and stimulating. This will keep your enthusiasm and enjoyment constant, alongside the challenges learning an instrument pose.

Reward yourself:

When you finish your practice session, tick off everything you’ve achieved. A simple tick should be enough to reassure yourself that you have made progress. Or maybe some chocolate or a glass of something”… David Hall (course director)

All the course tutors featured in this article will be leading courses in our 2020 programme. Click here for more information.