In the spirit of New Year's Resolutions, I have been brainstorming ways to improve my productivity and efficiency in the practice room. The result is the following list, which splits up practicing into several numbered categories, with bullet-pointed ideas/guidelines nested beneath each category.
I use the list as a reminder to myself that the best practice is deliberate practice, aided by having specific goals and by concentrating on just one thing at a time. I keep the list on the front of my music binder, so that when I feel as though I am lacking focus or structure in the practice room, I know exactly where to look to remedy that.
Since I created the list for my own personal use, the categories and guidelines are somewhat specific to my own musical skills (strengths and weaknesses), priorities, and goals. (Some are piano-specific concepts as well.) Therefore, the list might not suit your own needs perfectly, but hopefully it can offer some ideas/insight/inspiration as you create your own version of a practice guide.
Components of a Practice Routine
- Ear Training
- Choose a tonal center (tonic), then play a random pitch. Identify the pitch by naming its sol feg syllable in the chosen key.
- Play two pitches, identify their interval.
- Play one pitch, choose an interval and direction, then sing the second pitch. Play both pitches to check if you were correct.
- Listen to a pop song and identify the chord progression.
- Technical Exercises/Warm-up
- Major and minor.
- Parallel and contrary motion.
- Straight and swung.
- In 3rds and/or 6ths.
- Slowly. No pedal. Finger legato.
- Concentrate on fingering.
- Major/minor triads, seventh chords.
- Classical Repertoire
- Direct focus on specific technical challenges.
- Work in chunks.
- Identify keys/chords/form.
- Practice for perfection
- Jazz Theory
- Choose one voicing and play it in all keys, following the circle of fifths. Use metronome.
- Invent or transcribe a ii-V-I line. Cycle it around the circle of fifths.
- Practice other scale types (dorian, lydian, mixolydian, lydian dominant, double diminished).
- Jazz Improvisation
- Solo over Aebersold recordings.
- Walk a bass line over a tune.
- Comp over a tune.
- Solo using limitations/parameters:
- Use only particular pitches
- Use only arpeggios (disjunct) or scales (conjunct)
- Solo with RH only/LH only/both hands
- Upcoming Gig/Work Repertoire
- Wedding music
- Church music
- Solo piano music
- Practice for perfection. Do it right the first time.
- Have a pencil handy, and use it often.
- Quality of practice > Quantity of practice
- Switch things up. Use variety in the practice room.
- Take breaks when necessary.