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When Not To Do Music Practice

As musicians, we're always told 'practice makes perfect' and, by keeping to a regular routine, to keep up, and improve our skill but it's also good to know when not to do music practice, so that the enjoyment doesn't become frustration.

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We've all had those days where the music practice just isn't going the way we want it to. That one section we need to get right keeps squeaking and the more we play it, the more we anticipate it which leads to more mistakes. It's at moments like these where we need to stop playing, take a step back, breathe, and perhaps have a break. If that hasn't worked then perhaps that's enough music practice for today. Don't feel bad, it's okay to have a bad day, just try again tomorrow.

It's important to know when to stop because if you don't, the mistake that kept happening will keep happening and become a habit. By stopping and giving it a rest, you're allowing yourself the time to forget that mistake before it becomes ingrained.

Even before you start practicing, sometimes it's worth asking yourself 'Am I in the right mindset to do music practice?'. If you've had a bad day at school/university/work or wherever you've been, practicing in a bad mood can have detrimental effects on your music playing, bringing out more mistakes than there were before or, something I've seen in my younger students, even causing bad posture. Obviously, you can't put off music practice forever, so if you've left it for a day or two but still feel bad, just try a little music practice, starting with something fun before getting into the hard stuff. It's good to be cautious as we need to keep the music practice regular.


How many of us have felt poorly in some way and yet still tried to do music practice, simply making ourselves feel more poorly? I know I have but I learned from that experience that it isn't worth doing. If you're a singer, for example, the last thing you want to do with a sore throat is to keep singing. That throat needs rest and, by practicing further, you extend the time it'll take for the throat to heal and, ultimately, you could cause permanent damage.

This applies to all instrument music practice in a similar way when we're ill. By pushing yourself instead of resting, you prolong the healing process. The music practice you do, while you're poorly, won't be worth it anyway and could mean the potential for more embedded mistakes. We're only human and need rest for a reason when we're sick. By looking after yourself properly, you'll be healthy and back to practicing music in no time.


It's music recital day and your nerves are starting to get the better of you. Perhaps it would be a good idea to run through the songs a few times before you go onstage, just so you know for sure that you can do it. Nope, not a good idea. You see, if you do that and start making mistakes during those run-throughs, you'll begin to panic, which could make for a terrible music recital. If you've done enough music practice beforehand, you shouldn't need those last-minute run-throughs on the day to prove to yourself that you can do it.

If you're someone who struggles with nerves, a better use of that time before the music recital could be to - distract yourself by doing something different away from the musical instrument; doing some breathing exercises; or if you are going to pick up your musical instrument, I would recommend keeping it simple. Do some warm-up exercises and long notes but do not look at your music recital pieces.


Ultimately, while practicing music every day is a great way to improve your musicianship, you still need to listen to your body. Being in the right mindset when practicing music is a must. We don't want something fun to become frustrating and a chore, simply because we're in a bad mood. We also need to give ourselves time to rest when we're not feeling well. That way, we'll heal quicker and be back to playing music in no time. Controlling those nerves before a music recital in a calm and collected manner will give you a better command of your playing during the concert, making for a great music performance. At the end of the day, we're not robots, we're human and, sometimes, it's good to take a break from practicing.


If you are looking for clarinet lessons or a saxophone teacher near you, I offer face-to-face music lessons in Wells, UK and online music lessons to anyone worldwide. Feel free to get in touch!


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