For aspiring musicians, what does it mean to “practice deliberately”?

When your child practices a musical instrument, you want them to achieve the best results for the time and effort they have spent. The practice techniques they use will make a big difference to the final product, so it’s important to know which techniques are the most effective.

Although some of the most common practice methods can end up being detrimental to learning an instrument, deliberate practice is a proven method of successful music studies. Keep reading to learn more about this practice technique, and how you can help your young musician develop their deliberate practice today.

What is deliberate practice?

Deliberate practice is an active, mindful process that is crucial for every music student, regardless of age or skill level. It is approached in a very systematic and structured way, with specific goals in mind.

The repeating cycle of plan>do>reflect ensures successful learning. By experimenting with techniques, your child can discover how to produce a desired sound. This process usually involves tinkering with short passages of a few notes or measures. The focus on one section allows your young musician to hone their technique and memory until they can play each passage perfectly every time they attempt it.

Deliberate practice is a stark contrast to mindless practice. Mindless practice usually consists of playing through a whole piece of music for a certain number of repetitions, or for a specified amount of time. This type of practice should be avoided, as it has no clear direction or goal, and can reinforce bad habits and mistakes that impede your child’s improvement as a musician.

How does deliberate practice affect the brain?

Studies have shown that people who actively search for and enact methods to improve their performance often exhibit clear improvements. Learning a skill in this manner creates neural pathways in the brain that can be used to recall the skill later. That means your young musician can create positive neural pathways when they practice their instrument deliberately.

A good music teacher can instruct your child on how to identify areas that need work and the most helpful methods for improvement. When your child’s brain is engaged in the activity of practicing, and is equipped with the right instructions to diagnose and correct errors, true and effective learning can start to take place.

Deliberate practice allows your young musician to focus this attention on each passage of music until the entire piece comes together and they can perform it flawlessly every time. This will improve their general skill over time, but also gives them the confidence they need to play a recital in front of an audience. Playing for an audience is very different to practicing alone or with a teacher, but you can help your child manage the environmental shift much better if you encourage them to practice their piece deliberately.

How can you encourage deliberate practice?

Even if you aren’t the person teaching your child’s music lessons, you can still ensure the focus stays on deliberate practice.

Monitor progress

Repetition is pointless without feedback.

Although your child’s music teacher will give them feedback during a lesson, your young musician should be encouraged to reflect on their at-home practice themselves. If they practice mindfully, they can give themselves immediate feedback to correct mistakes or experiment with alternate techniques for playing a passage. Your child can also try recording their practices to determine what’s going wrong if they don’t like what they hear.

Manage practice

Allow your child to choose the practice time that works well for them – a time when they have the energy they need to be mentally present, so they’re not just going through the motions. In the same vein, keep the duration of their practice sessions manageable to ensure engagement the entire time. When your young musician starts getting exhausted, their mindfulness will begin to erode.

It’s also important to minimize outside distractions, so they can focus closely on the task at hand. Once your child can play a piece with confidence, they can experiment with playing with more distractions around them in preparation for a recital – but they need to have the piece comfortably in their brain first.

Your child’s ability to play an instrument well derives from persistent, deliberate work. It’s not a simple matter of “natural talent.” Talent means very little unless they can put in the effort to develop their skills through deliberate practice. Contact California Music Studios today to learn more about our expert music teachers, who can help your child progress with their practice.