As you progress through your music studies and start playing more challenging pieces, you have to learn new practice techniques so that you don’t hit a wall that prevents you from continuing to grow as a musician. Below are some suggestions that will help you develop a systematic approach to practicing advanced music.
1. Do Some Preparation Work
This can be done without your instrument. You should look through your music and make sure you understand what all the dynamic and style markings mean. Take note of how these markings help to shape the overall piece. I think it’s helpful in your interpretation of a work when you understand what the composer was trying to convey through his or her use of musical elements.
You should also visually follow the flow and road map of the music as a part of your prep work. Are there any repeated sections….any Da Capo or Dal Segno notations…..any codas?
2. Efficient Fingerings Are Important
Before really digging into serious practice, I think it’s a good idea to read through the music slowly just to familiarize yourself with the notes. Pay attention to note patterns/groupings and come up with a strategy for where shifts, extensions or thumb position should be used. You can always ask your teacher for help if you don’t think that you can (or don’t want to) do this part alone. When you’ve decided on the best and most efficient fingerings, make notes in the music so that you don’t forget later.
3. Practice Smart (Not Hard)!
After you’ve gotten to the point where you’re comfortable with your fingerings, pick a very slow tempo and try to make your way through the piece from the very beginning while keeping the rhythm precise. When you get to a passage or notes that you can’t play in tempo, stop for a few moments to practice just that section. After you’ve worked out the kinks, start a few measures before the trouble spot and see if you’re able to play through without incident. If so, then keep making your way through the music until you reach the next problem spot. If you find that you’re still messing up on a passage, you can either devote more time to it if you’re close to making a breakthrough or mark it in your music so that you can come back to it later. It’s probably a good idea to spend a few of your practice sessions just focusing on nothing but the sections that you’ve marked as problem areas.
Note: You can also break the music down into smaller practice chunks such as 2 line segments or 2 measure segments if it makes you feel less overwhelmed to focus on smaller subsections.
4. Make a Difficult Passage More Difficult
This technique has worked wonders for me. Sometimes I will double or triple each individual note (i.e. a quarter note turns into eighth notes or triplets…..an eighth note turns into 16th notes or sextuplets). I also apply more complex rhythms without slowing the tempo or I’ll increase the metronome setting way beyond my goal speed. This exercise forces your brain to work harder to adapt to the new complications which, in turn, makes the original notes on the page seem easier to play.
5. Use a Metronome
The metronome is a great practice tool. Most come with a standard range of settings printed on the back for each of the major tempo markings. You can use these numbers as guidelines to come up with the goal tempo for your song. You can also use the metronome to help you remain consistent as you practice since it’s very common to unknowingly change speeds as you go back-and-forth between easy and difficult passages.
This device will help you gradually increase your technical proficiency on parts where your fingers have to move very quickly and accurately. These technical sections in your music have to be mastered at a slow tempo first before increasing the speed. I usually keep a running tally of conquered metronome speeds down the side of the page until I reach my goal tempo.
I hope that you have found this posting useful and interesting. Thanks for reading!
You may also find these links helpful:
Music Terms & Symbols For Cellists
4th Position Cello Fingering Chart
3rd Position Cello Fingering Chart
2nd Position Cello Fingering Chart
KORG Digital Metronome & Tuner
ABOUT AUDREY WILLIAMS
I am a professional musician and music teacher. For more information, please visit my website at www.AudreyWilliamsMusic.com. You can hear samples of my music at Audrey’s Music Page.