5 Simple Steps to Improve Your Practice Time

Try to incorporate at least one step in each of the 5 Steps below – every time you practice. I want you to get the most out of every practice session.

1. Warm Up – 2. Technique Builder – 3. Actual Practice – 4. Sight Reading – 5. Cool Down

Remember – do not practice more than 45 minutes in a session. Take a break. Come back in 15 minutes – and resume. Remember – practicing is entirely different from playing. You can play all you want – but practice (concentrating on the elements below) for short spurts.

1. Warm Up – Start each practice session with your favorite 3 songs – no matter how simple – then……

Pull the music out and:

  • Put pinky on the note that is the key of the song.
  • Play block chords only in right hand – play bass too (HOLD THEM – keep hand in 5 finger position – only moving up or down by one note)
  • Play block chords in a rhythmic pattern – keep hand in 5 finger position
  • Play rocking and rolling chords – same hand position
  • To cover #2 below – run the scale rhythmically for each measure – the scale for that chord. Use both hands and make the scale fit (shorter, longer, “diddle” etc)

2. Technique Builder – do a drill or 2 – like a scale, speed drill, chord structure of song, etc.

  • Pick a scale a week – See “Pick One Scale” – for scale pattern suggestions
  • Practice entire songs – using the scales only (#1e. above)
  • Do scales Legato, Staccato, Detached, Short-Long, Long-Short, in triplets, etc.

3. Work on New Songs – practice assigned songs. Start with last 4 measures or last section and learn it backwards! – Level of Solos – you should have at least 3 levels of songs you are working on. NEVER spend all your time on one selection or one higher difficulty level.

  • 1 – song – you plan to have mastered in 6 months (ONLY 1 step above your current playing level)
  • 1 – song – you plan to have mastered in 3 months (at your current playing level)
  • 1 – song – you plan to perform in a month (1 step below your current playing level)

        Use the Absorb-Block-Vertical Technique to Start NEW SONG

  • Absorb the key – play scales that represent each chord within the song – Major, Minor, Seventh, etc.
  • Block the Sections – Block out the chords in the right hand for all the chords as they appear in the selection (sound like sight reading??). Understand the chord structure for that measure – this will usually help in fingering and hand position choices.
  • Vertical Training – This is taking a phrase (2 to 4 measures) and align the notes and counts with the left hand – vertically). Go deliberately. Count out loud. Deliberately crescendo and diminuendo into and out of phrase. Deliberately treat the phrase as a musical sentence – do not let it come off MONATONE. Listen to the volume balance between hands. Create a “ONE-NESS of the two hands”

             Slow and Even – never try full speed – if you can’t play it slow – you can’t play it fast!

  • Identify the rough measures – work only on the harder measures. Block the fingering, write in fingering if needed (think of where you are coming from and where you have to go)
  • Run the Rough Measures – until your FINGERS remember the notes and counts. Do not rely on your BRAIN.

4. Sight Reading – While you are now your most alert – read a new song (sight-read) – start with chord structure first. See “Sight Reading Exercise”

5. Cool Down – with your favorite 3 songs – can be the same 3 you used for warmed up



Always – play one simple tune you love – then put it down. (No matter which of the above elements you are working on!!!!)

This first blog post might seem like alot – but – take it one step at a time. If you have not – checked out the referenced sightreading exercise or the pick one scale exercise – DO IT NOW. (in the exercise Category)

There are also SOLOS posted in the Solo Category and GREAT selections to use for Sight reading in the Level 1-2 Solos each month.

Thanks – Shelia