wikiHow to Practice an Instrument Effectively

Do you play a musical instrument but want to get better? Do you find yourself practicing the same thing over and over and not improving? This guide will help you play your instrument to your fullest potential.


  1. Image titled Practice an Instrument Effectively Step 1
    Identify what you need to practice. This could be a specific piece, a set of scales, or even something general like reaching high notes. Read through the piece and make sure you understand it. Review the piece with someone who plays the instrument you play well or a teacher.
  2. Image titled Practice an Instrument Effectively Step 2
    If possible, listen to the piece played by someone you know or a professional musician. This will give you an idea of what the piece should sound like, what kind of feeling the piece gives, and how fast the piece should be.
  3. Image titled Practice an Instrument Effectively Step 3
    Don't jump right in to the piece you want to work on; warm up with a series of scales or other warm up exercises. There are books you can buy for your instrument with warm ups and scales.
  4. Image titled Practice an Instrument Effectively Step 4
    Run through the piece once, pausing to circle your mistakes with a pencil. If this is your first time encountering a piece, start at the beginning and work slowly forward. Be aware of your mistakes and go back and correct them.
  5. Image titled Practice an Instrument Effectively Step 5
    After getting more familiar with the piece, target the areas that need work. Don't start at the beginning of the piece and start playing until you reach the problem spots, but begin with those areas. Then go back and play the whole piece again once you've fixed the difficult parts.
  6. Image titled Practice an Instrument Effectively Step 6
    Even if you think you can play the section faster, start slowly. Build up the tempo while paying strict attention to pitch, tone, rhythm, dynamics, and phrasing. There's no use in practicing something the wrong way.
  7. Image titled Practice an Instrument Effectively Step 7
    Make sure to play the piece more than once, even if you think you played it right. You'll get the hang of it better if you practice it without mistakes to a slow metronome (max 100 bpm) for five to 30 minutes depending on your patience.
  8. Image titled Practice an Instrument Effectively Step 8
    After the problematic areas have shaped up, go back to the beginning of the piece and play through it, keeping an eye out for the measures you worked on previously. If the sections you worked on are still shaky as you encounter them throughout the piece, go back and patch them up again.
  9. Image titled Practice an Instrument Effectively Step 9
    The same steps can be taken for scales, an exercise, or various techniques. Begin slowly and listen for mistakes. At this stage, you want to be picky.
  10. Image titled Practice an Instrument Effectively Step 10
    Make sure you're focusing on your mistakes! Studies show that less students quit because they're not practicing than because their practice time isn't spent progressively. When one makes a mistake, his or her brain is constantly ahead of what he or she is actually doing. When a mistake is made, you must go back a few notes (or better yet, a whole measure) before your mistake and play it over and over again (ideally, you'd want to play it more than ten times).
  11. Image titled Practice an Instrument Effectively Step 11
    Build up tempo until you are at "concert" tempo, or the tempo you would play if you were doing a concert. Start by going a little faster than your original tempo, then more, then more, and then more. You may find that old problems open up or new ones occur. Fix them as before.
  12. Image titled Practice an Instrument Effectively Step 12
    At the end of your practice session, go back to the beginning of the piece and play it straight through just for enjoyment. The difficult sections will play out better and will give you a sense of accomplishment.
  13. Image titled Practice an Instrument Effectively Step 13
    Play pieces for fun. Play your favorite songs or a book by your favorite artists. You deserve it!


  • Always be aware of what your body is telling you. If your lips or arms hurt, take a break.
  • If you are learning a fast piece of music, first practice it slowly until you know the notes very well.
  • Try to practice at least once a day for 30 minutes. Every day you don't practice sets you back two days!
  • If a section becomes frustrating, it's tempting to abandon it and come back later. Don't do it! Work it out and eventually you'll get it down.
  • It is more important to practice regularly. Try to find the same time each day to practice.
  • Get a mirror. Posture and playing technique is an important part of practice.
  • To increase the speed of a piece, some people recommend using a metronome to get faster little by little. Remember, though, that techniques used for slow playing and fast playing are completely different. So try this: once you know the notes, play the piece at or near the final tempo. But only play a very small section at a time, such as one measure, one beat, or even two or three notes! Focus on relaxation and try to figure out the correct way to move your hands at this speed.
  • Alternate playing slowly and quickly. Playing slowly increases your security and precision. Playing quickly helps your coordination and gets you ready for performing the piece.
  • When you first start to play, check and see if you're in tune or not. Listening for the right pitch is impossible on a flat or sharp instrument.
  • Make sure your instrument is in working order before you practice. Playing on a broken instrument could further damage the instrument or hurt you.
  • Stretching frequently can be helpful if you are practicing for a long time.
  • Listen to yourself as you practice! Play beautifully, accurately, and expressively. It is easy to get caught up in learning notes and technique. Remember that music is art. Express yourself!
  • Tackle your "demons". We tend to practice things we already do well and avoid the tricky stuff. Make yourself work on the things that you can't do well. You will make faster progress this way and your "demons" won't seem so scary if you work on them consistently.
  • Practice is the only way you'll get better,so practice practice, practice!

Things You'll Need

  • Your instrument
  • A music stand
  • Your music
  • Metronome/Tuner

Article Info

Categories: Music Techniques