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Prepare for Summer Programs! Achieve success in your practice routine

Hi everyone, my name is Jeff Muzerolle and I’m a professional musician/producer/educator in the Boston area.  I’m also a Berklee alum (class of ’99) and well acquainted with the Berklee experience. I’ve spent the last decade of my life establishing a successful career touring, recording, producing and educating. I also wrote an e-book on career building. If you’re a drummer, I invite you to check it out at www.thegiggingdrummer.com.

One of the cornerstones of my success has been preparation, so I’ll be writing a series of blog posts offering my advice to all musicians on how to effectively prepare for Berklee summer programs.

This week I’d like to talk about everyone’s favorite activity….practicing!  (yes, that was sarcasm).

I’ll admit I hated practicing when I was growing up.  Being a rock and roll drummer, all I wanted to do was play to my favorite Van Halen tunes. Instead, my private instructor gave me loads of boring stuff to practice such as rudiments, snare drum etudes, and independence exercises that would drive me up the wall.  After one particular week of slacking off and then getting an earful from my teacher, (something along the lines of “practice or stop wasting my time!!”)  I soon came to realize two things:

  1. I had to determine what my goals were and what tasks were required to achieve them.
  2. I had to introduce structure to my practice sessions in order to stay focused and ensure that I was using my time efficiently.

What do you want to achieve?

Establishing goals is important because it helps you realize why you need to spend hours and hours practicing something boring like scales or rudiments.  If you can remind yourself that these seemingly boring tasks are ultimately helping you achieve larger goals, you’ll stay focused and determined.

Maybe you want to learn how to rip fast 16th or 32nd note Steve Vai solo licks on your guitar.  Perhaps you aim to lay down a great slap-bass line like Marcus Miller.   You might want to play single-stroke rolls around the drum kit like Dennis Chambers.  Whatever the goal, the key to success is to develop a plan to achieve it.  This is where structure comes into play.

What is your plan for success?

Structuring your practice time is vital to ensuring that you’re using your time wisely.  I’m sure practicing your instrument isn’t the only thing you have to do during your day – school, homework, your job, and hanging out with friends takes up precious time.  If you only have an hour or two to spend on practicing, make sure you get the most from that time.

Two things you need to do:

  • Schedule your practice sessions. Spend a specific amount of time on each practice item.  This could mean 15 minutes on arpeggios or 25 minutes on scales.  Keep an eye on the clock and stay on schedule.  I personally have to use an alarm clock because I lose track of time too easily.
  • Measure your progress. Keep track of everything you do in a practice journal.  For example, I note all of the tempos for which I practice various exercises.  I also make notes to myself about how a particular practice session felt.  I might write something like ‘double strokes at 150bpm were sloppy, repeat tomorrow’ or ‘shuffle groove exercise at 100bpm went well, move onto faster tempo’.  This helps me determine what to practice during the next session.

Talk to your teacher

I highly recommend working with your private instructor on structuring your practice routine.  I suggest that you spend some time on your own determining your goals and also how much time you can spend practicing.  Then you can talk to your instructor and he/she can advise you.  Also, your instructor can greatly assist in measuring your progress and advising you on when to move onto the next exercise.

Take some time and apply these concepts to your practice routine.  You’ll become increasingly efficient and effective. As a result, you’ll be much more prepared when you get to Berklee.

Most importantly, you’ll enjoy yourself while practicing!

Do you have a practice routine that works well for you?  Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.

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1 Comment

  1. I’m a pianist so this was very useful! Practicing is so important.

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