What Should You Practice?

May 30, 2023
What Should You Practice

 Most people have plenty of things to practice, but they first need to learn HOW to practice. That’s what we teach our Practice Warriors. So, don’t worry about what to practice until you learn how to practice using the specific music learning strategies that have helped thousands of people all over the world to Practice Like The Pros. 

Now, once you have learned these essential practice strategies, the question of what to practice needs to be addressed in a more focused manner. More specifically, you need to know what you should practice.

With modern-day technology, there is no shortage of things to work on to improve your musical skills. The entire world of music education is literally at your fingertips. In fact, there are so many books, videos, lessons, research, online programs and other educational elements waiting for you to discover, it almost seems like there are TOO many things to work on. This leads many people to feel overwhelmed or just work on random things in a sporadic fashion, none of which leads to musical mastery. 

To address these challenges, the first thing you want to do when deciding what to practice is to limit yourself to just four topics. For a Practice Warrior, a ‘Topic’ refers to a specific subject that they are working on.  Research shows that it's best to only work on up to four topics at any given time for the maximum benefit of Compounded Learning.  This concept is based on the educational philosophy that it's better to focus on a few things and work them consistently over time than to have a huge list of things to practice and work on them less frequently.  The name of the improvement game is 'consistency'.  Only by working on things consistently can you make huge improvements in a relatively short amount of time.  

Just as important, you want to stick to the same four topics each time you practice.  Also, you might not have a lot of time to practice each day, so keeping what you work on to only four topics allows a decent minimum amount of time to improve those four areas of your playing.  This is why 20 minutes a day is your absolute shortest amount of time you want to practice.  20 minutes a day gives you 5 minutes per topic.  That's just enough time to review and make some progress on your given subject.  

Yes, longer is better, but 20 minutes WILL give you results.  And sometimes, that's all the time you've got.  Better to practice a little than not at all!  As I just mentioned, you will be giving equal time to each topic. Not only does this allow you to hit all the important things you want to practice every day, but switching up Topics can help extend your attention span and keep you from being bored. 

Sample List Of Topics For Instruments:  

Not sure what your Four Topics should be?  Here are some choices to help your thought process. If you have an instructor, he/she will be a big help in directing you to the best four topics for your individual needs and goals.  This is especially true if you’ve discussed with your teacher what kind of music you like, the musicians that inspire you and what skills you hope to improve on. 

I know I’ve been talking about choosing four topics but, for right now, you're only going to choose your first three topics.  We'll get to the fourth one in a moment. Let's go over some examples. 

Learning Songs/Etudes
Advanced Techniques

Long Tones 


Vocal Technique
Melodic Phrasing
Sight Singing

Write down the three most important skills you feel you should be working on at the moment.  Notice I didn’t say want to work on, but what you feel you should or need to work on

Save Room For Dessert (Your 4
th Topic): 

Your 4th and final topic should be something FUN!  Now, this 'fun' thing should be something you're actually working on to improve your skills.  The challenge is that people spend all their practice time on one fun thing, and then don't have time to work on the other things they really need to practice.  So, by keeping your Fun Topic for the end of your Practice Ritual, you'll get the challenging items out of the way first, and then you'll get rewarded by finally getting to work on your 'fun' thing.  Remember, your Fourth Fun Topic is NOT just goofing off on your instrument, but working consistently on something that needs improvement.  The only difference is that you REALLY enjoy working on it.

It's going to be tough to give really specific examples of all the potential fun topics you could come up with, especially things that aren’t instrument specific. However, here are a few very general examples that you can think about: 

Sample List Of FUN Topics For Instruments:

Fun Techniques
Favorites Styles
Learning Favorite Songs
Learning Melodies
Learning Music By Ear/Transcribing

Just as important as keeping your FUN topic for last, you’ll want to put your most challenging topic FIRST! This way, you work on the skill that is most difficult for you when you are most energized and motivated to get things done. As you progress through your topics, the subject matter becomes more engaging for you. It’s all about delaying gratification in order to develop yourself to be the musician you’ve always dreamed you could be. 

Follow these tips, practice consistently for at least 30 days in a row, and let me know how you do. I’m certain that you will be amazed at the results. Good luck, keep practicing and have FUN!!

By the way, we go into these concepts (and every other effective practicing strategy known to mankind!) in greater detail in our Practice Warriors Masterclass. You can also learn from our hundreds of Musicianship videos, watch our interviews with today's top musicians in our Rockstar Q&A videos, join our amazing musical family in our ASSEMBLE! forum, watch LIVE! Q&A sessions and get hundreds of great practicing resources...all with a 14-Day FREE Trial. Become the New Musical You at Practice Warriors!

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