1. Understanding the difference between playing your instrument and practicing your instrument: Playing things that you can already do easily is not the same as practicing. While you may find this fun and entertaining, your not going to reach new goals this way.
Practice involves working on things you currently can't do perfectly,easily or efficiently. Many people play their instrument everyday ( without really ever practicing) and have not made progress in months or years. They think they are practicing and cant understand why they aren't getting better.
2. Being organized:
In order to get the most out of you practice time it's important to have an organized practice environment. Also it's important to have all of your practice material in an easy to find and organized system. This includes (sheet music,lesson paper,recordings,books,ect.) Recommendation: Get a 3-ring binder to hold all you loose papers and sheet music. You can also copy pages from any books that you may be using for practice. Buy clear plastic sheet protectors that can hold 81/2 inch by 11 paper. Separate your binder into 10 categories. ( you can add more later) start with these:
3. Single String Technique
6. Sight reading/ chart reading
7. Tapping (if you chose)
8. Pieces ( transcription of classical or jazz or other types of music)
9. Ear training ( Aural Skills)
10. Music Theory
3. Setting specific and realistic short term, mid term and long term goals:
Your practice needs to have a purpose. Every time you pick up your instrument to practice, you should have specific goals in mind that your trying to reach. An example of a short term goal for a difficult technique may be to play the technique 4 beats per minute faster by next week or next month. A mid term goal may be to play the same technique 20% faster by years end. Long term goal may be to play the technique as fast and as clean and easily as your favorite player same day in the future.
4. Using a metronome or drum machine and keeping records of metronome speeds for various techniques to see progress made over time:
Can you tell anyone how much progress you made (being specific)over the last year? Do you even know how to measure it? Most players wouldn't be able to answer this with measurable data. Of course some aspects of your playing are difficult to measure (improvising skills) but other aspects like playing a scale can be easily measured. RECOMMENDATION:
First step: Gather these materials.
2. A piece of graph paper ( 1/4 inch squares) or something close.
4. Watch or clock with a second hand
5. A 3-ring binder
Step two: On the graph paper list several techniques you want to improve on over the next several weeks or months. Write each technique on the left hand side of the page.
Step three: Along the top of the graph paper write a number in each square stating with the number 1. These numbers will represent weeks ( a 7 day period of time)
Step four: Turn metronome to a comfortable tempo for the first technique you have listed. Play the technique and find the fastest speed on the metronome that you can play the drill cleanly and correctly.
Step five: On your graph paper under the number one and next to the technique you just played, write the metronome speed that you just played.
Step six: Repeat steps 4 and 5 for all the techniques you have listed.
Step seven: repeat steps 4, 5, and 6 once each week, log in your speed under 2 for week 2 and son on.
Over time you'll be able to see how much you progressed...no guessing...you'll have the proof of you practice efforts laid out in front of you. Make adjustment in your practice schedule if needed, for areas you feel you need more improvement in.
5. Getting distracted while practicing:
This happens to all of us. Try to avoid these common problems that lead to distraction:
1. Don't practice in front of the T.V
2. Try not to answer the phone while practicing ( I know this is a hard one...I have a problem with this)
3. Try to practice in a room by yourself...solitude is key.
4. Try not to practice while under stress...If your under stress try to relax before you practice.
5. Don't daydream. Try to stay focused.
6. Don't stray away from practice by playing you instrument (Songs and other things) The only exception here would be if you had an inspired moment and came up with a song idea...these moments may be hard to regain...so take the time to map it out....but get right back into practicing.