Study Efficently and Without Frustration

Study Efficently and Without Frustration

The 8 biggest pitfalls during studying!

If you play an instrument and it’s difficult for you to study efficiently, then you should definitely read this blog. It only takes you a few minutes, but you can learn a lot from it. I am going to talk about the 7 biggest pitfalls, where I walked right into myself while studying. Read this blog to prevent that this is going to happen to you too. 

1. Practice to fast

Trying to play a piece at the original tempo immediately is one of the biggest pitfalls there is. It is inevitable that you make mistakes. Strangely enough you keep on trying to play it in the same tempo a couple of times in the hope you make less mistakes. I you are lucky you get through the piece well on of the four times, but this doesn’t mean that you know the piece. Three of the four times you made mistakes, so it’s not good memorized and you have not given your brain the opportunity to program the information in the right way. Remember that it is always better to start studying slowly, so that your brains are given the opportunity to process all information at a slow tempo and pre-program your limbs. In this way there will be less mistakes sneaking into the end result then when you study too fast. 

2. Starting at the beginning over and over

A bad habit many of my students have when starting out is practicing from the top every time. I know you know what I’m talking about ;-) You start from the top until you make a little mistake and start all over again. Just like in a video game where you need to start from the beginning when you die. This means that you are playing the beginning more than 20 times while you play the tricky parts only a few times. Unfortunately this means that the further you go to the end of the piece, the more parts there are that you have studied very little. The annoying thing is that the last parts are best kept in the memory of the audience. Make sure that this is going to be a good memory! Grab your pencil and indicate the tricky parts in the piece. Practice the tricky parts separtely and then go through larger sections of the piece again. If this won’t work, practice the tricky part again. Don’t stop breaking things down until you can play the larger sections completely. 

3. Don’t use a steady rhythm

Another common mistake is playing through piece without a steady groove or rhythm. You’re going fast through the sections you know well and slowing down at tougher parts. You may not see what you are doing wrong because you are playing all the notes. You often do not even realize that you are studying this way and that you can’t play the different sections correctly. It is better to be able to play the entire piece slowly (yes again) first, so that you can complete it at one tempo. Then you study all the difficult parts separately again, as explained at the previous point. One of the best ways to practice this is by using groove tracks. It is great to use them and if you use them you immediately hear if you are on or off the beat. 

4. Merge the learned stuff too quickly

To merge everything together all at once before you’re actually ready is another big pitfall. The piece that you are practicing now is probably more difficult than the previous one, so you’re probably not going to be able to sightread your way through it easily. Make sure you can play all rhythms well without dividing them over your instrument. Make sure you know in which order you should play the different parts of your instrument ignoring the rhythm. If you’re not able to play things separately, than you are not ready to put things together. For example: if you try to play something with two hands where you could actually only play the left hand, it often goes wrong. This step is simply too big. There is nothing wrong with taking the time to study each hand separately and practice difficult passages separately before joining both hands together.

5. Don’t record yourself

Nowadays, every telephone, tablet or computer has a record function, why should you not use it? You will probably have one of the devices listed otherwise you would not read this blog. Most people are pretty critical of themselves and many mistakes only become clear when you can listen or watch them back. Audio and video recordings are both good to use while studying. Video works well to see if you consistently apply the right technique or to check your posture and presentation. Always use all tools you have at your disposal!

6. Play relaxed

A big pitfall for many musicians is to start playing immediately without proper preparation (warming up). Sometimes you are so enthusiastic that you want to go for it completely and play like a maniac. You can be sure that you get bothered by cramps in your hands or pain in your shoulders for example. Because you don’t think about starting slowly or are a little impatient and want immediate results, it can go wrong and result in annoying and long lasting injuries. And I can testify to this unfortunately. Be very careful with this and make sure this doesn’t happen to you. Always try to start as relaxed as possible while practicing, rehearsing or performing, and also relax regularly in between practice sessions. Let your instrument and tools work for you. That will be difficult at first, because you have to get used to the way of playing. If you understand how you can let things happen, in the long run playing will cost you less effort and it will be a lot easier to last long performances. And the best part is that the chance of injuries is considerably smaller.

7. Have no plan

Practicing without a plan is when you "study" because you have to practice, but actually everything you do is play the pieces without a clear goal. That is why it is always important to take notes so that you know which passages require extra attention. Always try to have at least one goal when you practice and try to reach it during your study session. It can be a very small thing if you do not have that much time or energy. An example:

  • Goal: I’m going to try to play yesterday’s single stroke exercise 2 beats per minute (BPM) faster. 
  • Plan: I’m going to play it on the tempo where I stopped yesterday and try speed up the metronome a bit every time I play the exercise. 

If you accomplished that, it is a small improvement, but realize that it’s more motivating to "celebrate" a small improvement every day than you were not able to improve yourself.

8. No reflection

Students often think that working through their homework is enough. They have played all the songs and technique exercises. What else do you want……? One of the most important things if you want to move forward with your instrument is self-reflection. Many students forget to ask themselves the question: "Was this a good practice session? Why? Why not? "Did you reach the practice goals you set for the day? Did you improve anything? Make sure you know the difference between practicing and playing. During practice you work on improvement, therefore self-reflection is important to find out how efficiently you were working and what you achieved. Every small step is progress and may be "celebrated"!

Do you want to improve your technique seriously and want to put these points into practice right away?

Download my free Snare Drum Basics Techniek E-Book now!