How much should I practice?
The answer to this question depends mostly on how quickly you want to improve– the more you practice, the faster you’ll learn! However, you should take a break any time something hurts or you can’t make a good sound on your instrument anymore. If something starts to hurt after only a few minutes, you might be doing something wrong, so let me know about this at your next lesson.
At the very minimum, try to practice a little every day rather than a lot on just a couple of days each week. Ideally, practice at least 30 minutes each day. But on days that you can’t do 30 minutes, practicing even 10 minutes will help maintain muscle strength. If you only have a few minutes to practice, just do a solid warm-up.
How do I learn to play fast passages?
- Select just a few measures to work on at a time (probably 8-16 at the most).
- Identify a tempo at which you can play the whole passage comfortably and accurately (use your metronome!).
- Play the passage 2-3 times at that tempo.
- Increase the tempo on your metronome by 5 (e.g. from 85 to 90). Play the passage 2-3 times at that tempo.
- Repeat step 4 until you get to a tempo where you can’t play it accurately, even after repeating it 2 or 3 times (doing it more than a few times probably won’t help you get better at it right now).
- Now, slow down just a little to a tempo where you can play it accurately. Play this passage in context– start a few measures before the passage you’ve been practicing, and keep playing a few measures after.
- Practice this same thing again tomorrow. You’ll probably want to start at a tempo a little slower than where you ended today, but you’ll be amazed at how the tempo that felt really hard yesterday feels much easier today!