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You find yourself ready to practice. Instrument at the ready (your voice, a piano, a guitar, etc.) and notes on the verge of cutting through the air with the madness of pure expression and virtuosity. But wait! A problem arises and a wall is placed firmly between your abilities and the far reaches of your imagination. You may ask yourself, “How do I overcome my obstacles?” “How do I carry on with the ever forward progress of learning and mastery?” The answer is simple. The answer is more than just practice, it is the efficient and essential use of proper practice. While many have said that practice makes perfect it is truly perfect practice that makes perfect. Let’s dive into some techniques and ideas to use the best of our time and our brains.

First comes the observation of our surroundings. Remember that a distracted mind is a distracted practice so it is best to limit the amount diversions that can throw attentiveness to the curb. To be sure of an absence of interruptions it is important to find a secluded and fairly isolated location. One comfortable and familiar often suites best. A place such as this can also ease the uncomfortable thoughts of an eavesdropper waiting to pick up all the half-heard rumors of missed notes and passages left on the page. The presence of another person is an almost constant opposition to concentration, but this form of social distraction is not designated only to the physical presence. In a modern world of immediate and superfluous contact, phones, computers and many electronic devices can become a beacon of communication at a time when the mind needs to be streamlined to a single process with a designated goal. In short, turn off that phone.

Thus we find ourselves beginning with an end. The goal should be set ahead of time and remain in clear field of vision through the duration of practice. Meditating on a difficult excerpt from a piece you may be working on or designating time to a scale are just a few of the litany of possibilities. If goal setting finds you unawares and you’re not sure where to go, ask your teacher or a peer for advice and suggestions on specific problems and pieces. These goals are the blazes upon the trees that guide through the wood of practice. Perhaps an itemized list of the material needed to be dissected could shine light throughout the plunge into self-improvement. Pioneering the narrow path of rehearsal can be slippery and goals provide the grounding of purpose, a lack of which can lead to fragmented half-practice and wasted time.