15 Things You Can Practice in 10 Minutes
1. Practice a study
Spend 10 minutes working on a study. It could be either one that your teacher has assigned you, or maybe one that you’ve found and want to read through. I can’t stress enough the importance of working on studies. Always try to have one ready. You might even like to go back and look at a study that you’ve done in the past. Keep an idea of what studies you’ve done, so if a technical problem arises, then you’ll know where you can go to fix it again with a fresh mind.
2. Spend 10 minutes on a difficult passage
Having trouble with those 10 bars or so? Spend 10 minutes working on it each day. ONLY those 10 bars. Put in 10 minutes of intensive practice and you’ll start to see improvements soon enough
3. Focus on playing with a beautiful tone
Playing with a beautiful tone is a skill, and it takes practice. Playing around with a tune to find out what makes it more beautiful will help you know what to do in other other pieces.
Sight-reading is a great skill to develop, and is one that you must practice. I suggest getting a tune book with lots of short tunes. Take a tune, look through it, play it through, and then try doing it again with some musicality (or develop a habit of playing it the first time with musicality). You’ll then be able to transfer these ideas through to your new pieces.
Have you been trying to memorize something? Spend 10 minutes going over it, making sure it’s absolutely solid. You might just want to spend 10 minutes working on one section.
6. Practice slowly
Everyone knows the benefits of slow practice. You’ll want to be careful with slow practice as you use a different technique, and you end up practicing the wrong thing. Another practice method to avoid is to practice too slowly. Slow the piece right down, and really get an idea of what’s happening
7. Try different interpretations
Whether it’s a difficult passage, or one that you’re not sure what to do with musically, 10 minutes is a good chance to try out some different interpretations of that passage. Try exaggerating the dynamics, playing around with rubato and vibrato (if applicable), try some different tempi. Remember what you try and what sounds good.
8. Play through with focus on one area in the passage
It helps you focus your mind and really pick up what’s going wrong. Some areas you might like to focus on are: right hand only, left hand only, articulation, dynamics, etc.
9. Sing your part
Singing is a great, yet perhaps underused practice tool. We discover when we sing where are natural places to breathe, natural places to add rubato, and also we can visualise the attacks on notes. Is it a Ka or a Sa, a Ma or a Ba. That will help you determine what sort of attack you want
10. Visualize a Passage, and play (repeat)
The mind is a wonderful, powerful tool. Visualize the passage you’re working on, and note everything about it. How the attack works, where the rubato is, the line of the piece, the phrasing. In your mind, this can all happen without having to worry about technical difficulties. Then play it, trying to get everything that you visualized. Compare it to the visualized version. Try it again
This is a great technique to do if you’ve got 10 minutes, but you don’t have your instrument with you. You can visualize your practicing, and actually learn instead of just sitting around doing nothing. James Morrison, the great Australian Jazz Trumpeter, in his book Blowing my Own Trumpet, talks about how he learned many of the instruments that he knows how to play by dreaming.
12. Play a piece in a completely different style
Play around with your music, and try it in a different style. If you’re playing a Brahms sonata, try playing it in a Baroque Style. If you’re playing Bach, try playing it like it was Brahms (There are plenty of recordings available of this very thing). You’d never perform it like this, but it can sometimes show us parts of the music that we had never listened for in the past.
13. Play related repertoire
It helps to know other pieces that are similar . Playing through similar pieces will help you realize links and similarities. But also think further. If you’re learning a Mozart Violin Concerto, you might play through the other violin concertos by Mozart, possibly the ones by Haydn as well . You might also want to listen to and play through some of Mozart’s Opera overtures, which have some very similar compositional ideas
Music is obviously an aural experience. We need to listen when we’re playing. But I also encourage you to listen to additional music as well. Just as you have played through similar pieces in the previous point, you can also listen to them to get ideas. Learning "Summer" from the Four Seasons? Makes sense to at least listen to the other 3 concertos.
15. Cool Down
Music is very much a physical activity, so a warm up and cool down is essential. Some of the ideas at the top are great ways to warm up, and can also be used to cool down. What you ideally want is somethig not too difficult, that will let your body, and your mind rest. Folk tunes are great, but any simple piece that you can play through will do the job.