Power Hour: the Practice of Champions

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power hourWhat if you could power up your music study by adding one hour (or even one half hour) to your practice each week?

This one hour would help you focus your work, eliminate unnecessary repetition, multiply your practice effectiveness and streamline your path to progress. Plus your next lesson will be a good one.

Sounds like a recipe for harp happiness, doesn’t it?

With results like that, would you consider that one hour to be a worthwhile investment of your time and energy? Ok then, read on…

Do you remember the Wheaties cereal slogan, “Breakfast of Champions?”  It’s a reminder that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Breakfast jumpstarts your metabolism. It provides the fuel that encourages your body to expend energy and use more calories. This is what makes breakfast especially important if you want to lose weight.

A good breakfast leads you to eat better overall. You are less likely to crave unhealthy snacks and more likely to eat foods with more nutritional value, like fruits and vegetables.

A healthy breakfast improves your concentration, focus and performance.

Your Power Hour is in essence your practice breakfast. It’s your first practice session after your lesson, ideally as soon as you get home from your lesson.

But it’s not just any ordinary practice session. The Power Hour is a lesson review, almost a re-creation of your lesson that will reinforce what you learned in your lesson, focus your practice and lead you to the results your teacher was showing you.

Your Power Hour will help you put your lesson directly into your practice. There are three steps:

  1. Jumpstart your practice metabolism. (10-15 minutes of your Power Hour.)
    Your lesson is the food that will fuel your practice until the next one. Your first and most important task on your Power Hour is to mentally review your lesson. What did you learn, discover, push for or work on in your lesson?As you think back over your lesson, try to identify the primary goal your teacher had you working on, either one goal for the entire lesson, or one goal for each piece. Write down that goal. Now you know what you are working on for the week. You have the exact focus for your practice, which will guide your practice and focus your energy.Many people take notes of their lessons or record them. These are both good practices but they are just a start. They are the raw material that you need to sift through and sort. For your practice during the week to have more power, you need to be very clear about what you are trying to accomplish.
  1. Plan for better practice overall. (45-50 minutes of your Power Hour.)
    Now that you know what you are trying to do, you can improve the quality and effectiveness of your practice. Think back over the techniques or steps that your teacher used with you in your lesson. Make a list of these, if you haven’t already written them down in your lesson journal.Now we get to the practice portion of your Power Hour. Review each one of those techniques, trying to copy what you did in your lesson. Did your teacher have you try different fingerings or rhythms or work at varying tempos? What did he or she do to move you forward? Chances are good that these strategies were a little different from ones you had been using in your practice, but even if they are familiar to you, play through each one exactly the way your teacher instructed.This is not a mental exercise. This is an action step. Music study is not about writing or journaling or recording. It’s about doing. So whatever you played in your lesson with your teacher’s help, whatever she drilled you on, do that now.
  1. Keep your practice focused. (During the week.)
    You have your practice goals for the week and the practice strategies your teacher helped you with. Plan each practice session during the week with these in mind.This is the real power of your Power Hour – focused practice. By reviewing your teacher’s instructions and methods, you are priming yourself to be your own teacher during the week, to do the right practice the right way. You don’t have to guess what to practice or how to practice it. Rather than just putting in the time and hoping your practice makes things better, you will know that you are following the path, not going in circles.Feel free to use other strategies as well to accomplish those goals you have for the week. Just keep the goals and teacher-tested strategies in front of you so you don’t lose your way.

That’s the recipe for the Breakfast – I mean Practice – of Champions!

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  • Cindy Cripps-Prawak

    Hi Anne, loved this idea. I have always struggled with how to optimize my week’s work. Typically I will come back from my lesson energized and ready to rock and roll, then I take out all the music and get lost in trying to master everything and essentially get nothing done…. So I will adopt this approach and see the magic happen. thanks

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