Happy New Year from everyone at RSL and welcome back to our Practise with Purpose blog! The start of the year brings with it the opportunity for New Year’s Resolutions and a fresh way of looking at things, so where better to start in 2020 than by thinking about how you can improve your practice sessions?

We’ve compiled our Top 10 Tips to make sure you give your playing a boost and hit the ground running this year!

"Learning a new instrument can help your understanding of music as a whole!"

1. A Regular Practice Routine

Prioritise improvement on your instrument or voice this year by making practice sessions part of your daily routine. Find a time of day that suits you and schedule regular sessions so that your practice quickly becomes a habit (link to prev article).

2. Stick to It!

This is the hard part! New Year’s Resolutions are always fuelled by good intentions and a desire to turn over a new leaf, but this can often prompt sweeping changes that aren’t sustainable. Start slow to begin with and don’t overwhelm yourself or you’ll lose interest and motivation quickly. You’re more likely to persevere if you set yourself small, achievable challenges and gradually increase your workload over time.


3. Jam Sessions

You can learn a lot by playing alone, but you can learn even more by playing with other people. Performing with others exposes you to musicians who will have different strengths and weaknesses to you. Don’t just sit there and admire other people’s talents – ask them questions, try to replicate their ideas. Think of yourself as a musical magpie on the lookout for different skills you can add to your arsenal. Music is about collaboration after all!

Video Lessons: Check out some of our Rockschool video lessons on YouTube now!

4. Listen to Some New Music

Spotify’s ‘Discover Weekly’ is a great way to check out new music (other streaming services are available!), and there are plenty of websites that compile lists of new releases on a regular basis for your listening pleasure. Don’t neglect the countless ways that you can broaden your horizons! Ask your friends what they’re listening to, stick the radio on, and support your local music scene by going to gigs near you. You never know which exciting genres you might discover!

new year's resolutions

Play the Bass? Why not try out the drums to widen your knowledge of the rhythm section?

5. Play a Second Instrument

You’ll want to focus on mastering what you’re currently playing first, but thinking about music with a different instrument can be crucial in developing a deeper understanding of music and improving your all-round musicianship. If you’re a drummer, learning the piano, for example, can develop your understanding of melody and harmony. If you're a vocalist, maybe take up the bass to compound your rhythmic solidity? Keep experimenting!

Using Rests For Better Basslines: A Rockschool Bass lesson

6. Warm Up!

Essential for vocalists and highly recommended for instrumentalists, the benefits of warming up are crucial to maximising your progress. It might add a bit of time on to your sessions, but going over your scales and focusing on improving your tone at the start of each session will produce results quickly.

7. Look After Your Instrument(s)

Your instrument, or your voice, are your musical tools, so be sure to keep them in tip-top condition! Warming up properly and staying healthy will contribute to this for vocalists, but replacing strings, tuning your instrument, and keeping it clean is just as important for instrumentalists.

8. Expand Your Repertoire

Conquering a piece of music so that you can perform it confidently and accurately is a great achievement, but it’s easy to rest on your laurels and go straight to the same pieces and ideas every time you pick up your instrument. Start 2020 by choosing some new songs, riffs, fills, or licks to add to your musical vocabulary. Transcribing is another fantastic way to improve your musical know-how and is totally worth the time and effort it takes.

Inspire Others! ... and you may just learn some important lessons along the way.

9. Teach!

You don’t have to know everything about your instrument to start teaching! Don’t be dissuaded because you think you’re too young, or too old, or too inexperienced, or not good enough on your instrument (of course, you have a certain level of proficiency). Teaching others is a sure-fire way to fill in any existing gaps in your knowledge and revise the basics. Sign up to our teacher registry now to start advertising your services to potential students today!

10. Perform Whenever and Wherever

If you make a mistake in a practice session and no one hears it, do you really learn from it? If you make a mistake when performing in front of an audience then chances are you will remember it and try to avoid that mistake happening when you next perform that piece. Mistakes are a completely normal part of music - sometimes, no matter how carefully we practise, we make a slip in a performance. Performing more regularly will help you reduce and eventually overcome nerves or anxieties you might have ahead of an exam, while also giving you plenty of motivation to get to grips with that pesky semiquaver run or mind-boggling polyrhythm!

Those are our suggestions – try them out or put your own ideas to the test. Either way, be sure to keep a note of how you get on using our Practise with Progress Diary, and join us next week when we’ll be putting exam technique under the microscope!