Practice Tips for Auditions

In North Carolina, students prepare every fall for all-district and all-state auditions. In many cases, the pandemic has made it difficult for public music teachers to reinforce good practice habits with their students.

Recently, NAFME published a great summary of effective practice habits. The author, Dr. Kim Mieder, recommends breaks the practice process into three general steps: Plan, Practice, and Reflect. Deliberate practice (focused time, with goals, using effective practice/learning strategies) is essential to learn for all musicians, no matter their age. I emphasize the topics and skills of deliberate practice in each lesson with my own students, where we apply them to every aspect of their playing - developing sound, technique, repertoire, and improvisation. Comparing the efficiency of deliberate practice with unfocused practice, a student can accomplish their goals in as little as a quarter of the time, or less.

Here are the key points:

  • Establish your practice goals for the day, the week, the month, etc.
  • While listening, play a section, short or long, then analyze specific aspects (note accuracy, tone, rhythm, articulations, dynamics, pulse)
  • Apply a specific strategy to address a weakness or error (practice out of rhythm, play rhythm only, work through passage in very short segments [1-4 beats])
  • When you finish practicing that day, consider if you met your goal; what might you change tomorrow so that your practicing is more successful?

I have posted videos on YouTube that include tips and recordings for students preparing the repertoire for NC All-District and All-State auditions. Find the playlist here.