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Satisfying, Interesting, Invigorating, and Enjoyable Practice

I've had a lot of folks recently ask about what my practicing looks like.

I've learned a lot over the years about how to make the process more engaging and fruitful.

Some of the best tips I've learned from Tom Heany's "First, Learn to Practice"

I think of practice in a few ways:

-Learning (Listening or reading new material or concepts - Cognitive based... Sometimes without an instrument)

-Rehearsing (Repeating learned material- motor skills based)

-Exploring (Using learned material in new ways - Some combination of the two)

Here's what that looks like on the day to day:


  • Listening to a fiddle tune, song, or break, without my instrument, at 50-75% speed on repeat (usually a chunk of 30 seconds or less)

    • I sing or hum rhythm and contour first, before worrying about matching the exact notes

    • After listening several times, then I start to add more precise and correct notes in my singing

    • If possible, I try to imagine where the notes lie on my instrument, OR I air bow the rhythm

  • Listen to a live performance and hum a cool rhythm or lick I heard into my Voice recording app

  • Listen to a recording of my practice/rehearsal, Identify things that I like and things I don't like

    • In this practice, I often hear things that I would have played or meant to play, and I make mental note of it.

    • With VIDEO, I look at my bow hold or posture and take mental note


  • If working on a particular tune, break, or song, I set a loop (Using the Amazing Slow Downer) for under 60 seconds, usually just 20 or so...

    • I adjust the settings to go 1% faster on each loop, then I start at about 60-70% and work my way just past 100%

    • In this practice, (If you set it slow enough to start) you enter a sort of flow state where you can almost passively watch your hands moving faster and faster

  • Putting Scales through patterns

  • Running a bunch of tunes that I know with a metronome/drum machine


  • I explore a scale, bowing, or rhythm in new ways by using it in the context of creative practice. Often I run through a playlist like this one with a specific focus or set of intentions in mind

    • If it's phrasing, I focus on interplay with the singer, or creating deliberate musical phrases through pauses.

    • If its scales, I focus on one or two scales and build a sense of what feeling that scale creates (Dark/somber or bright/cheery)

    • If its rhythm, I focus on new rhythms or common melodic rhythms within the style of music I am working on.

    • If its bowing, I focus on just one bowing or a combination of two bowings and stick to just those

  • If I want to work on timing and tempo flexibility, I set one song on repeat and have it go 5% faster each time. That way, I gradually work up to being able to improvise at fast tempos, but also gain sensitivity to slower tempos.

The best book I read on practice was this:

Check out the free preview and buy the book here (90 something pages and only 5 dollars on kindle!)

How do you like to practice? Did you find any of these strategies interesting?

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