Setting up a practice loop is one of the best ways to learn a song. Rather than going through your piece from start to finish, you’ll need to work on small sections that need the majority of the work.
Creating and using a practice loop is the nitty gritty of the work itself. Here’s a step-by-step guide to making loops work for you.
1. Determine the small, difficult sections of your music that need the majority of your practice focus. (I call these sections the Tough Stuff.)
2. Pick one section and play it very, very slowly–making sure that you can play the notes and rhythms accurately.
3. Once you can play a section at this slow tempo, turn on your metronome at that speed and play the section 4 to 5 times. You’ll be repeating the section without a pause.
4. Speed up your metronome a notch or two and repeat Step 3.
These four steps may be all you get done in a single day, but there are further steps to take in future practice sessions:
5. Continue the process you started in Step 4: Each day you’ll start at a comfortable tempo and work the metronome up one or two settings at a time. Don’t be surprised if today’s starting tempo is slower than yesterday’s fastest tempo! This is normal.
6. Create a new loop that starts one bar before your section but ends where you have already been stopping. Using this loop, repeat Step 3. This will make you an expert at transitioning into the section you’re focusing on.
7. Make yet another loop that starts at the beginning of your section but stops a bar after the section ends. Use Step 3 for this loop. Now you are working on transitioning out of the chosen section.
8. Finally, your last practice loop starts a bar before the section begins and stops a bar after the section ends. You will master the transition into the Tough Stuff, the Tough Stuff itself, and moving onto the next set of notes successfully.
Though this sounds like a long and complicated process, all of these steps can actually be done in a few minutes.
The concentration and focus you gain practicing with loops will make you truly learn your music. You will build both muscle memory and confidence as you play your music accurately over and over.