The quality of your practice is much more important than the quantity. The old saying "practice makes perfect" is only true if the practice itself is perfect. Here are 7 tips to help make your practice more effective and efficient.
Practice motions slowly
The muscular memory of our bodies allows us to physically carry out patterns of motion with little or no conscious involvement. Examples of muscular memory include walking, riding a bicycle, typing, and of course playing a musical instrument.
In order to develop this memory, the muscles require training in the form of repeated conscious guidance from the mind. First the mind must learn the pattern. Then the mind must "teach" the pattern to the muscles.
The mind initially must control all the motions of the muscles. The more controlled and precise the motions, the more quickly the muscles will develop muscle memory.
Slow practice also allows the mind to teach "antagonistic muscles" to relax. Antagonistic muscles are those that move in opposite directions. By relaxing antagonistic muscles you can reduce tension and facilitate faster and easier performance and avoid potential injury.
Practice in small cells
A "practice cell" is simply a finite series of motions. Musical cells can correspond to anything from a few notes to an entire work. When practicing, it is important to practice small cells of just a few notes. Practicing small cells limits the amount of information the muscles have to learn at one time. It also facilitates the mind's focus and concentration.