There’s definitely a world of difference between good practice and bad practice. Depending on your instrument, this application will differ, but things to keep in mind are: technique, accuracy, patience and concentration. You want to make sure that you don’t fall into bad habits, such as shallow breathing while singing, or sloppy hand position with piano. When you’re practicing accuracy is key. That unfortunately means starting off painfully slow and speeding up as and when you’re ready (TIP: PRACTICE TO A METRONOME IF YOU’RE NOT ALREADY!). I know how easy it can be to want to always play as fast as you can, but stay patience, and you’ll end up with perfect accuracy and lightening speed.
A great way to get some really valuable practice down is to have a routine. Now I know routines can get a bad rep, as they’re repetitive by their very nature; however this repetition will bore the practice so far into your head that you’ll end up dreaming about it. Think of when you’re driving, or walking for that matter, and you arrive at your destination only to realise that you were completely unaware of the previous 10 minutes. As if you were on autopilot. It has become so fundamentally passive, that you need not have any of your conscious mental state present in order to carry out the action. The same can be applied to your instrument. You can practice and practice to the point where it’s almost like your body and mind turn to you and say “we got this, why don’t you take 5”. Now with a routine, as important as it is to keep repeating the same exercises, or whatever it is you’re practicing, it’s equally as important to keep adding in new routines. It’s like you create yourself a lovely little framework to keep within, but every now and again you grow too big for it, and the borders need to recede further and further back, allowing yourself more and more room to breathe. And more room for new information and knowledge (you might also realise, rather demoralisingly, that the more you learn, the more it transpires that you don’t know!).
Maybe start off by writing down some areas which you want to focus on, or something that your teacher has maybe gone through with you. Plan out a small routine, it could be 10-15 minutes to begin with. Do it regularly (everyday if possible) and stick with it. Once you feel like you’ve conquered it, and also maybe considering packing it in for an exciting career at the box factory, it’s time to add in some more exercises. And then more, and more, and more. There is no end to how much you can add in; purely because there’s always more you can learn. But knowing everything’s probably overrating anyway…
So, you’ve made the decision to pursue your passion, whether it be an old one, or a new one. Good choice, and good luck! Now I’ve already explained the importance of practice. However that word can definitely be misconstrued, and if you’re planning on putting thousands of hours of work into something, you want to be sure that you’re filling that time wisely.