For me, as a classical school musician, practicing technique means playing scales and arpeggios or working on études. Repertoire practice for me is often playing through the piece or playing the difficult parts.
Since I started to learn how to improvise, I decided to change those approaches. I believe that all practicing can be practical and creative. Practice techniques should be about identifying and solving problems that prevent you from achieving your musical goals. This means that instead of playing scales and arpeggios or working on études, you should be practicing in a way that solves the specific technical problems you are experiencing. The same goes for repertoire. Practicing repertoire should be about identifying and solving problems that prevent you from achieving your musical goals. Playing your instrument should not be about mindless repetition, but finding new ways to solve the problems you are encountering.
Here are some ideas for how you can make your practice more constructive and deliberate:
- Integrate different rhythmic patterns in your scale
- Play the scale from the lowest note on your instrument, for example, if you are practicing D-minor on the violin, start from the lowest note on the scale which is A on the G-string
- Use slurs and play on a different part of your bow if you are a string musician
- Change tempo and/or dynamic
- Practice based on a technical motif in a étude
- Work on your intonation
- Work on your sound production
- Work on bow technique, for example, play detaché or spiccato
This method is a useful way to not only learn new things, but to also retain your old skills. It helps you to internalize the scale in a useful and fun way. I highly recommend this method to all musicians, regardless of their experience level. It is a great way to learn new things, retain old skills, and become a more well-rounded musician.