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How to Design an Effective Practice Program (Video)

+ This excerpted lesson is presented courtesy of Kiefer’s in-depth course on Soundfly, Kiefer: Keys, Chords, & Beats. Sign up and learn to bridge the worlds of theory, improvisation, and jazzy hip-hop, and improve your piano chops.

For Kiefer, effective practice requires a plan. To do that, he creates a fairly elaborate ladder of goals that help him get the most out of his practice time. In effect, he’s designing a custom-tailored Practice Program for himself, like you might get from a professional sports coach at the highest levels.

Here’s how he explains it:

  • Every 10-15 minutes of practice is planned out according to a plan, which is based on…
  • A daily plan laid out the night before, which is based on…
  • A weekly plan (created on Sundays), which is based on…
  • A monthly plan, which is based on…
  • A quarterly plan laid out every three months, which is based on…
  • An annual plan set forth at the start of the year.

As you move through each level, stepping back from days to months, the plans get less specific and more broad. Let’s look at some examples.

Kiefer usually studies about four things at a time. You can almost think of these like “tracks” — discrete skillsets he might want to work on, like improvisation, melody writing, voicings, transcription, etc.

When setting your annual goals, pick a few of these areas you might hope to accomplish during the year, while understanding that they might change over time.

Let’s say that you want to improve your improvisation skills this year. Well, then maybe the first quarterly goal you lay out for yourself is to transcribe a lot of solos for the first quarter of the year. Depending on how comfortable you are with that skill, you could aim to transcribe one solo a week, with a different phrase each day.

So, you’d probably hope to transcribe 12 solos total during the quarter. Here’s how that might look:

  1. Quarterly Goal: Transcribe 12 different solos
  2. Monthly Goal: Transcribe 4 solos
  3. Weekly Goal: Transcribe 1 solo a week
  4. Daily Practice Sessions: Transcribe a phrase or two of the solo each day

You can follow this same pattern to lay out your entire practice program for any skillset or goal you’re hoping to achieve. We’ve made this template for you to use. Feel free to make a copy of it, delete the examples, and start your own version.

Here’s a PDF version in case you’d prefer printing it out.

Download: Practice Program Design Template

Create some initial practice plans for yourself.

Use the template we provided to lay out some initial practice plans to follow while taking Kiefer’s course on Soundfly. If you’re already a Soundfly subscriber, you can feel free to share what you come up with in the #share-your-goals channel in Slack.

Don’t stop here!

Keep learning about theory and harmony, composing and arranging, songwriting, improvising, and so much more in Soundfly’s exciting new course with Grammy-winning pianist and producer, Kiefer: Keys, Chords, & Beats.

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Kiefer on Soundfly

Kiefer is a Grammy-winning pianist and producer based in Los Angeles. He released his debut album Kickinit Alone in 2017 with Leaving Records and, in 2018, signed to Stones Throw and released his second album Happysad. Since the, Kiefer has toured the world and collaborated with Kaytranada, SiR, Terrace Martin, Lalah Hathaway, Moses Sumney, Abraham Laboriel, and many more. In 2020, he won a GRAMMY for Best R&B Album for his production work on Anderson .Paak’s Ventura. Kiefer's online course, Kiefer: Keys, Chords, & Beats, is available now exclusively on Soundfly.