deliberate practice

Deliberate practice helps you become a better musician

Growth as a musician requires a practical approach, which can include the use of programs and apps to help organize and incentivize deliberate practice sessions.

Whatever your instrument, whatever level of proficiency you’ve attained, and whatever style of music you play — from bubblegum pop to classical — real growth as a player requires efficient and effective ways to practice and monitor your progress. There are plenty of practical approaches you can employ, including the use of programs and apps to help organize and incentivize deliberate practice sessions.

Modacity is one such program, and whether you choose to use it or to develop your own system, learning how others are finding success using the app can inform how you approach your own musical practice. Meet Dafydd Bevil and Alden F. Cohen, who both used the Modacity app to help them win big auditions.

Preparing for the La Crosse Symphony audition

Dafydd Bevil is a professional French horn player from Madison, WI who freelances, is currently working on recording an album, and teaches in his private studio. Recently, he also earned a position as the acting third horn in the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra.

Bevil, who has used the Modacity app for quite some time, used it extensively to prepare for his audition. “The most important thing to me is just knowing how deliberate practice works,” says Bevil. “When it’s done correctly, everything you play has a goal, so it ups the productivity a lot.”

In using the app, the first step Bevil took was to go through his excerpt list and assign a number to each excerpt he wanted to perform. The numbers correlated to his comfort level with each specific excerpt.

1 = Very comfortable
2 = Still needs polishing, but mostly comfortable
3 = Needs considerable attention/not comfortable

Next, Bevil planned his practice sessions by working on 3-5 excerpts per day, using these steps:

  • Record each excerpt he practiced (using the app).
  • Practice using deliberate methods every day. Sometimes, Bevil would just focus on one aspect of an excerpt per day. On other days, he would tackle multiple areas of improvement.
  • Bevil would always practice at least one “Level 3” excerpt and one or two “Level 2” excerpts per practice session.
  • All “Level 1” excerpts were practiced as if it were a performance.
  • About two weeks out from the audition, he began to do mock auditions, playing three to five excerpts chosen at random. He played for real people and also mock performed.
  • As part of his prep for the real audition, he would practice warming up as if in a warm-up room at the audition. Then, he would pace around for about 3-5 minutes to simulate the walk from the room to the audition stage. Then, he would hit record and perform like it was a real audition.
  • After his mock audition, he would listen back and take notes, coming up with a written list of ways to improve for the next attempt.
  • He continued this process for two weeks until a day or so before the audition, often doing multiple rounds to simulate preliminaries and finals.

When the actual audition came around, it felt very similar to his practice, which put him more at ease through the process.

Here are some screenshots of Dafydd’s pre-audition playlists in Modacity.

deliberate practice

To learn more about the awesome musical work Bevil is doing, visit his website.

Preparing for the Oakland Symphony audition

Alden F. Cohen is a professional bassist based in the San Francisco Bay Area who enjoys performing and teaching. Cohen has also written a book, Pre-Shift Practice with Scales, and he recently won his Oakland Symphony Assistant Principal Double Bass audition, using the Modacity app to help him prepare.

While practicing for his audition, Mr. Cohen used the app to:

  • Keep track of what excerpts he had been working on and calculate which ones he felt needed more practice time based on a five-star rating.
  • Record and listen to his excerpts and run-throughs after practice sessions and while in the car on the way to gigs.
  • Visually track what type of progress he’d been making.
  • Help him stick to his “to-do list” within the amount of time he had each day.

Cohen also uses the app when teaching to:

  • Listen back to key ideas he addressed in the previous lesson.
  • Share his own recordings with his students.
  • Create an individual plan for each student.

This is how Mr. Cohen structures his practice in Modacity:

deliberate practice

To learn more about Alden and his journey towards musical mastery, check out his YouTube page.


Marc Gelfo has been playing and practicing music for more than 30 years. After applying cognitive science and computer science to French horn, Marc became an internationally touring symphony musician. His experience includes teaching and performing with thousands of musicians around the world, including the San Francisco Symphony. He is currently the founder of Modacity, a music practice app designed to help musicians practice better and learn faster.

Your music isn't ready until it's been mastered

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