Practising can be hard work, but its worth it.
You have homework, sport, family commitments, friends to see, places to be and you have to allow time to eat and travel as well. Sometimes there doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day to fit in music practice as well. It may be comforting to know that its not just students who feel this way, many professional musicians find it difficult to motivate themselves to practice as well. So I have decided to share with you some of the strategies I use to get myself to practice even when I don’t feel like it.
1. Set a date and time to practice
The saying “tomorrow never comes” was probably first said about music practice. Every time I say “I’m busy, I’ll practice tomorrow” it just doesn’t happen. Why? Because saying, “tomorrow” is a way of putting off what you don’t want to do. If you make times (at least 5 time blocks in a week) to practice you are more likely to do it because I have made a commitment. For example, let’s say I commit to practice on Tuesday at 4:30, Wednesday at 6:00, Thursday 4:30, Saturday 11:00 and Monday at 4:30 for 30 minutes each. I will know that those times are dedicated to music and I won’t schedule anything else.
2. Create a practice routine
Ok, so you’ve set up your schedule of when you’re going to practice. You get out your instrument and then you play through your Groove Train charts. That takes 10 minutes. Then you have 20 minutes left but you don’t know what to do. This usually leads to you not getting better, getting bored, and not wanting to practice tomorrow. Creating a Practice Routine allows you to use every minute of your practice effectively and helps you to improve faster.
All good practice is a combination of Tone and Articulation Exercises, Technical Exercises, and Pieces. Your teachers will help you work out what the best exercises are for you to do. When you have 3 different areas to work on in your practice, you will always be able to fill up your 30 minutes.
3. Use a clock
When you set up your practice routine with your teacher, block out your time. Say you’ll play F major scale for 3 minutes, then Bb Major for 2 minutes, then your arpeggios for 5 minutes – 10 minutes of practice is already gone and you haven’t touched your pieces yet!
4. Turn off the negative voices in your head
One of the reasons we all avoid practising is the voice in your head that tells you “you’re not good enough.” Well you know what? Everyone has that voice. Which means that the best musicians in the world, and all your teachers and all the other people in your band gets those voices. The key to successful practice is to go – “Hey, I’m learning. I’m allowed to make mistakes, and that’s ok.” The best musicians sound the worst in the practice room, because they are working on things they can’t do yet. Let yourself make mistakes, and focus on improving.
5. Stop comparing yourself to other people
We all sit in rehearsals and go “wow I wish I was as good as …” Turns out, that person is probably thinking the same about you. When you practice you need to focus on what you need to do to improve, not what the person next to you needs to do.
6. Enjoy playing your instrument
Everyone picked up music because there was something fun about it. For some of you it was the sound of the instrument, for others it was the kinds of music you get to play, or maybe that you wanted to be like your musical hero. Try to reconnect with what it was that made you love your instrument, focus on that when you’re practising and you’ll have a much more enjoyable time.