Any of the following ring a bell?
“I’m feeling bored with what I’m currently practicing.”
“I’m practicing regularly but I don’t feel like I’m making any progress.”
“I don’t even know what to practice anymore.”
If you resonate with any one of these nagging thoughts, don’t worry! As we evolve as musicians, so do our practice needs. I have four simple steps that will help revamp your practice sessions and get you back on track.
- Stop Watching The Clock!
Don’t fall into one of the most common traps for musicians, which is being glued to the clock. Of course, depending on your musical level, if you don’t practice regularly and for a certain amount of time, you won’t make the progress you’d like to see. BUT, it’s also true that it’s more important to focus on what you’re accomplishing in your practice session rather than the amount of time you’re actually practicing. It’s never helpful to keep looking at the clock and thinking “halfway there,” “fifteen minutes left,” “five minutes left”.
So, how do you stay focused to avoid the countdown blues? Setting goals! Let’s say you want to practice one hour every day. Rather than setting a timer, set an objective that will take roughly the time you have allotted. Try to hit that goal without worrying about how long it takes, and if you finish with time and energy to spare, feel free to keep going.
- Set The Right Kind Of Goals
Speaking of goals — setting different types of goals will help you tremendously when you’re trying to make progress. Keep in mind that not all goals are created equally. You really want to avoid the pitfalls of aiming for goals that aren’t achievable. What is the difference between an achievable vs. unachievable goal? Typically, an unachievable goal is something that isn’t realistic — pushing yourself too far with something that will be almost impossible to accomplish or something that is out of your control. For instance, setting a goal to win first place at a competition is ultimately the judges decision no matter how well you play. Achievable goals are ones that you have full control over and know you can accomplish.
Now, what kind of goals should you be setting? In the last tip, we talked about prioritizing daily practice goals over time spent in each session. You also want to be looking ahead toward the future. Weekly and monthly goals are great to help keep you on track, whereas six-month and multi-year goals give you something to aim for down the road. It’s okay for these goals to change over time, but having something to work toward gives you direction.
Make sure to keep track of these goals and hold yourself accountable! “Practice Note: The Practice Notebook for Musicians” has specific sections for you to track all of your goals (weekly, monthly, and beyond) to analyze what is working and what needs improvement.
- Track Your Progress
Just as it’s important to track your goals, it’s also very helpful to keep an organized record of everything you practice in a given day. Sometimes while learning an instrument, it can seem like you’re not making any progress at all. Being able to see what you’re accomplishing week to week will help you see that you actually are indeed making strides toward those goals you set.
Consistently tracking each practice session for a month’s time will pay off in dividends as you recognize patterns and start to see what is and isn’t working. This is exactly why I put so much time into the design and organization of the weekly practice pages inside Practice Note.
Maybe you aren’t happy with how your technique is going. Then, you take a look at your practice pages and realize that your exercises/etudes is the section of practice you skip the most on a daily basis. Going forward you can make sure to focus more on your technical practice.
Maybe you’re happy with the amount of pieces you started learning, but don’t feel that they’re concert ready. If that’s the case, start incorporating “performance practice” into your practice sessions when you run your pieces all the way through. Trying to do run-throughs for different people may also give you a leg up.
- Practice Something Fun!
There are going to be times that you aren’t exactly obsessed with what you’re practicing during the week. We have all been there and those can be some of the hardest times to find the motivation to practice. What can help offset the feeling of discouragement is to practice something “fun” and something just for you at the end of EVERY practice session (not just during the times you aren’t enjoying your current repertoire!).
This can include anything from playing along to your favorite pop tunes, revisiting one of your favorite pieces, or even playing a duet with someone else. Just find something that truly makes you happy and helps remind you why you play music in the first place. Do this at the end of your practice session so that you end on a high note and feel motivated to come back the next day.
I’m wishing you the best of luck on your practice journey, and remember we’re all in this together!
– Gina Luciani
Gina Luciani is a Los Angeles studio musician and the creator of “Practice Note: The Practice Notebook for Musicians.” Practice Note is an eye-catching vibrant planner for every modern musician to use at any point in their musical journey. Features of Practice Note include 52 weeks (1 year) of Practice Pages to begin anytime of the year, Short-Term and Long-Term Goal Setting, 20 pages of Practice Tips, and Trackers Pages for repertoire, performances and achievements. Check out a flip through video of Practice Note here: https://bit.ly/PNFlipThrough