Practice. Perhaps one of the most important (and loaded) words in all of music education.
It can make or break you as a performer, and will largely determine whether or not you reach your goals and become the musician you’ve always wanted to be.
But, what is it, exactly?
Sounds like a dumb question – but if you really think closely, it becomes an important one.
How we (and more importantly, how you) define practice will determine your success in reaching your goals, whatever they may be.
But practice can be a daunting concept for many – perhaps you can relate to this.
As a guitar instructor for over 15 years, I’ve seen (and often heard) these common reasons people fail at practicing:
- “Not enough time / too busy”
- “I don’t know what to practice”
- “I’ll get to it later”
- “I’m tired of practicing the same things over and over”
…and so on.
And, before I go any further, I want to say that – if one or more of these categories resonate with you, don’t feel bad! You’re not alone.
In fact, it wasn’t until my VERY LAST semester in college that I finally learned how to structure my practice time, stick to a plan and conquer many of these things myself.
And I was studying music!
So, if this is an almost universal problem, what can we do about it?
To take action and finally overcome our fear of practice, we first need to understand a few basic principles.
1. You Must Understand What You Are Trying To Accomplish
Any good conversation about practice should start with a question: What am I trying to achieve?
To help answer this question, asses and answer the following for yourself:
- Where would I like to be in the next 6 to 12 months?
- Where would I like to be ultimately (long term)?
- What will I have when I accomplish these goals?
- What will I have if I fail to accomplish these goals?
- Will I be happy with both/either result?
What you are trying to achieve will determine the course of action you need to take to get there. If, for example, you want to be a concert guitarist who tours the world and makes a living playing music, this requires a very different approach to practice than, say, if you just want to be able to perform comfortably in front of friends and family.
2. A Simple Plan is Better Than Gold
Once you understand where it is you’re trying to go, then it’s time to start building a plan for how to get there.
While everyone’s plan will look slightly different, there are a few principles anyone can stick to help a plan succeed.
- Keep it simple. You want to make sure you can follow it and stick to it consistently, so keep it simple and add to it as time goes on.
- Divide and conquer. With the vast sea of things you could practice every day, chances are you don’t have time to get to it all. So instead of practicing everything every day, try splitting up your routine into different items on different days. Just like you don’t work out the same muscle groups every day, you should aim to work different techniques and skills into different days of the week as part of your plan.
- Strive for balance. Between improving your technique, working on new songs, and keeping up with old rep, you want to balance these out so you aren’t repeating yourself or only working on one part of your playing. (Imagine an athlete who only works on bicep curls every single day…)
3. Consistency Trumps Everything
Finally, once you have a plan in place, it’s time to stick to it.
Oh, and did I mention – this is where most people fail?
Consistency is arguably the most important thing you can do to improve yourself and reach your goals. Even if your plan isn’t perfect, or you don’t know exactly what you want, or you only have 15 minutes a day to pick it up, if you are consistent you will make progress.
Find time, carve out a block of your day, and when life happens – find a way to fit some practice in anyway.
Keep your goals in mind, keep your plan simple, and practice consistently over time and you will reach your goals!
Do you have a practice routine you’d like to share? If you have questions about how to improve your practice routine, drop a comment below – I’d love to hear from you and help out if I can.