Every musician knows how important practicing is. Anyone who has had a music teacher as probably been victim to a constant loop of “practice, practice, practice.” Yet, there are still those of us who lag behind – me being a primary offender.
No one can deny that in order to grow in an art or craft, practice is essential. Improvement comes through practice. But you can love your art and struggle to do it at the same time – it’s the story of my life, after all. So how do you get yourself to practice?
First, you must consider why you’re having problems practicing. In my experience, it’s been one of three reasons:
Time is a killer. Life in our modern day is a hustle from one thing to the next. It may feel like practicing is impossible in such a life. If time’s the reason you’re struggling to practice, here are some things to consider:
- Remember that any practice is better than none. Don’t not practice because you can’t have a long practice – five minutes is enough if that’s all you have time for
- Find a few short exercises to practice whenever you have a chance. Practice a scale for 2 minutes if that’s all you can do.
- If you’re learning a piece, focus on one or two measures a day. Just practice those.
- Learn efficient practice strategies! You won’t need as much practice time as when you’re just running through the piece over and over again. Practice smarter, not longer!
- If there’s any practicing you can do without an instrument, find ways to work that into your day. Listen to recordings of the piece or the backing track to the song you’re learning while you’re driving. Practice hard rhythms when you’re stuck in a waiting room just waiting. And etc…
Energy is another thing that’s lacking for a lot of us. Anyone suffering from a mental illness, or whose life is just a little too busy, or who’s constantly battling too much light or sound, can tell you that. If you never have energy to practice, something things to consider are:
- Shorter practice times! As stated above, any practice is better than none, and there’s ways to learn a lot in a short time.
- All those healthy tips? Yeah, they apply here. Stay hydrated, however you can. Eat well. Sleep well. Get sunlight. If you have more energy in general, it will help your playing.
- Find some really easy pieces that you like. If you don’t have the energy to work on your hard repertoire, just play these. Or scales. You can never do too many scales.
Motivation is a tricky thing. A while back I wrote an article on why discipline is more important than motivation – and that’s true. But sometimes, you need the motivation to start being disciplined. Lacking motivation isn’t fun.
Or maybe you have motivation, but have another mental block. As someone who has executive dysfunction, this is me, like, all the time. Here’s some things I’ve done that have helped:
- Easy access! Less steps between starting to practice and actually practicing, the better. If you can, keep your instrument out if it’s case and on a holder. Don’t put things on your piano (don’t this anyways, but this is important here too). Make things accessible and in your line of vision.
- Keep your instruments where you like to be. Keep the area around them clean. Practicing someplace uncomfortable is never fun.
- Keep as much as you can on your phone! Hunting down metronomes and tuners aren’t fun. There’s an app for that, use it!
- Extra. Sheet music. Everywhere. If you’re anything like me, you leave things places they shouldn’t be. You put things in the wrong bags. If you have a copy of your music on your music stand/piano as a backup, that can save your day! Even if it doesn’t have all the markings your usual practice copy does, it will come in handy.
- Line of sight is a good thing. If I see music out, open, and ready to play, I’m always more eager to play it.
- Make sure you have a few fun pieces to play! I’m especially motivated when learning a piece I listen to – especially a Lindsey Stirling song!
- Also, the tips above apply. Its easier to motivate yourself for a five minute practice than an multiple-hour practice.
Not everything that helps me will help you, but these tips might be worth a try. Especially for those like me who want to be able to devote hours of practice but can’t. Just remember, practice smarter, not harder!