Anyone who picks up an instrument probably has some ambitious expectations about what they’re going to play. That is awesome and keeping those big goals in mind can be a good thing. But there are branches off the road to those goals that can lead to discouragement. With that in mind, I want to talk about practice habits and expectations of our practice.
Structure Your Practice Sessions
Most of us don’t have as much time as we’d like to practice. That just means we have to make the most of the time that we do have. Maybe you can only squeeze in 20 minutes of practice a day. Rather than sifting through your notes, playing a little of this and a little of that, having a schedule will help you focus on spending that 20 minutes wisely. For example, 5 minutes warming up with scales, 5 minutes practicing technique, 5 minutes working on your main goal song, and 5 minutes of free play to wind down. Use a timer! It’s amazing how fast 20 minutes flies by and it’s not uncommon to run out of time before you’ve even started!
Don’t Compare Yourself To People On The Internet
I have students who will tell me about someone they saw online playing the song they are currently working on SO FAST or simply WITHOUT A MISTAKE. YouTube is a fantastic resource for tutorials, examples, or just to see what people are capable of achieving. It can be inspiring if you have a “if they can do it, so can I” attitude. But sometimes when we’re struggling with a piece, watching people “show off” can be frustrating. We can’t forget that other people also have to practice and most people aren’t on YouTube showing you how many times they had to play that measure to get it perfect. We don’t all learn at the same pace and if you only have 20 MINUTES a day to practice you can’t hold yourself to the same standard as someone who practices 4 HOURS a day. It’s easy to tell this to ourselves but that alone may not relieve the impulse. Be aware of yourself and take note of what helps and what just bums you out. And that brings us to:
Celebrate Your Accomplishments
You are awesome. You work hard at your craft, always looking for new ways to improve your musical competency because you know that learning never stops. That doesn’t mean we can’t occasionally celebrate the work we’ve done thus far. Go back through your notes, or into a previous lesson book. Find a piece that looks easy now but you remember at the time how intimidating it was. Crush that song. Feel it bend to your whim, swing it where it was never meant to be swung, throw in some embellishments on the repeat because it would be utterly boring if you didn’t. How far you’ve come. This is cake and it’s delicious. And that song you’re working on now? The big one with all those flats? Pretty soon that song will be cake too. It just needs a little more time.