3 Key Strategies For Successful Music Practice
Guest post by Oliver Braithwaite
Oliver Braithwaite is the founder of Stars & Catz Music Teacher Network, author of two eBooks on successful music practice and himself a composer and band member. Stars & Catz offer a free teacher matching service as well as a suite of free music resources and tools on their sites, due to be released mid 2015, including the two eBooks mentioned in this article and much more.
In this article we’re going to look at what I consider to be three of the most important strategies to winning in your music practice. While these tips are aimed at the adult learner, the same principles would apply to a child.
These three tips are taken from an eBook I’ve written entitled: Smart Practice: Strategies & Tips, which will be released for free in mid 2015 along with a companion eBook for parents of young students, on websites listed at the end of the article.
Strategy 1: Get inspired
This is possibly the most important strategy for winning in your practice. Remind yourself what drove you to learn in the first place. You know what it was, and it’s vital that you continue to tap into that passion and even build upon it.
Immerse yourself in inspiration, maybe a desktop background image of Elton John or perhaps thousands of hours of symphonies on your iPod. How would you like to sound when you’ve mastered your instrument? Listen to musicians performing at that level and believe that you too can reach those giddy heights.
Are you working on a specific piece at the moment? Get hold of that piece and play it in your car on the way to work or perhaps while you’re cooking… but be careful not to play it to the point where it loses it’s magic, we’re aiming at inspiration, not saturation.
Live music is also a major source of inspiration for most of us. If you’re not a person who normally gets out to concerts or renditions then now’s the time to start. Think of it as part of your overall music education, because it actually is. You will pick up more than you know from watching high level musicians live and it will make your lessons a far more alive and engaging time for both you and your teacher as you recount what you took from the performance.
The last part of this strategy is the simplest; ensure that you’re practicing music that you love or, at least, that you can see will lead you towards a piece you love.
Music is driven by passion and if the passion wanes and is not reignited then practice will become a soulless, difficult affair. Learn to stay inspired though and the inevitable mountains that lie before you will be joyous to climb.
Strategy 2: Create a space
Every obstacle between you, your instrument and some quiet time is a potential reason to procrastinate. If you need to clear a room of clutter, set up the keyboard or reach up high to pull down a heavy guitar case every time you want to practice, you are at a disadvantage from the start.
Keeping your practice space set up and ready as far as possible might be the thing that gets you 30 minutes or an hour more practice time per week. Those minutes add up. They are the extra miles.
So stack the odds in your favour and don’t give the little procrastination voice in your head any additional reasons to persuade you with. Of course, this voice is loudest when you’re tired or perhaps are working on a difficult piece, but at those times the room set up might be one step further than your willingness will stretch.
3: Choose the right time for your practice
Here is required a little self-honesty. When are you most likely to practice? Are you a night owl who loves to labour into the small hours? Or would you be worried about waking up the neighbours or kids at that hour? Is 7am on a Sunday morning a time you would realistically stick to? The point here is that appointing a day and time that is not practical might lead to feelings of guilt each time you skip the practice sessions. That’s something to be avoided at all costs.
One additional tip to avoid the guilt is setting a practice time, not by the clock, but by a sequence of events. For instance, if your practice session is meant to start at 5:30pm but the traffic is bad and you get home at 5:45pm then you’ll feel frustrated before you begin. If instead your practice is scheduled to begin after you get home and have made a cup of tea (whatever time that may be), then you will never be late or feel annoyed due to the clock.
In conclusion, winning in your practice is an exercise in cultivating positive feelings towards your music and your practice and finding ways to avoid frustrations and guilt. Each small instance in which you affirm that your music study is a positive force in your life and not a source of failure and stress will build your success. It doesn’t take long for your winning ways to become so strong that success is inevitable, but getting off to a good, positive start through a little planning is the key.