Music practice is hard work, and from personal experience, I know it isn’t always very fun. But there are a lot of ways to make practicing easier and more enjoyable. I will be sharing some of those with you right now.
1. Have a set amount of time to practice.
Five minutes one day and ten minutes another is not enough practice time to amount to much. Of course it is better than nothing, but still more time than this is necessary to learn an instrument well. Just like any other skill, it takes time and practice to master it.
I try to set a certain amount of time to practice to be sure that I get my practicing in. What I have found is if I just plan to practice without setting a length of time, it usually ends up being for just a few minutes.
But when I have an amount set, I get in as much practicing as I planned if my day goes as planned (and as long as I don’t get a blister or run out of oxygen, depending on which instrument I am practicing).
You may not have time for a block of thirty minutes or an hour of practicing. But that’s okay! You can always break up your music practice time with ten minutes in the morning and twenty minutes in the afternoon.
Or you could do five or ten minutes several times throughout the day as you have time. In fact, if you are a beginner, it is good to do short spurts as you adjust to playing your instrument. Just be sure your little bits of practice add up to a good amount of practice time.
2. Use a timer.
Having a timer to keep track of your time for you is a good way to get the most out of your practice time. When the timer is on and counting down how much time you have left, you don’t have to be watching the clock or checking your watch.
You can be completely focused on your practice without having to worry about time. Plus, if you’re checking the clock every few minutes, that is taking away from your practice time.
Another benefit of using a timer is if you have to stop in the middle of practicing, you can just pause the timer and it will save the amount of time you have left. You won’t have to worry about remembering how long you had practiced, because the timer will be keeping track of that for you.
3. Have a set place to practice.
Some of you are probably thinking, “Well, that’s obvious. I can’t very well practice piano in bed or at the table.” But for those of us who play portable instruments, we don’t always practice in the same place. Now, we might not all have the space to have a permanent practice place set up. I don’t.
In the pictures below you can see the quick changes I make to turn my desk area into my guitar practice area. I imagine you have some little corner like this where you could do the same, if you do not have a permanent music practice area.
When I sit in the folding chair with my music stand in front of me, I know I am there to practice, and that is what I do. But I don’t always use this spot. Sometimes I sit on the bed and practice, but when I do that, my practicing is not nearly as productive.
That is why it is important that we have a space devoted to practicing. Our brains know that practicing is the reason we are there, so we are in the music practice mode when we are in our practice spot.
If you play sitting down, have a chair that provides you with good posture. If possible, keep your music stand set up even when you aren’t practicing, so that it is always at the right height for you to see your music well.
4. Be consistent in practicing.
Picture this: a girl sits down at a piano, feeling guilty that she hasn’t practiced in a whole week. “I’m going to practice for two hours to make up for it,” she tells herself. Two hours later: “Ohh,” she moans. “My back is sooo sore. I can’t move.”
Or imagine this: A guitar student hasn’t practiced much more than five minutes here and ten minutes there for a few weeks. Now she is ready to get back at it. Thirty minutes later, she puts her guitar back on the stand and walks away, rubbing her sore, blistered fingertips. “Why didn’t I practice more regularly?” she asks herself again and again. “Now I have to build up my callouses again.”
No matter what instrument you play, something bad is bound to happen if you don’t practice regularly. Brass instrument players may find their lungs can’t do what they need to do.
Violin players may find their arms aching when they try to hold their instrument. Flute players might have both of these problems.
It is crucial to learning an instrument that you practice regularly, not just for learning new songs, but also for staying in shape to play your instrument. Music practice is a form of exercise, and for best results it needs to be done consistently just like a workout routine.
You may not be able to practice everyday, but you can still practice consistently. If necessary, plan to practice every other day or three days a week. Whatever your practice schedule, what matters is that you are consistent.
In part two of this post, I discuss tips to incorporate while you are practicing, to make learning new songs easier. Be sure to go read it!