This is a really good topic, as many people – especially children – really don’t always enjoy practicing. I have a confession to make – when I was a kid, although I loved to play the piano, I didn’t always like to practice! So if you find yourself dreading practicing and trying to avoid it, don’t worry, you’re not alone! However, practicing is something that is essential on every musical instrument – if you want to improve you will have to practice; and practice a lot.
So how do you make practicing enjoyable? Well sadly there is no turnkey solution to creating a more enjoyable experience; however I have a few tips that may help you out.
The problem for younger people is that they have a harder time understanding the benefits of hard work leading to bigger rewards. We live in a society of instant gratification and while there is nothing inherently wrong with that, it’s a cycle that is hard to break. As you mature into adulthood the reality of work versus reward is more apparent and there are certain things you know will take time and effort in order to achieve – playing music is one of them.
There is nothing worse than seeing a young student forced to practice; having them stare at the clock in anticipation of it being over. It is absolutely essential that you are fully engaged in your practice sessions. While practicing certainly has a physiological component, practicing is ultimately a thought process. If you are not engaged in your practice session, you might be moving your fingers and playing notes but you certainly aren’t practicing. Conversely, you could be thinking about practicing your instrument even when you aren’t playing it and actually achieve a high level of practice (Please check out my video on How to Play Piano with your Mind for more information on this.)
How do you become mentally engaged in your practice sessions? If you have the opportunity to choose your own repertoire, choose something you are really excited about. There will be times when you need to learn music that you are required to or you need to in order to develop essential skills. Just remember that every piece you learn is just another step in the right direction and will prepare you to learn the music you are really passionate about.
Another motivation is having musical performances you are looking forward to. This is what got me really excited about practicing and learning music. As a teenager I started to perform more often and I found my love for music grew more and more. Having an opportunity to perform – even if it’s only for family or friends at first– will boost your excitement level and will help you become much more engaged in practice sessions.
A great thing to do with practice sessions is to organize them as you would a fine meal. You can start with an appetizer of scales and arpeggios, then move on to a main course of something like memorization, then maybe have a dessert with refinement or sight reading. The basic idea is to mix up your practice sessions and include a lot of different aspects of musical development. This will really help to excite your sessions as you won’t be doing the same thing over and over again.
One big problem people face is accepting their own limitations. If you can’t do something, find another way! Build yourself up by conquering many smaller tasks again and again. Many people have a very difficult time accepting their own musical limitations and become frustrated at themselves. If you learn to accept your own personal limitations and work towards overcoming them you will be surprised at how quickly you will develop into a better musician.
You also must keep into account the point of diminishing returns. If you are practicing and you are achieving less and less or you are remaining stagnant with a certain discipline, move on and try something else. If you keep forcing something that can’t be refined at the moment if won’t help you. Sometimes it’s best to move on to something completely different and return to the problem later when you have a fresh outlook.
Overall, the most important thing is to keep yourself engaged and remember that you are not perfect – we are all human! Forgive yourself and keep your practice interesting so you remain engaged.
Thanks again for joining me, Robert Estrin Robert@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729