Productive Practicing

creating a practice schedule that works.

I know I’m not the only musician to have an extremely busy schedule. I need to make time wherever I can. Sometimes it feels like trying to move a mountain just to get 10 minutes a day to play guitar. If I’m not careful, I can go all week without touching a guitar. At first it may not seem like that big of a deal, but this can be detrimental to improving your skills. Louis Armstrong says it best:

“If I don’t practice for a day, I know it. If I don’t practice for two days, the critics know it. And if I don’t practice for three days, the public knows it.” ~ Louis Armstrong

It doesn’t take long for a lack of practice to affect your ability to play your instrument. Rehearsing not only makes us better at our craft, but it makes playing more comfortable and enjoyable. If you want to be the best you can be, it’s necessary to follow some guidelines to keep you on track with improving your skill set.

Schedule time in advance.
When you have time cut out of your week, it forces you make the conscious decision to sit down and practice. It also helps you to be more intentional about your approach. When you schedule several small practice sessions throughout your week, you can devote each one to a different skill that you are trying to get better at. Stick with your plan as much as possible. Daily practice for just 10 minutes a day is the best way to keep your mind and your fingers sharp.

Learn new things.
Start your first few minutes of rehearsal time by learning a new technique or skill. This keeps practicing fresh. When you default to only practicing songs you need to learn, practice tends to get stale and boring. It doesn’t take long to lose interest in your instrument when you’re constantly playing the same things. Challenge yourself with something new, even if you won’t use it while performing. Who knows, it may stretch you in ways that help with what you already do on stage.

Have a plan.
Going into practice with a plan helps prepare your mind for what you are about to do. It doesn’t mean you need to stick to the plan from beginning to end. It more so gives you a starting place and helps you to be more efficient with your time.

Don’t overdo it.
Everyone has a limit to their attention span. Know your limits. When you push too hard, you can burn yourself out. If you need a week off, take it. If you need to skip a day of practice, do it. Everyone needs rest and if practicing your instrument is robbing you of that, reanalyze your practice frequency.

Execution is important for accomplishing your goals. You can’t get better if you’re not spending time with your instrument. Figure out what works for you as far as your practicing routine and do your best to stick with it. Take breaks and days off when you need to. Keep your passion fresh by learning new things that you enjoy. Most importantly, have fun. What’s the point in playing a musical instrument if you don’t love every minute of it. Life is too short to spend it doing things we don’t enjoy.

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