How to Rule Your Practice Routine

In the past, we’ve discussed the need for practice and despite it being ever so obvious, much like washing the dishes, sometimes life gets so busy with so many twists and turns - that the dishes get left undone and begin to pile up - you may randomly realize that you haven’t legitimately practiced in weeks. It’s time for us to shape up and it’s all about shifting our habits and perspectives!

Before we get too far, it’s key that we all make a promise to keep our promise of practicing. Treat it like learning to ride a bike. You will have days when the rest of your to-do list just got the best of you. Get back on the next week and start all over again.  

Start small when it comes to the things that feel troublesome to do. Dedicating yourself to practicing 4 hours a day like some of the greats - sometimes that’s just too much to take on in the beginning. Gift yourself a solid 15 minutes to start with. You’ll build up to being better and better with time. Write down your goals and accomplishments, be it in a journal or on a whiteboard on your wall. 

School Music Online reminds us that warming up is an absolute must in your daily routine. “The first 1/4 to 1/3 of your practice should be a warm up. Scales and rudiments are great warm ups. Warms ups should be something you've already learned, and exercise technicalities. You can tailor your warm ups to your main focus.”

It’s now time to enlist your timer. Have you ever had those days where the entire day just floats away? All of a sudden it’s 9PM and you’re wondering where every count went? 15 minutes goes by so fast. This is both good and bad, depending on whether you choose to let time control you or you learn to control it. We know that this isn’t easy, but this is a master step that we’re always shooting for sharpening Next up, make use of that Google Calendar and program your practicing habits directly into your schedule. It’s less than fun but it will keep you on task throughout your daily, weekly and monthly schedules. 

Another incredibly beneficial point that we should all adopt, is that of lasering your focus during practice time. It should feel much like a maintainable story arc. There should be a focal point to each session. School Music Online says “Now that you're warmed up, it's time to practice what you're working on learning and improving. Your main focus can be a particular piece you're learning for a performance, or a piece that practices your weaknesses. If you struggle playing 16th notes, make your main focus a piece with lots of 16th note rhythms. Slow it down, get it right. Maybe your main focus is the piece you'll be playing for Solo and Ensemble. Whatever you choose to work on, take a break after 20 minutes (if you have longer practice sessions) and come back to it in 5 or 10. Your brain needs time to process and retain new information.”

One major element to why practicing feels like work is that we often fail to mix techniques with the parts of music that we fell in love with in the first place. A tip that we totally love includes saving some time for the sweet stuff. After you’ve completed the warm up, the focus, the technique sharpening, be sure that below you finish, you get a little bit of time to play what you love. Let loose and don’t put any definitions on it. This will remind you why you’re trying so hard to reach the levels of mastery that you are. That gushy music that is made of magic! 

So, take it day by day and give yourself time to figure out the exact method that jives with you and your creativity. If you learn to be the ruler of your routine, your entire life may just change.