Tips to Help Musicians Stick with a Regular Practice Routine
For musicians, there's likely a common goal we're all striving to achieve, and that's to practice more. Or, as I like to think of it, convincing myself 'practice doesn't suck'.
Self-help, efficiency, productivity, habits, growth mindset... I'm sure we've all read blogs, books and articles on these topics. I know I have. For the most part, there is great truth out there in all of this advice, but here's one truth I know to be a reality for me - EXECUTING these things daily is hard, if not downright impossible for any normal person.
I've come to believe there are a few key things you have to focus on to be successful. So here are my thoughts on what you can do to keep the one resolution that is CRITICAL to you becoming a better musician. Here are 6 tips to help you practice music more:
Commitment - You have to want it!
Routine - If you want it, you have to make time... regularly scheduled time.
Habits - You're committed and making time regularly, but if you're not using solid practice habits, that can be almost as bad as not practicing at all.
Goals - Start Small. Be specific. Have sequential goals so reaching each little one provides consistent, positive encouragement.
Social Support - It's the gamification and competitive spirit that provides proven results.
Positive Reinforcement - Natural reinforcement occurs when a natural consequence for a certain behavior increases the likelihood that the behavior will occur again in the future.
The first of my tips to help you practice music more is commitment. More than anything, you have to be sure you are fully committed to being a better musician. You're going to have to make sacrifices likes less Netflix binging, playing fewer video games and just being focused when you actually do practice. No excuses. Commit to it and do it.
Along these lines, you have to convince yourself 'practice doesn't suck'. What's the best way to ensure this? Practice with a purpose and you'll see the results.
Here's one of the best articles about practicing guitar I've found to help you get started. (Yes it's also a sales pitch, but it's still good advice).
Yep, just saying it isn't enough. Some of my favorite phrases around here are 'start small,' 'you can't do it all in a day' and 'a marathon is a journey of many steps'.
Set a reasonable goal. Even 10-15 minutes a day, just 3-5 days a week of focused practice will help! There are some great apps that can help you with habits and routines, just search for things like "apps for new year's resolutions" and "apps for building habits 2018" to find plenty of articles and YouTube videos like these:
Once you block off your time, you have to create solid practice habits. The popular JustinGuitar YouTube page has some great practice videos you can check out. He's also posted a couple of articles on his website with great details broken down by level for Beginners and Intermediates.
One of my all-time favorites, Marty Music, actually just posted some practice videos too.
Here's a great one on Blues soloing.
When I was in executive training at Turner Broadcasting/Time Warner, I remember very clearly talking about goals. Specifically, we talked about the importance of setting "SMART" goals that are: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. This is certainly great for your professional life (music or otherwise), but it's also relevant for any musician looking to improve their skills.
So think about what it is you want to get better at. How can you measure it? It's been proven that achieving your goals motivates you to continue your efforts towards success.
Make your goals achievable: don't make your goal to be the best guitarist EVER, this year! Set a more realistic goal, like getting one paid gig this year. And don't forget to put a timeframe on it. It takes time to get better, so give yourself 2-3 months to reach a goal and make it happen!
Finally and most importantly, write your SMART goals down! Put then somewhere you see them every day. I like to tape them to my bathroom mirror. Visualization is a key element in goal-setting success.
The famous 'last but not least' applies here. There's a fast growing trend in the fitness and weight loss industry proving that when you have support, you will be more successful. It uses social media for motivation and accountability. Wow, so you're saying there is actually a positive use of social media?!? Yes, and it works.
There's a cool app out there you can use to create your own social improvement group. Why not apply this to your music practice too?
Whether it's your band mates, friends you play with, or some random social group, working towards your goals with others will help. It's part gamification, but to me, it's good old competition. It sucks when you have a defined practice routine like "scales for 15 minutes, 3 days a week" but you have to report to your group at the end of the week that you didn't do it. Sure, you can lie, but the guilt isn't worth it and not to mention everyone else will be getting better and you won't.
The biggest key to all of this? You seeing positive results! Positive reinforcement is proven to help you keep your resolutions. Period. If you follow these simple tips to help you practice music more, you will have fun and you will get better. In other words, practice won't suck.
I've updated our SMASHmouse YouTube Channel Playlist with the videos mentioned here. Check it out and please make suggestions of videos you like to use for practice.
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Now, go practice!