7 Tips to creating a successful practice routine
How often should an individual rehearse their instrument? As an instructor, it is a common question asked by my students and their parents. Is there a magic number of days or hours that equates to proficiency? What I do know is that I can tell when my students do not practice at all. I can also tell when I have slacked off from my own private time to rehearse and/or learn new progressions.
As a result I have provided a list below of seven tips to get your rehearsal schedule on track…
1) Discipline. Create a checklist chart and stick to it: A daily checklist practice chart is a great tool, as it is not only a constant reminder, but a fantastic measuring device. Place your chart in a location that is always in view such as your bathroom mirror, refrigerator door, etc. Create a table splitting the week into days, next breakdown each day into hours or minutes. Each time you pick up your instrument, check off the allotted time rehearsed. This will provide you with historical data, by recording your patterns or lack of. Such information can be very useful to review, by providing patterns that can be studied and used to improve your scheduling times, increasing session count etc. I have included a link to a chart I created, that you may download and print for your own use if desired.
Downloadable chart link-> Get Busy Practice Chart
2) Choosing the proper time of day or night: We all have what I call power hours. A time of day or night that we excel in more than any other part of the day. Identify your power hour, and if possible schedule your practice time accordingly to take advantage of your accelerated greatness during that period of time. Sometimes a good time slot is more relevant to not being disturbed. If that is the case, identify the most private time you can rehearse your instrument and get into the zone.
3) Don’t play to a failure point: Physical fitness organizations have discovered this rule. They tell you to not exercise to failure, i.e. which means don’t keep doing push ups until you cannot do anymore repetitions. The same concept carries over to music, such as a new guitar player with tender finger tips. If your hands begin to hurt, stop. Wait until they do not, and start again. It is better to have several segments through-out the day, than one long segment that could equate to injury or thwarting your desire to play due to pain.
4) Quality not Quantity: I had a drummer friend who would boast about how long he would play each day. His time on his instrument was indeed impressive. However, when I stopped by multiple times to watch him, I found that when he did rehearse he simply repeated the same exercises over-and-over again never introducing anything new. This is a common issue among musicians, to get comfortable with a fixed routine and stuck in a loop. Sure some areas such as your warm-up and basic routines are great to repeat, but make sure you constantly insert new techniques, charts, and your own experimentation on a regular basis.
5) I’m a natural. A prodigy, do I still need to practice?: Yes. As a matter of fact, if you are indeed a natural/prodigy, you should find it more enjoyable than the average student to play your instrument. As a result a natural or prodigy rarely has to be coaxed to rehearse, as they are naturally in the zone with their instrument.
6) I don’t want to be a pro, I just want to be good enough: Remember that you chose this instrument because you enjoy playing it. Good enough equates to as good as you want to be. I find playing my instrument to be a stress reliever, relaxing and in some cases even a spiritual experience. If you are going to shoot for the stars and be a pro in the music business, then I do recommend nothing less than one hour a day minimum.
7) Never stop learning: So you’ve been playing for 30 years, do you still need to rehearse? Yes, you do. There is always more to master. There are always new techniques and styles of music being created and yet to be discovered. Being at the golden stage of your instrument is often thought of as “I don’t need to practice, I’ve got it down.” But that statement couldn’t be further from the truth. Don’t take your gift for granted. Polish it, sharpen it, practice it.
And most of all…enjoy it.