Do you feel like you’re stuck in a rut with your playing?
Do you feel like your practice routine lacks structure? Not producing the results you’d like?
Would you like to have more time to practice but find that something always seems to come up and prevent you from putting in the time?
As a music teacher, many students have expressed these problems and challenges to me.
I love to practice and it’s a regular part of my life but for many it can seem frustrating and or ineffective.
So how do you get to the point where you love to practice and are getting the results you’d like?
In this article, I’ll share with you 7 reasons why your practice is not working and what you can do to fix it.
You Haven’t Set Deadlines for your Short and Long Term Goals
You probably know that in order to construct a successful practice routine, you must define your goals clearly.
If you don’t know what your musical goals are, your practice will lack direction. You’ll probably end up playing the same things you already know and never make any progress.
One of the best ways you can motivate yourself to practice and get results is to set a deadline for your goals.
So you could tell yourself something like “I’m going to learn this song by next month” and that can definitely help but here’s a better idea.
Schedule a performance for yourself. Even if it’s a small intimate one for family or a jam session with friends. When you set a performance date, I guarantee you will light a fire under your butt and move closer to your goals.
Setting a performance date will motivate you to get your playing together much faster than without one.
This is why we offer jam sessions and performances at our studio. It motivates you to get better.
You’re Trying to Practice or Learn from YouTube Videos
YouTube has an infinite amount of content and sure there are definitely helpful and informative lessons there.
But be honest, how effective are YouTube lessons working for you?
If you’re trying to learn things off of YouTube, you’re probably not getting very good results.
Why? YouTube is a sporadic endeavor. You can bounce from video to video and not invest any real, quality time into learning a single skill or concept.
In order for your practice to be effective, you must develop a routine. Bouncing from video to video every time you practice is the opposite of routine. It’s completely random and therefore counterproductive.
Don’t watch a number of YouTube videos without putting any extended and focused practice time in to the concept you are learning. You’re just wasting your time.
You’re Not Working On Your Weaknesses
Most people want to have fun so they play what makes them happy and there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you’re stuck in a rut with your playing, it’s because your probably spending too much time on what you like to do and not enough time on what will actually make you better.
It’s like food. Who doesn’t enjoy a perfectly cooked steak, hot and crisp french fries or decadent piece of chocolate cake? There’s nothing wrong with those things unless you eat them all the time.
We all know, you gotta eat your vegetables. You gotta exercise. You gotta live somewhat of a healthy lifestyle.
Now think about how you practice. If you’re only playing what you like, that’d be like eating chocolate cake all the time. Not healthy or productive. Challenge yourself.
Structure your practice time to work on your weaknesses. Yes, you are going to struggle but without working on your weaknesses and only doing what you like, you’ll always be stuck in a rut with your playing.
You’re Not Having Fun With Your Practice
I love to practice. Why? Because I know that what I do produces results. I can feel it as I practice and have seen it translate into my real world musical experiences. Performing, composing, teaching etc. My practice routine empowers me, builds my confidence and makes me feel great.
If you’re not enjoying your practice routine and getting better with your playing, you’re probably not practicing right.
So how do you structure your practice so you have fun and get better?
Think of your practice like a gym workout. Run through several repetitions at a high level of success, just like lifting weights, and do this over the course of several days and weeks.
Even if you have to simplify things to an elementary level, it’s better to maintain success at a high level through many repetitions than to try things that are out of your abilities and fail. You’ll just get frustrated and quit.
What is a better workout routine? Lifting a 250lb dumbbell once and hitting the shake bar or multiple repetitions of weight resistance with maximum accuracy over the course of several months and years?
When you practice with many repetitions at a high level of accuracy, you will benefit greatly.
First, your muscle memory will work to your advantage. Each day you will build on your skills. What you couldn’t do last month will now seem like a piece of cake. That builds confidence and makes you feel good.
When you practice like a work out routine, your brain will release dopamine and you will begin to crave practicing over and over.
Once you learn to practice effectively, no longer will you struggle to find time to practice because you will crave it.
You’re Not Patient Enough
We live in an age of instant gratification. Want to watch a movie? Netflix has it available right now. Want to buy something? Amazon will deliver it to you the next day. Want something to eat? McDonald’s will get it to you in less than 5 minutes.
Learning to play an instrument is not your iphone. It’s not an app and there is no magic wand that makes you a rock star.
Not only do you need to develop an effective practice routine but you also need to be patient with the process.
When we watch a skilled musician perform, they make it look easy.
But you need to know that learning to play a musical instrument well is not easy. In fact it’s probably one of the most difficult things a person can do.
Patience is key. Without patience, you will never be successful with your playing.
You’re Too Focused on Learning Songs
Learning songs is an important part of musical development but if your skills aren’t very strong, you’re going to struggle.
I’ve seen many people get too focused on learning other people’s music and get frustrated in the process.
Why do most people get frustrated when learning songs? First you need to understand that in order to play great songs by great players, your skill level has to be at or close to their level.
Many people try and learn songs but are not skilled enough to accomplish them.
Start with very simple parts, play along with the recordings and gradually build your skills from there.
Also, if you don’t know your scales, chords, have good rhythm, technique or a good ear you’re going to struggle learning other people’s music.
Consider this. The musicians that you admire are highly skilled and know what they’re doing. They couldn’t have written and performed the music they have if they weren’t.
Study the fundamentals and hone your skills but also try and think like an artist.
Be creative. Use the skills you do have, no matter how limited, to create music that appeals to your emotions and expressions.
If you do that, you will experience a deep connection with music as well as connect with others.
Be true to your emotions and the music will find you. You’ll start thinking about how chords, scales and rhythm work because you’ll think of them as expressive devices, not mundane boring concepts.
As long as you are being true to yourself and your emotions, you are headed down a rich and fulfilling musical path.
You Simply Don’t Know How to Practice Effectively
You only know what you know. How are you supposed to practice effectively and reach your goals if you don’t have any or enough experience doing that?
Don’t let your ego hold you back from becoming the musician you want to be.
The first step to success is to admit you don’t know what you’re doing and need help.
This is when you should seek a teacher. But not just any teacher, one that has been through many musical experiences and can show you the path towards success.
I have studied with over 35 music teachers throughout the course of my musical development.
From pianists, saxophonists, drummers, bassists, guitarists and music theory experts. Local music store guys to extensively credentialed university professors.
Although some were better than others, my attitude has always been to follow exactly what their teaching is, do their assignments with 110% effort and put my own opinions aside.
A good teacher is not just someone that shows you how to play some songs or some cool licks.
A good teacher is somebody who instills in you the skills, practice habits, accountability and mind set that it takes to become a good musician and ultimately reach your goals.
Why waste your time and struggle trying to figure out things on your own?
Find a good teacher, be a good student. Your investment will serve you a lifetime of benefits.
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Thanks for listening and good luck on your musical journey.