Are You Making This One Practice Mistake?

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Yesterday I wrote about starting small as a way to make daily music practice a habit. Today I thought we would dig a little deeper into how to do that in your practicing.

Tell me if this sounds familiar:

You sit down to get your time in for the day. You've warmed up your hands and made sure you're in tune.

You know what you are going to work on because you planned that at the end of your last practice session, and now you open your method book to the exercise or song you are going to work on today.

And then…

…you start playing, and keep playing all the way through until you reach the end.

Every time you play a wrong note, you stop and correct it, then pick up directly from the note that follows trying to get all the way to the end.

You make it through like this a few times, in fits, constantly stopping at starting at every wrong note, and call it done.

Does that sound familiar at all? I bet it does, because this is the way most people approach practicing music. However, this is a practice mistake.

Why is ‘start to end’ a practice mistake?

It makes sense that we'd approach practicing this way by default. After all, the goal most of us set is to play the song in it's entirety. From start to finish.

However natural it seems, practicing like this is a mistake.

Playing through your mistakes is not the most effective way to learn a song, because you are fixing the symptom (the incorrect note) and not the cause (transitioning from the note(s) before).

So what should you do instead?

Break It Down Slow it Down_300X400

Break it down and slow it down.

When you flub a note, rather than simply playing the right note and moving on, you should,

  1. Fix the note
  2. Then go back a few notes, and try it again.
  3. Repeat the process until you can play it right.

If you hit the wrong note again, slow it down.

If you still hit the wrong note, then break it down even further. Just play the note and the note right before it. Move back and forth between those two notes until it feels comfortable.

Once those two notes feel comfortable, add another one before it. Play those three notes in a row until you can play them consistently.

Then starting adding notes. Start slow. Play them over and over again until you feel comfortable speeding up. Then speed up in increments, until you are back to your original tempo.

What you are doing is learning to play the note correctly in context. You are developing the muscle memory needed to move smoothly between notes. You are actually practicing.

The ‘Break It Down, Slow It Down’ promise

When you approach practicing with Break it down, Slow it down as your approach rather than just trying to make it all the way through, your mentality changes. You trade focus and precision for brute force and awkwardness.

Every missed note, rather than being that thing keeping your from hitting your goal, becomes an opportunity to focus in, to simplify what you're working on in order to polish it.

To actually practice and improve rather than repeat and ignore. You’ll enjoy practicing more because you will be progressing faster, and you will see that progress more clearly, because you are focusing on what you are doing rather than on where you want to be.

How To Finally Make Practicing Music A Habit

I just read something that blew my mind.

Something that maybe shouldn't have, because its obvious, and logical, and, above all, simple.

It's something that immediately sparked me into action, got me thinking differently about how I approach several aspects of my life, including writing this blog and doing my own practicing.

And it’s something that could help you make practicing music a habit.

It's a blog post on ZenHabits by Leo Babauta. It's about motivation and building habits. And it's incredible.

Babauta cut to the heart of something I've been struggling with, and something you may be struggling with too.

Sticking with it.

I'm great at coming up with systems. Structures that should get me from where I am to my goal. Where I want to be. I fabricate 'awesome' and well thought out ways to change or develop habits, to create more, practice more.

And they never work.

It's not because the systems aren't sound. Or that the logic is flawed. It's that once everything is place, you just have to show up and do the work.

To quote a recent blog post from one of my favorite blogs, The Sparkline:

"Everything changes when we stop thinking about how to get ahead or skip steps, and focus instead on building consistent, repetitive creative habits."

Great right?

That got me asking, how can I build consistent, repetitive habits? Well, they answered that too, by linking to Babauta's post.

About a third of the way through the post, he starts a list of 8 Ways to Motivate Yourself From the Beginning, because he feels that starting well, and with the right motivation, can build momentum for whatever you are working on.

And then there it was, the thing I read that blew my mind.

Keep Reading

3 Easy Things You Can Do Today To Procrastinate Less and Practice More

tips to help you practice moreAre you tired of showing up for your music lessons unprepared? Are you unhappy with the amount of time you practicing every week? Are you frustrated because you don’t feel like you’re progressing on your instrument?

If you answered yes to any of those then you know that something needs to change. And the good news is that, there’s one simple fix for all of those situations. Practice more.

Really. Check it out…

Are you tired of showing up for your music lessons unprepared? Practice more.

Are you unhappy with the amount of time you practicing every week? Practice more.

Are you frustrated because you don’t feel like you’re progressing on your instrument? Practice more.

Putting The Time In Is The Only Way To See Guaranteed Results

Just put in the time and practice moreHopefully you see how simple this solution is and won’t dismiss it as an oversimplification.

There’s no quick trick to getting better. There’s no secret to becoming a talented musician. There’s no one method, course or hack that will make you a better player if you don’t practice.

And that’s the amazing part about learning music; you have complete control over your own success.

You just need to put in the time.

And here are five things you can do to make putting the time in easier.

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Introducing ‘Into Practice’ – The Blog That Will Help You Learn How to Practice

When you pick up your instrument, look at some sheet music, or watch a performance, do you ever wonder what will make the difference?

The difference between learning to play guitar, bass or drums and giving it up?
The difference between the weeks you feel good about going to your music lesson and those you don’t?
The difference between making noticeable progress every week and feeling stalled?

It’s not passion. There are plenty of passionate musicians who aren’t very good.
It’s not innate skill. Anyone can learn to play guitar, bass, drums or to sing.
It’s not even the teacher you choose. The teacher already knows how to play.

The answer is simple: it’s how you practice.

More specifically, it’s how consistently you practice.

Notice I didn’t say how long you practice. Or even what you practice. The key to musical success is consistency. Developing a regular practice habit. All it takes is putting the time in.
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