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.
Why You Should Practice Less, More Often
At On Chord Academy, we recommend that our students practice at least 30 minutes a day 5 days a week. Most students feel this is a lot of time. It is. Most amateur musicians would also agree. But I promise you, if you put in that much time, consistently, you will progress faster than you think is possible.
However, if you can’t invest that much time, then practice for shorter periods. But do it every day.
I tell my students, that if time is limited and they have to choose between the 30 minutes a day, or the 5 days a week, choose the 5 days a week. I would rather have them practice for 5 minutes 5-6 days a week than 30 minutes on one day, because developing the habit is so much more important than meeting an arbitrary time limit.
You can’t cram for your lesson the same way you cram for a test. When you practice your instrument you are developing a skill, not memorizing facts. Developing skills takes practice.
This has always been the case. As long ago as 300 B.C. Aristotle wrote, “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” For those of you who don’t speak old Greek guy, that essentially means, “The only way to learn something, is by doing it.” Not studying it. Not lazily thinking about it. Not even watching YouTube videos of people doing it. You have to do it yourself.
Learning How to Practice
So, if practicing is the key to learning guitar, or mastering any instrument — and that’s really all it takes — why doesn’t everyone just do it?
There’s one simple reason. You have to learn how to practice.
One principle we have learned from watching hundreds of students come through On Chord Academy over the last year is that practicing is a skill that needs to be learned every bit as much as playing scales or strumming patterns.
As a student, you need to learn how to get motivated to practice, how to develop good practicing habits that will help you recognize your own progress, and how how to approach new concepts and exercises in a way that simplifies them.
And to help you learn how to practice, we’re starting this blog.
Why start a blog?
In mid-2013, On Chord Academy started offering a weekly tutoring session for our guitar & bass students called the Practice Master Class. During these sessions we have developed a number of different strategies to help students learn how to practice effectively. And while we are excited to see the progress our master class students make when they learn how to practice consistently and effectively, it isn’t enough for us.
We want to help more students, not just our own, to address other aspects of developing musical skill that are related to practicing, but aren’t strictly practice tips. These include motivation, goal setting and consistency.
Throughout this blog not only will we share our tested practice strategies, developing further nuances and applications in them, we will also give tips, share theories and stories that will help motivate you to practice, keep you engaged in your practicing session and help you develop the skills necessary to learn any song and master any skill.
How will this blog help you learn how to practice?
There are three key factors to making a habit out of successful practicing, and we are dedicating a section of Into Practice to each.
- Motivation – There’s a mindset around the idea of practicing that turns us off of it. When it comes time to practice, we start to think of every other possible thing we could do instead. Watch TV, browse the internet, update Facebook, wash the dishes, etc. This section of the blog is going to help you change that.
- Engagement – It isn’t too hard to find the motivation to practice once. Maybe even for a couple days. But coming back to practicing day after day is almost a skill in and of itself. The Engagement section of the blog will focus on consistency and will help you turn your practice time into true habit.
- Realization – Once you are motivated to practice, you still need to learn how to practice. This section will have advice, tips and exercises to help you be able to approach any new musical skill with the confidence of knowing that you can learn it.
We’re excitedly putting together content that will help you practice more effective and, in turn, help you see succeed at learning music. Sign up for the Into Practice mailing list below to get weekly updates from the blog and exclusive ‘members only’ tips.