As a teacher, getting students to get into the right mindset to grow musically is one of the toughest nuts to crack.
Staying in that right mindset is also one of the toughest aspects of continually improving your musicianship.
This difficulty comes from 5 critical concepts you must have in order to make progress and stay motivated on your musical journey.
1. Strive for Progress not Perfection. When we want so badly to become better at our craft it is very easy in today’s fast-paced world to want instant results. However, the facts of life are that anything worth having requires work. In a musician’s case this usually means hard work with many hours of practicing.
But … how do you make guaranteed progress when you practice?
As a major believer in David Allen’s Getting-Things-Done system, I have become a huge fan of personal motivational signs.
A motivation sign is a very simple tool to help you gain any goal you want simply by making a little sign, or several signs, and placing them around your home in places you will see them daily. These places should include: your car, instrument case, kitchen sink, bathroom, bedside table, etc. Basically any place you will see this sign daily is a great spot to put one in.
On your sign you should put a word or phrase that reminds you, in a specific way, what your goal is. In the case of improving as a musician I suggest a sign with the phrase “Fast progress is made with slow practice.”
2. Create a practice schedule. Scheduling your practice daily, if for only 5-10 minutes a day, will help you to create a routine. Routines allow us to practice with focus and intention every day. This can easily be achieved if you plan your practice in advance by using a practice log or journal.
If you are a beginner at reading music focus on spending 5-10 minutes each day reading notes. You don’t need your instrument for this.
Begin by simply saying the names of each note as you read through a piece of sheet music. Playing the notes will come later. This is an example of a focused exercise that is easy to accomplish on a daily basis, even away from your instrument.
You can find some free sheet music to practice reading on my Top 10 Free Sheet Music Websites article.
3. Make it fun. The real key to success with music-making is to make it enjoyable. Choose songs you like when you are completing your daily practice routine.
You should also choose songs that challenge you only slightly as to avoid frustration. Frustration is the enemy of progress. Learning and practicing in small chunks will help minimize your frustration during your practice routine.
4. Use a pencil. Every time you sit down to practice have a pencil handy to make markings in your music. The number of errors and hours of practice time you will save are immeasurable. It took me 20 years to really reliably get into this habit, but it is one of the major techniques that advanced my piano playing and music reading abilities to the next level.
5. Learn music theory. There is a reason great musicians recommend this over and over again. Music is a language that is built from syntax and patterns. This language can be understood by learning music theory.
As difficult as it may seem to a beginner, music theory is the real way to learn the inner workings of music. Music theory helps take the mystery out of 99% of how a musical piece works.
If you are new to learning music theory begin with my free lessons. If you have been struggling with learning music theory just remember tip #1: Strive for Progress not Perfection. Music theory is a very deep subject and it will take time to learn and master, but it is very much worth it in the long run.
I hope you enjoyed this post and I want to invite to you take a minute and tell me about what motivates you to be a better musician or your lack of motivation in the comments below.
Thanks for following the One Minute Music Lesson and I’ll see you next time,
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