Practicing Techniques

How to Make Practicing Piano Scales More Fun and Efficient

Practicing Piano ScalesHi One Minute Music Lesson fans, Piano Scales...

Every music student knows that they are important to know, important to play and definitely important to practice.


Practicing your piano scales can be boring, especially if you don't have the right tools or methods to make practicing piano scales fun and efficient.

But Leon, how do you make practicing scales more fun and efficient?

I'm glad you asked.

Let's take a look at one special tool that comes out of the jazz world that you may have never heard of that can get you practicing scales in a way you never have before.

How to Make Practicing Piano Scales More Fun and Efficient

The tool I'm talking about is a "play-along" track created specifically for practicing scales.

The reason you may have never heard of a scale play-along track is because typically play-along tracks are meant to be used to learn whole songs.

However, you can use the same methodology from play-along tracks to make your scale practice a lot more engaging and fun, while at the same time making your piano scale practice twice as effective.

Here's how the play-along track works

1. First you need a play-along track to work with. Click here to download a C Major scale play-along track that I have created. This track is 15 minutes long and is designed to be used to play the C major scale at 3 tempo levels (beginner, intermediate and advanced). You can also use this same track for free improvisation in C major.

2. Then download this C Major scale notation and piano fingering worksheet and play along as the you play the track.

3. Choose your skill level:

  • If you are a beginner, you can play the one octave scale with one note per measure.
  • For intermediate players, play the two octave scale at two notes per measure.
  • Advanced players should already have the notes memorized from the scale and should play four notes of the scale per measure.

4. The play-along track is designed to be a loop that you can play the scale along with at any of these three levels and you can practice the scale for as long as you like, up to 15 minutes.

5. I would recommend that you make it your goal to play the scale 4-5 times at your desired skill level. If at any point you being to get bored you can begin to freely play any of the notes from the scale as you listen along with the play-along track to create an improvisation that should sound pretty good. If you get tired of improvising switch back to playing the scale.

Do you want more play-along track like this?

If you liked this play-along track and scale worksheet please sign-up for my special email announcements about my new piano scale product. I'm currently developing it and would love to get your feedback so I can make sure it fits all your needs and your current skill level.

What do you think?

If you enjoyed this post or you have any other tips/resources about piano scales to share with the OMML community,  take just a second and let me know in the comments below.

That's it for today's lesson, thanks for following the One Minute Music Lesson and until next time,

Practice Smart, not hard.

-Leon Harrell

Free Webinar: 5 Keys to Music Skill Development

Hi One Minute Music Lesson Fans, I will be hosting another episode of OMML-Live! on Sunday.

This episode will be a free webinar on the 5 Keys to Music Skill Development this Sunday, February 9th @ 5pm EST / 4pm CST / 3pm MST / 2pm PST.

This webinar will be geared toward piano players and we will discuss a software that I have been using to teach piano students called Piano Marvel.

During the webinar I will be answering your music questions live and also I will be offering a special limited-time offer.

You won't want to miss this edition of OMML-live! so be sure to join me for the webinar on this Sunday.

Hope to see you there,

Leon Harrell

The 4 Best Programs For Interactive Sight Reading Practice Sheet Music

Hi One Minute Music Lesson fans, Using interactive sight reading software is a great way to practice sight reading daily. By using a program that generates a steady stream of new sight reading material you can easily and efficiently practice this skill. Also you can avoid having to collecting books for the purpose of sight reading sheet music.

Before I list the programs let's start with a comparison of both traditional and interactive sight reading practice so you can see how using a software approach can help you grow as a musician.

Interactive Sight Reading vs Traditional Sight Reading

To sight read you will need music to read that is brand new to you. In the past you needed a library of materials to read from so you were looking at fresh materials each time you practiced. This required a lot of energy, time and money to collect the music not to mention the need to stay motivated to prevent boredom and challenge yourself to grow as a musician.

Interactive sheet music programs solve all these problems allowing you to have an unlimited supply of new musical examples. This can save you tons of hassle and set you up for success with your sight reading progress using the various skills you have learned about sight reading throughout my sight reading series.

And added feature of using interactive software is that you can track the growth of your sight reading skills accurately, efficiently and automatically with detailed statistics.

Common Features You Need In A Sight Reading Program

You must be able to print.

This is a vital feature for any sight reading program. If you can't print the excerpts you will severely limit how useful the program will be. I recommend all my students begin sight reading by marking their music with a pencil and using other sheet music marking techniques.

If you can't print from the program you could do a screen capture with programs like Camtasia or Snapz Pro. However this additional step will hinder your progress over time.

You need musical variety.

You want the program to be able to provide a huge number of examples. Often this will be done by using computer music algorithms that can generate musical examples. Some programs that use this feature are good and some are just plain awful.

Read reviews from users online before relying on the quality of the auto-generated music features of some programs. Alternately some programs use traditionally composed music which is much better in my opinion. If you go with a program that uses traditionally composed music be sure it offers enough variety in styles and difficultly levels to keep you engaged.

Analytics will  help you track your progress.

Tracking your progress is the key to achieving your goal of becoming better at sight reading. Look for programs that track how often you use them and grade your performance based on how accurate your reading skills are.

You want a program with good usability.

Ultimately a program that is easy to use will be the best option even if it is missing some of the other features. If the program is hard to use you will not use it.

The 4 Best Interactive Sight Reading Programs

Based on the criteria above here are my recommendations for interactive sight reading software programs. These are my top 4 picks in order starting with #4 and rating each in the categories of Printing, Variety, Analytics and Usability. Each category is rated on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best. I have also graded each with a percentage score by dividing the points by 40.

#4 - Ear Master 6

RATING: 57%  BREAKDOWN: Printing 0 | Variety 5 | Analytics 10 | Usability 10

Ear Master Pro 6 is the latest version of the acclaimed computer based ear training program. I am putting this software in this list because it has some great features for learning to read rhythms. Also it incorporates rhythm reading and other musicianship skills into one killer program that is a user friendly tool that is useful for every level of musician.

Ear Master has some great features the other programs don't have. It has a piano and guitar input interface. Also this program does a great job of tracking your progress with detailed reports.

The only reason the rating for this program is low is because it is not meant to be for sight reading although it can be a very powerful tool for learning to read rhythm. You can read my review of the previous version of Ear Master 5 here. I will be writing an in depth review of Ear Master 6 soon.

Try a 7 day free trial of Ear Master Pro 6

#3 -

RATING: 73%  BREAKDOWN: Printing 10 | Variety 9 | Analytics 0 | Usability 9 is also an online tool with auto-generated musical examples. It offers a lot of customization features which make it very usable. Also you can print directly from the website to a nicely formated page. This program natively supports most single staff instruments. Also it has a good listening feature to compare your work to the computer playback.

Try a free demo of

#2 -

RATING: 82%  BREAKDOWN: Printing 7 | Variety 8 | Analytics 8 | Usability 10 is another online tool that is relatively new to me. This program has traditionally composed musical examples from real composers which is a huge plus to me.

Printing is only supported through the web browser but the print out looks nice in landscape mode. There is a good variety of melodies, with left and right hand parts. You pay for the amount of sight reading you want per month, but the cheapest plan has enough for one reading per day. It tracks what you have played, but not details about it.

This program is very usable, especially for pianist and piano teachers. I like its interface and it uses real recordings of the playback! That is nearly impossible to find in any other program.

Try a 7 day free trial of

#1 - PianoMarvel

RATING: 100%  BREAKDOWN: Printing 10 | Variety 10 | Analytics 10 | Usability 10

(I will be hosting a free webinar on Sunday, February 9th 2014 about PianoMarvel software. Click Here to Learn more.)

PianoMarvel is hands down the best program for interactive music education, especially in the area of sight reading. The program is designed to teach you sight reading through 36 graded levels of music reading from total beginner to advanced musician. The software uses an interactive interface that connects to a MIDI keyboard or any other MIDI device such as a MIDI guitar.

This program also has several incredible features including a built-in library of over 1200 pieces of music that also printable directly from the software. Also PianoMarvel has a feature that grades your performance to let you know how you did on each exercise and then automatically tracks your progress.

I highly encourage you to try PianoMarvel free for 30 days using the link below. Also as a reader of the One Minute Music Lesson you will receive a 20% discount by using the discount code OneMinute at checkout if you decide to purchase a monthly subscription.

Try a 30 free trial of PianoMarvel

Incorporating Sight Reading In To Your Practice Schedule

These programs are great for incorporating sight reading in to your practice routine. Especially the ones with good printing options. You can print your examples ahead of time so that you can mark your scores and you can use to programs to track your progress and listen to the excerpts.

However if you don't know how to properly read notes and rhythms none of these will teach you how to read music. For that I recommend by latest e-book "How To Read Music In 30 Days Easily" to get you started using counting systems and understanding music theory so you can sight read better.

That's it for today. Let me know what you think of these programs or if you have any other programs you like to use in the comments below.

Thanks following the One Minute Music Lesson,

Until Next Time ... Practice Smart, Not Hard.


Leon Harrell (about) is dedicated to teaching the fundamentals of music to beginning musicians who want to grow their talents as quickly as possible with effective lessons and time management tips for practicing. Leon Harrell's goal is to teaching you musicianship by using highly-targeted concept lessons that build progressively to teach you music theory, ear training and and composition.

3 Mistakes You Are Making When You Sight Read Sheet Music

Hi One Minute Music Lesson fans, Continuing with my series of posts on improving your sight reading ability, today I wanted to tell you about 3 of the most common mistakes students make when learning how to sight read and how you can correct them.

These 3 mistakes are easy to fix and will improve your sight reading dramatically.

Also, stay tuned all the way to the end of the post because I'm issuing you a 3-day challenge.

Mistake #1 - You Do Not Prepare Before You Sight Read.

Preparing yourself and your music before you play a single note is the most common mistake in student musicians. Sight reading requires a lot of mental processes to occur simultaneously. When you couple this with the fact that many beginning, and even intermediate musicians, get very tense when they sight read creating a recipe for sight reading disaster.

To eliminate is problem of incorrect preparation you need to get into the proper state of mind and give yourself every advantage possible from the very start of your sight reading practice time.

To get in the "zone" to sight read you must understand that sight reading is not the same as playing music, which I would classify as performance. Nor is it the same as practicing a piece that you will eventually perform. Sight reading is simply the act of sharpening your music reading reflexes to be able to play the music at the first reading. This is an ongoing skill you will develop and you want to stay focused on strategically progressing bit-by-bit.

When you are ready to sit down and practice sight reading you should dedicate about 15 minutes to playing through your prepared score. By preparing your sheet music ahead of time you are eliminating the obstacles that are preventing you from getting better at sight reading. If you don't already know how to prepare your music read my article on the 5 Steps To Sight Reading Music.

Mistake #2 - You Are Reading Note-by-Note.

In the beginning stages of sight reading you will most likely be reading note-by-note. This will prevent you from being able to read ahead, which is critical to improving your sight reading ability. Once you have memorized your note locations on the treble and bass clefs, or alto if you play the viola, you want to begin to read by interval.

Let's look at a short example of how to read sheet music by interval:

As you read through the example you want to read from note-to-note by the interval, not the note name.

So for example this piece is in D Major. The first note is A. The next note is up 4 notes of the scale, then down 8, then up 3, and then up 2 and so forth.

I have marked the whole score with the generic interval distances. As you read through the piece this way by interval, you are reading the musical contour. Contour reading allows you to see the music in much larger chunks that reading note-by-note.

Reading by interval requires some knowledge of basic music theory. This sight reading technique requires two pieces of information: You need to understand what scale or key the music is in and understand generic intervals.

Additionally, once you understand these two concepts thoroughly you will see that most music will appear on the staff within the key, meaning there is no need to use any accidentals within the music. When this concept sinks in you will be able to read by interval very easily. Further more, once this sight reading technique is combined with the knowledge of chromatic scale degrees you can suddenly see the hidden structure in the sheet music that has been there the entire time. This is a concept I teach throughly in my book "How to Read Music Easily in 30 Days".

Mistake #3 - You Are Focused on Perfection, Not Progress.

Improving your sight reading ability will take time. There is no magic pill or trick that will teach you the necessary concepts of basic music theory that are required to sight read sheet music fluently.

With this in mind you must set realistic expectations for each practice session you dedicate to sight reading and reward yourself for following through with your practice plans.

Most importantly remember that if you want to get better you will need to break the task into small manageable bits to make progress. If you are new to sight reading start by reading my article "How to Practice Sight Reading in 15 Minutes A Day in Just 4 Steps."

Take the 3 Day Sight Reading Challenge

It has been proven that one of the most effective ways reach any goal is to make a commitment publicly. I want to challenge you to visit the Sight Reading forum right now and commit to sight reading for three days in a row.

To make your commitment simply fill out the reply form on the forum page and tell me your name, your instrument, why you want to get better at sight reading and what you will reward yourself with after you complete your 3 day challenge.

This simple public statement will be the first step you will take to sharpening your musical focus on progress, and curing the crippling disease of perfectionism. Click here to make your commitment now.

I will continue blogging about how to improve your sight reading in the coming weeks. I hope to see you in the forums and help you in any way I can to improve your musicianship skills.

Thanks following the One Minute Music Lesson,

Until Next Time ... Practice Smart, Not Hard.


Leon Harrell (about) is dedicated to teaching the fundamentals of music to beginning musicians who want to grow their talents as quickly as possible with effective lessons and time management tips for practicing. Leon Harrell's goal is to teach you musicianship by using highly targeted, "concept" lessons that build progressively to teach you music theory, ear training and composition so you can become the total musician you want to be.

How to Practice Sight Reading in 15 Minutes A Day in Just 4 Steps

[Edit from Leon: I've found an even better tool for sight reading. Check it out here.]

How to Practice Sight Reading

When you are first learning the music notes for piano or any other musical instrument you will want to practice reading lots of easy music to get your note reading reflexes sharp.

In the early stages of learning how to read music or how to sight read music the act of identify notes is the first hurdle to cross. Once you know the notes of the treble and bass clef I highly recommend you get a great book for sight reading. There are a couple of criteria that I would recommend you look for in a sight reading book, including:

  • Get a book with many easy examples.
  • Get a book that progresses in difficulty from very easy to more complicated material.
  • Get a book with both treble and bass clef, even if you just need to learn only one clef. A well-rounded musician can read all musical clefs (even the alto and tenor clefs).
  • Get a book with a teaching component, especially rhythm since it is the one of the most difficult hurdles you will need to cross in learning to sight read properly.
  • Get a book with an easy to read layout and high quality construction. You want the music to be a large enough size to read at a comfortable distance of about 2-3 feet. Also spiral bound books lay flat and are less prone to closing or falling of music stands or the piano's music desk.

With all of these criteria in mind my #1 recommended book for sight reading purposes is Robert W. Ottman's book "Music for Sight Singing".

Now you may be asking yourself "what is sight singing?" and how could this possibly relate to my piano music reading skills or my guitar playing?

Sight singing is simply the act of reading sheet music without any instrumental help. This skill teaches you how to look at a piece of music and sing it based only on your knowledge of music theory and your aural memory of musical intervals. This skill is a beyond our needs at this point, but down the road I highly recommend you learn how to sight sing to improve your musicianship overall.

For our purposes this book is incredible because of the sheer volume of short, easy to read exercises. The "Music for Sight Singing" book is a standard college textbook for ear training courses and musicianship skills classes. It is based on the principles of teaching how to read music through thousands of short excerpts from real musical literature. Also it is available on Amazon for only $3.00 used, which is a steal for a book that retails for $86.00 at most book stores.

Let's take a look at some sample excerpts for our 15 minutes a day exercise.

15-minutes a day Sight Reading Exercise

Here are the four steps for our sight reading exercise. Don't skip any of them. When you are practicing any skill for music, remember that quality is much more important and quantity. Slow and highly focused practice will get you faster results in your musical development that any other method.

1. Use a practice journal. Download a copy of the One Minute Music Lesson practice journal here. Use it to track your 15-minutes a day sight reading exercise.

2. Get your materials ready. Find a page of excerptsin the "Music for Sight Singing" book to read. Our examples below are from pages 156-157 of the 7th edition of the book. If you don't have this book here are 10 sites to find free sheet music for sight reading.

3. Stay focused. Focus on one aspect of music reading, either pitch or rhythm until you are comfortable with both.

  • If you need to practice reading the notes, write in the pitches for each note before you play. The more you write in the names of the notes, the faster you will get at reading them. This is a vital step in the learning process that too many teachers discourage their students from doing. Here is a sample of what this would look like:
  • If you need to practice reading rhythm, write in the Eastman counting system above the music before you play the excerpt. Then verbally speak the names of the notes in the rhythm. Then move on to playing the excerpt on your instrument. Here is a sample of what this would look like:

4. Use a timer. Use an online timer or the timer on your cell phone and set it to 15-minutes. By setting a timer you are consciously creating a goal for developing your skills. This is the key to your progress over time. By using the timer you will practice this skill until the timer goes off without think about how long this task will take. Also you will not be focused on how much time is remaining to your sight reading practice thus keeping you goal oriented during the session.

How is your Sight Reading Progressing?

Let me know in the comments below or in our sight reading forum how you're sight reading progress is going and what books and materials you are using.

That's it for today, until next time ...

Practice smart, not hard.

- Leon Harrell

5 Steps to Sight Reading Sheet Music - Sight Reading Exercise 1 - Sheet Music Markings

Hi One Minute Music Lesson Fans, I am creating a series of sight reading exercises for you to help you with your sight reading skills and to provide harmonically interesting sight reading materials.

In this first exercise, which you can download here, you should complete the following list of instructions BEFORE you play it or listen to the recording. The link to the recording is available at the bottom of this post.

5 Steps to Sight Reading Sheet Music

1. Get your materials ready. Print the example out and get a pencil with an eraser and three different colors of highlighters, preferably a blue, a green and a pink.

When you sight read you need be prepared with these materials so you are actively reading the score while at the same time providing yourself with the necessary information to read the music at your own skill level.

When you sight read music you will inevitably make mistakes. Your goal is to catch each mistake the first time you make it and mark your music accordingly. When you misread a pitch, circle it with the pencil.

Marking your score as you read it the very first time will save you an enormous amount of time through out the process and prevent you from repeating mistakes.

2. Highlight all the accidentals. Accidentals are the sharp, natural and flat symbols printed on your score. The key signature for the piece may include some sharps or flats but we are focusing on the extra accidentals printed through out the music.

In this first exercise the music is in the key of C major, which has no sharps or flats in the key signature itself. However, it is rare that a piece of music would only have the pitches from the key signature throughout the entire piece.

To mark your accidentals use the blue highlighter and highlight any flat symbols, then use the green for any natural symbols and the pink for the sharp symbols. You can see in the previous sentence how highlighting attracts your eyes and creates attention quickly. This is why I use highlighters on the accidentals, they are usually the notes you will miss when you sight read. When I do this I may highlight the note itself or the accidental symbol, it all depends on the amount of space on the page there is to mark the music. Some music is printed smaller and it makes highlighting more difficult. In that case I will highlight the notes directly rather than the accidental symbols.

3. Mark the rhythms that seem difficult. Look over the piece and find any rhythms that you think will be difficult to play. If you find any, use the Eastman Counting System to label the counting above the music now. Watch lessons 17 and 18 on the free video lesson page to learn more about this marking system or get a copy of "How to Read Music Easily in 30 Days" which goes into great detail on how to use this counting system.

By marking the difficult rhythms we will save a lot of time and prevent mistakes in our rhythm reading. Again, this helps us to play the piece correctly and not repeat mistakes over and over again.

4. Scan over the whole piece before you play. Anytime you sight read always take the time to look over the whole piece before you play it. Identify a few features of the score such as key signature, time signature and expression markings that describe what type of sounds you should be making. An example of a common expression is dolce, which means sweetly. Expression markings are usually in italics.

Look for changes of key or modulations. This is usually indicated with a thin double bar between measures and a new key signature or the presence of more accidentals than in other parts of the music.

5. Read the music in your head first. Finally, before you play the piece look at the music and imagine performing it just in your head. Imagine the rhythms and sounds of the notes. You will probably not be albe to imagine the pitches correctly yet, but over time you can certainly build this skill up with ear training. For now just imagine the contour of the musical lines, or the basic high-ness or low-ness of the notes.

Read though the whole piece this way one time in a steady tempo using a metronome. Try to stay focused and move along in the music the same way you would as if you where playing it. This step is training you to read the score without involving any of the technical difficulties of playing your instrument. This is often called score reading, and it is a vital skill for any musician especially ensemble leaders like conductors.

Compare your work to the recording

After you have completed this exercise and gone through all the steps practice the piece until you feel as though you have played it correctly. Once you are finished go to the One Minute Music Lesson forums to listen to the recording to see how close you are to reading it correctly.

That's it for today. Let me know what you think of the exercise. Was it too difficult? Was it too easy? Did you like the music? If you have questions or comments leave them in the comment section below or over in the forum.

Until next time,

Practice smart, not hard.

-Leon Harrell

Top 10 Facts About Learning How to Sight Read Music Notes and Rhythms

Hi One Minute Music Lesson fans,

Learning how to sight read music can be a very mystifying process for the beginning or amateur musician. But there are 10 facts about about learning how to sight read music notes and rhythms that you must know in order to develop your sight reading skills.

It took me over 20 years to learn an effecient system of sight reading because, in truth, most teachers do not know how to teach this aspect of music properly. Many teachers can teach you how to read music on a basic level and even how to play complicated pieces, but usually this is done through a tremendous amount of repetition and reliance on listening to recordings or playing standard pieces from the literature that your teacher learned many years ago.

If you are learning how to sight read music on your own I recommend that you adjust your sight reading habits to incorporate the 10 facts below. I guarantee you will experience a major shift in your sight reading ability and mindset.

1. You must maintain the motivation to improve your sight-reading skills.

In order to get better at sight reading you need to stay motivated to practice the skill. If you need a little motivation begin by reading my article on finding your inner motivation to grow as a musician.

2. You will need good quality sight reading practice materials.

To really sight read you need a lot of fresh music materials to read. There are many places you can get music for sight reading. One of my favorites is a tool called PianoMarvel. This program has thousands of  interactive sight reading exercises and tons of real music repertoire pieces. You can read more about this program on my in-depth review of Piano Marvel, as well as get a 20% discount code.

Also, another quality tool in your sight reading arsenal should include great sheet music. Here is a list of my favorite top 10 free sheet music websites. Also you can find just about any piece at SheetMusicPlus in their catalog of over 800,000+ titles.

3. You must have a frequent practice schedule to improve your sight reading ability.

To get better at sight reading you will need to practice the skill frequently. A great way to do this is to keep a practice journal. To start a practice journal download a free copy of my practice journal template and use it daily.

4. You must make markings on your sheet music BEFORE you sight read.

Sight reading does not all have to be in-your-head. Use a pencil to make markings that will help you as you read through the sheet music. Also using highlighters or colored pencils is a great way to mark your music for visual clarity. When I sight read I mark all the accidentals (sharps, flats and naturals) before I ever play a single note. This marking technique is an invaluable lesson I have learned over the years. I teach this score marking method and many more in my book "How to Read Music Easily in 30 Days".

5. You must practice sight reading slowly.

Practicing almost any skill on an instrument works better if you do it slowly. When you practice piano you begin playing with both hands slowly. When you begin playing guitar you learn to place the fingers on the fret board to form chords slowly. Sight reading slowly will lead to fast progress.

When practicing sight reading you want to read the music at a very slow tempo while also being very steady. This will require a metronome. Do not trust your mind's inner time-keeping when sight reading. I suggest you should practice sight reading around four times slower than a piece should be performed at tempo.

6. You must learn and memorize the note locations on the staff.

If you have not learned the locations of the notes on the treble and bass clef by memory you must do this to get better at sight reading. I have developed two exercises that will help with this task. Download the treble clef exercise here and the bass clef exercise here.

7. You must learn how to count rhythm properly and accurately.

Rhythm is the main culprit in most student's sight reading problems. I recommend all my students learn how to count rhythms properly by learning and using the Eastman counting system. I have two free videos on this counting system, one for simple meter and one for compound meter.

8. You need to understand at least some basic music theory concepts.

To sight read more easily you will need to understand scales and chords. These two fundamental music theory concepts exist in almost all music. You can learn beginning music theory online with my free video lesson series here or take a look at my top 10 free music theory websites.

9. Learning sight-singing will drastically improve your sight reading ability.

What is sight-singing? Sight-singing is a vital part of ear training. Sight singing is the ability to see printed music and sing it without any help from an instrument.

This crucial skill will take time to develop, but once you do, you will be able to sight read much more easily because you will be able to see the structure of the music, not just the notes on the page.

A two great tools for beginning to learn how to sight sing are the ear training tools at and the Ear Master program (Read my review of Ear Master here).

10. You must strive for efficiency in making progress.

My motto for the One Minute Music lesson is Practice smart, not hard.

This is my philosophy in teaching music. I feel the same way about sight reading. Practice smart by using these tips to save time and maximize the effectiveness of your practice. Don't practice hard! Practice that does not include mentally engaging activities such as journaling, marking music and incorporating music theory knowledge is not as productive as a practice regimen that does.

Get started improving your sight reading today

Get motivated to practice sight reading today: Try a free 30-day trial of the famous PianoMarvel software or join in the discussion in the Sight Reading Discussion Forum to find inspiration and more tips to help you in your sight reading journey.

That's it for today, Until next time ...

Practice Smart, Not Hard.

- Leon Harrell

Finding your inner motivation to grow as a musician

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,

Leon Harrell