It’s an obvious fact that to improve your skill, you must put in the time to practice. That is easier said than done when you are a father to a young child, you work in an office 10 hours a day with an hour commute each side, spend time with your loved ones and also cook, eat and sleep. Finding the time, energy and motivation is tough when you are in an adult in this situation. I have also added this website to my commitments.
I love to play the piano, but I do find it a challenge to find the time and motivation, even though I know how critical it is to put the practice in. What you put into something is what you get out.
How can you tackle this? Here are 10 tips.
1. Make a start.
Very often it’s overcoming the hurdle of starting. Once I have started, I often find it easier to continue and very often lose track of time. It’s 11.30pm with a 5:40am alarm the following morning! Damn!
Tiredness can sometimes disappear when I’m at the piano, but sometimes it doesn’t, especially if I’m trying something difficult.
2. A positive mind-set.
It’s important to watch the feeling of resentment or boredom when thinking that you need to practice. I find this creeps in sometimes and the last thing I want is to not enjoy playing. So a positive mind-set is required. Don’t assume practice is mundane or a chore. Find the pleasure in it.
3. Step away from the Piano!
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t practice as often as you would like. Listening to a piece of music you enjoy, watching you-tube or a lesson away from the piano is beneficial and can help motivate you back to playing.
4. Go to play, not to practice.
Why not just go to the piano with no thought of practice and just play a piece you enjoy for 10 minutes. This is better than no playing at all.
5. Be Accountable.
In order to continue to contribute to this blog I need to progress and always move forward. Also, if I’ve spent a decent amount of money on a course or I’ve subscribed to a website I must make the investment worthwhile. This will be a good motivator for some and works for me sometimes.
6. Stick to a curriculum or timetable.
I’m aware of rigid practice sessions– 5 mins warm up, 5 mins scales & arpeggios, 10 mins repertoire etc. This may work for some, but I sometimes rebel when it comes to a regime. I do warm up before playing usually by playing some scales or exercises and then I move on to the book or course I’m following or work on a piece I’m learning.
I tried a while ago to have a week on a course and then a week on my repertoire and then moving back. This doesn’t always work for me, but I’m conscious that I need to improve my technical skills as well as building my repertoire.
Following a set curriculum gives some structure to your playing. I find it difficult to stick to a timetable (ie practice on Monday’s Wednesday’s and Thursday’s!), but I do find working through a book or course worthwhile and you have a sense of achievement as you progress and complete.
Having leverage is a good motivational technique – this could be in the form of a reward. If I practice four evenings this week, I’ll have Friday evening off and turn on the xbox – this sometimes works for me. Others may find pain works – I’ll eat this tin of dog food if I don’t practice every day this week – whatever works for you!
Leverage could also be in the form of a deadline – I must practice this piece to play at my daughter’s wedding for example.
8. Change your location if your instrument is portable.
Changing your location could work if you have a portable instrument. This is sound advice. My main piano is not portable, but I have a midi keyboard elsewhere and it is refreshing to play in a different room. Playing a piano in a music shop has a similar effect.
Another thing I find is that the piano (and learning any instrument) was more fun at the beginning and I progressed quickly learning a few chords and some simple songs. As I move forward becoming more confident and capable of playing more challenging songs, these very often require more time to master.
Progress can sometimes feel like it’s slowing down. It’s also important to practice things you are weaker at in order to progress. It’s great to play things you enjoy and can play fluently, but in order to progress you need to push yourself in new directions with new techniques and songs.
So stick with it – Perseverance is important. Sometimes we think instant gratification is achievable, but very often with learning an instrument it takes time to notice results, especially as you move on from a beginner.
10. Setting Goals.
Goal setting can be a benefit to some and I will cover this further in another post. What do you want to achieve with your playing long term and then break it down? What reason or motivation do you have for learning the piano? What will it take to fulfil this – hours, days, years?
What one thing could you play or practice today? In Gary Keller’s book – The one thing, which I will follow up in a future post, I’ll look at further techniques that I aim to implement myself to improve my practice and playing.
Bottom line for now and the thing I find most beneficial is forcing yourself to start – even if it’s a 5 or 10 minute effective practice or simply sitting down to play. Very often this leads into something longer.
Good luck with your playing and feel free to add any suggestions below.