Musicians often complain they don’t have enough time to practise. In many cases, the biggest obstacles you might hear them mention are time constraints. This is especially true for new and budding musicians. They might have a certain idea of what they think learning music should be like and get discouraged before they even begin.
Even seasoned musicians can get frustrated and feel undriven during their practice sessions. Novice or master, staying motivated can be just as difficult a challenge to overcome as finding enough time to rehearse.
The good news is that these obstacles are mostly mental. Practising an instrument can be time-consuming and challenging, but there’s more than one way you can increase your musical knowledge and skills, all while staying inspired to keep pushing forward. Check out these hints to get the most out your hard work and dedication.
1. Learn to read music.
There may be some very useful resources for learning music quickly without much music theory background, such as guitar tabs, but reading sheet music is an incredibly important skill to learn. Not only does it open the door to understanding a wider variety of music, but you can do it on the bus, during a break at work, or at home with your instrument in front of you.
2. Listen to music.
This might seem too easy or obvious, but just listening to a musical piece you’re working on increases your familiarity with it. You’ll be able to tell when you’ve made a mistake playing it later because it won’t “sound right.”
3. Visualize playing the instrument.
This can work hand-in-hand with listening to the music you’re practising. You may have heard athletes talking about seeing themselves succeed in their mind before they executed a perfect play, and the same goes for music. Practising is just as much a mental activity as it is a physical one.
4. Break it down.
Learning a whole song from start to finish can be hours of practise, even for short songs. Separate songs into their individual components and work on them independently. That way, you can quickly get the encouraging feeling of success from mastering something without setting aside long periods of time.
5. Set shorter practice times.
Some people often make the mistake of feeling like they need to shut themselves in a room for a full day to accomplish anything musical. Not only is this untrue, but it can lead to feeling “burnt out” and discourage future practise. Practise in 20 to 30-minute bursts and then take a short break. You can always keep going if you’re still feeling it.
6. Create specific goals.
Having a set goal for each practice session helps keep you focused and reduces your practice time. Whether you’re working on playing from memory, maintaining your tempo, or just learning a new scale, put your energy into one direction and you’ll be surprised by how quickly you can accomplish your goals.
7. Set realistic goals.
Though your goals may be specific, as mentioned above, they could also be a bit lofty. Maybe a certain song inspired you to learn your instrument, so you’re excited to tackle it; but don’t get too far ahead of yourself. Everyone starts somewhere and there’s no shame in that. Setting a goal that’s perhaps a little too “ambitious” may lead to feelings of failure and discouragement. Keep it simple!
8. Practise what you love.
Once you’ve got the basic skills down, you’re free to move in any direction you like. Don’t feel pressured to learn certain songs or skills because that’s what other people are doing. Follow your heart and play the music that you are passionate about.
9. Review previous materials.
You might think you’ve got that one song totally down, so you never need to practise it again. Not so fast! You might be shocked how quickly you can forget something you were so sure you knew. Revisiting things you’ve already learned helps keep them fresh in your mind.
10. Take a break.
Some days are crazy-busy and you’re just too worn down to play any music – and that’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up for “skipping” a day. Negative reinforcement is not a helpful tool for learning. Music should be about enjoyment and self-expression, so don’t stress about it.
Hopefully, these tips have helped you set a practice schedule that you can work into your busy life and have encouraged you to stay motivated. Some of these strategies can be done anywhere you are, but most importantly, they will help you keep practice periods shorter and easier to digest. By implementing these tips, you can work on improving your musical skills without feeling frustrated by failure or draining practice sessions.
Want some more tips on how to practise while you’re on the go? Check out our article about finding time in unlikely places.
Do you have another way to keep yourself motivated when learning music?
Let us know by sharing your thoughts in the comments.