Frequently I’m asked ‘what’s the hardest part about playing the piano?’ I would say the number one answer is finding time to practice… Even more than the cost of piano lessons or music training. In this post, I’m going to share with you an easy way to establish a practice routine.
One of the things to think about is that when you’re starting something new, if you’re taking lessons, if you’re practicing or trying to practice more regularly because you’re building new skills, is establishing the habit of practicing. There’s a whole bunch of really terrific books – one of them is ‘The Power of Habit’ that talks about how you can really make a difference in your life by establishing patterns of habit. It can be very hard to accomplish things if we don’t create some kind of habit for them.
How to establish a practice routine:
1. It’s better to do a little bit every day or almost every day than it is to do a lot on one or two days
- Spending 20 minutes a day five or six days a week is going to be so much better than spending three hours on a Saturday for example and the reason is, it takes time to be able to really learn information and to get it in your fingers and it takes time for that to all kind of sit in. A lot of Education experts will tell you that it’s better to spend focused energy for a few minutes rather than to sit down for hours which is a lot of very wasted energy. If you think about really having little small bursts every day or several times a week, every day is going to be better than that marathon practice cram session. Think about the cramming that you did in school and how you probably didn’t really get all that much out of that.
2. Start small
- It’s very easy for all of us and I think of this in my own relationship with exercise. To say ‘okay that’s it, I’m gonna exercise an hour a day every day from now on’ well it’s easier to say ‘I’m gonna spend 15 minutes every day practicing’ than it is to commit to an hour a day. If you set up little wins for yourself, to be able to say ‘wow I’ve just practiced every day for 15 minutes for the last two weeks!’ That’s a successful thing you can feel good about and then you’re more likely for that to stick rather than doing this thing where you say ‘I’m gonna practice an hour every day no matter what’ and then four days into it you’ve already failed and you’ve kind of given up. It’s sort of the practice equivalent of being on a diet and then eating a pint of ice cream it’s like, ‘well I screwed up I’ll just quit’
3. Schedule the time
- If we don’t schedule it, it doesn’t get done. If you’re anything like me, if I don’t write it in my calendar if I don’t put it in my phone with a little alarm that goes off then there’s a very good chance that I’m going to find about a million other things that I need to do instead of the thing that I’m working on. What you can do when you’re doing the rest of your planning for the week whether you use Google Calendar or iCal or using a phone or an old-fashioned paper calendar, is look through your schedule for the week when you’re scheduling other things and figure out when you’re going to be able to put your practice time in. You could say okay Monday night there’s nothing going on I’m going to schedule that in. Or you know Wednesday at 3 o’clock I have time and that will be my time to practice. Many of us are in lockdown right now if you’re still in quarantine right now for the Covid-19 pandemic and you’re working from home, you actually have an incredible opportunity now to maybe squeeze these things in in the middle of the day.
4. Think about coupling your practice into another part of your routine
- Maybe if you have dinner at 6 o’clock maybe this is something that you could do after dinner or before dinner. You throw it in the oven and then you have 15 minutes to practice. Maybe you have calls scheduled always at 3 o’clock in the afternoon so maybe after those calls or before, you could practice if that’s the nature of your business or if you generally snuggle down around 8 o’clock or 9 o’clock to start watching Netflix, then maybe you could say I’m gonna practice 30 minutes of piano before I settle down. Maybe Saturday mornings at a certain time, I mean those are all things that you can do.
My son’s practice routine
Many of you know that I’ve been teaching piano to my 8-year old son since he was 4 and one of the things that really worked well for us to be able to establish the habit is that when he was still going to school before quarantine, we had to leave the house at 8:15 every morning for him to walk to school. We worked towards establishing to have 7:30 every morning be the time when he would do his practicing. We chose the morning so at 7:30am we had it worked out so that at that time he’d be sitting at the piano bench ready to work and he would practice from 7:30 until around 8 o’clock.
I don’t think you should get up at 6 o’clock if you don’t have to, but that’s just one example of something that has worked. He would often be sitting at the piano before I was even ready for him so establishing that habit is a really helpful thing to do and the goal with the habit is that you stop thinking about it.
Do a little bit every day instead of trying to do a lot one day. Start small at first so try to see if you can commit to 10 or 15 minutes first and then once you’ve established that habit, you’ll start to nudge it up a little bit to try to schedule the time in your calendar. If it’s on your calendar, you will do it and also to see if there’s a time of day that works best for you.
I know practicing can be such a hard thing to do especially because we have such busy lives. But if you think about how much time you probably spend in wasted time, I think if you really look at the way you structure your time, you will be able to find some time in there and I love the idea that instead of spending 15 minutes kind of mindlessly scrolling on Instagram, instead, you could actually be developing a skill.
It really doesn’t take a lot of time to develop your piano training. From my experience, you just need to commit to doing a small amount every day!
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