Strategic self-encouragement: write down one thing you are particularly proud of at the end of each practice session.
Do one thing at a time don’t try to do everything at once. Concentrate on one aspect at a time. Break everything down into smaller and smaller components. Small achievable steps are the golden nuggets.
Make every practice session interesting, intriguing, and stimulating so it will maintain your curiosity. Boredom is a buzzkill. If you lose that sensation, it’s time for a break.
“First Takes” – Record your first takes in three different sections (or pieces). Don’t listen in between. At the end listen to all and analyze – are there common tendencies between all three? This is what you can use for goal setting.
Errors are an opportunity to learn...they are part one of discovery.
Feedback is not criticism – it is a short cut to discovering errors and solutions.
Practice before you check email. Nothing kills creativity better than email.
Avoid "binge blues". Binge blues is that horrible feeling when you've gotten out of shape and are returning to your instrument for the first time again. A little practice (even 15 min) per day will keep binge blues at bay.
Count practice without your instrument in hand as practice time! Mark it in your journal. Include listening, score study, marking parts, and singing AS practice.
Keep a journal. Always write down achievements, not just what you plan to accomplish or did. Look a few months back whenever you need a psychological boost.
Perform in meaningful and low pressure setting: for young kids, at a hospital, church, prison, on the street, or wherever you think folks will really appreciate it.
Investigate yoga (aim for an entry level class taught by a true master) Yoga is all about discovery, acceptance, and mindfulness, which are also all part of challenging practice. The parallels to music are infinite.
Video record yourself, refine, video record yourself again (don't skip the last step)
Selective Inattention – Record the same excerpt of music three times and concentrate both in your performance and your analysis on three different variables, such as intonation, character, rhythm, etc. Concentrate only on one variable at a time.
Overkill: exaggerate your intended effect 200%:
For example, if you need more breath, double inhale or practice including even more notes in your breath than written. If you want to use less bow, practice with the least amount of bow possible. If you want more expression, dance around the room and create drama. If you want to play faster, practice above the metronome markings.
Generous fortissimo day – practice everything with the largest and most relaxed sound you can muster, even the pp passages.
Tension day: pick a day and make playing/singing with the least possible tension and the most freely moving breath the one single priority in your practice.
Split the body:
For string players, practice only the left (no bow) or only the right (open strings)
For pianists, harp, and mallets: play one hand at a time
For singers: speak only but with expression and rhythm, or sing on vowels only with expression
For winds and brass, execute fingerings without embouchure contact. Then practice tonguing and breath control on only one pitch
The power of questions:
Ask coaches and teachers a question in every single interaction.
Watch a YouTube video of a favorite performer and hone in on what you love.
To hear better: Play every other note only, leave out passing tones, chord tones only. Practice with a drone. Practice with a tunable app and interpret your tendencies.
Sing intervals (if you can’t sing it,you can’t hear it). Name and mark your intervals (for example M3, P4 etc.).
Tips for Joy
Incorporate at least a short stint of total goof-off time on your instrument every time you practice. Play by ear, run through old tunes, play along with a recording, anything that is pure joy.
Gamify with apps to work on music skills:
Daily Decision App (for technique)
Read Rhythm App (for rhythm)
Video Delay (for a better mirror)
Enlist a practice buddy or two – someone who practices at the same time as you and shares in your tribulations and successes.
“Progress” – Record yourself once a week and DO NOT listen back until you have a month’s worth of recordings. Then listen to the journey.
Mark ♥︎ ♥︎ ♥︎ in your practice journal whenever you have a discovery or breakthrough, or when you showed up to practice even though you really didn’t feel the muse.
Record yourself for half a page and review. Spend 10 minutes practicing improvements, then record again. Write down improvements you noticed in the second recording.
Get out music you played a long time ago and blow through it like a trailblazer. See, you have gotten better!
Auditions are not a real musical experiences, don’t treat them as such. Meaningful performances are experiences with a real, non-judging audience. Where else can you play?
Get the Practizma Practice Journal and cultivate the joy, day by day.