Seeing as this is my very first (eek!) blogpost on this website, I thought it would be a good idea to start by explaining the importance of organizing your practice.
Lots of musicians (and believe me when I say this) go through their careers without ever practicing in a particularly mindful way...
They rely on their innate musicality, sight reading abilities, or even hide behind the sheer amount of time they spend at their instruments. This method does yield results (however big or small), but can be detrimental to one’s self-esteem and fulfilment as a musician in the long run.
You see, when you spend hours at your instrument consistently with little to show for it, you may start to wonder if playing music is something you were even meant to do in the first place (believe me, I’ve been there...), not to mention the resulting lack of confidence to take on new opportunities that may be outside your comfort zone (like a last-minute gig or concert).
Even if making music is not your career but a hobby, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to:
a) spend less time learning the pieces you want to play, or
b) learn more pieces while spending the same amount of time at your instrument?
If you said yes to either of the points above, you’ll want to lean into this.
For the longest time, I struggled with understanding why it had to take me so long to learn a piece I had or wanted to learn. I would try to spend weeks, months, even years perfecting pieces I set my mind to, often to no avail. The problem was that without defining my goals before starting a project, my practice “expanded to fill the time allotted for its completion,” as per the Parkinson’s Law.
As it turned out, simply choosing a piece and giving myself a deadline was not enough to make it happen. (Not without excessive and debilitating stress, anyway.) Efficient practicing required so much more - I had to break down my goals into steps, or at the very least define the first few and then figure the rest out along the way. Apart from all that, there was also the question of motivation - how do I stay motivated through the hard stages of learning a piece? It was clearly a matter of tracking my progress and celebrating small wins along the way.
As I began to delve deeper into practice organization, I came across a new and interesting concept - the practice journal. The idea of a notebook that neatly kept all my progress, while helping me come up with a plan and motivating me was idyllic - a dream that stayed with me for years to come. But every time I tried to track my own practice, it just never seemed to check all my boxes...
I knew there was a lot of research to be done before I could come up with the perfect formula for a practice journal everyone could use. Watching tons of practice journal how-to’s, screenshotting glimpses of fleeting images of journals on social media, I began to learn more and more about how others planned their time, specifically in the practice room. Some planned a whole week or month out in advance and stuck to it. Others went with the flow, coming up with each day’s plan on the go, but no one seemed to be following a particular system.
Over the past several years I have been testing through trial and error (both knowingly and unknowingly), different formulas and systems for organizing practice sessions. I spent years teaching music students of all different levels, abilities and goals, both as an instructor and a practice coach. Transferring ideas from bullet journaling, to a formal planner style to music practice and seeing what stuck. Here’s what I found:
The perfect system doesn’t exist.
Hear me out. There is no one system that will work for every single musician.
But there is a system that strikes the balance between providing you with a structured practice plan while giving you the independence you need. That’s what the Efficient Musician Practice Planner is all about.
In the next blog post I am going to explain how exactly our Practice Planner will help you finally take control of your time in the practice room, and achieve even the most insurmountable of your musical goals.