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New Year, New Habits

Happy 2018, everyone!

Now that we're firmly into the new year and all settling into our resolutions, it's a great time to talk about habit building.

In the piano studio, we've got a bit of friendly competition going. Every piano student has received (or will receive!) a practice sheet with their individual, age appropriate daily practice goal. When they come in for lessons each week, those who practiced 7 days, 6 days, and 5 days will each get a different colored stamp on the leader board. The top 3 performers will win a prize!

Sometimes, it's the little things.

That brings me to the topic of this week's blog. Any time we're working on self-improvement goals or big projects, there can be a tendency to be overwhelmed by the enormity and minutiae of what we're trying to accomplish. As an antidote to analysis paralysis and comfort / inertia, here are a few simple pointers to make learning an instrument easier in the new year.

Guitarist in sunny field

1. Create a pre-practice routine. If your goal is to practice piano or guitar 15 minutes a day, you may decide to come home from work, feed your dog, and immediately practice for 15 minutes before anything else. Build in a series of steps, and there won't be any negotiation.

2. Set small goals at first. Start with the goal of practicing five minutes a day, or one scale and one song each day. Then build on that as it becomes comfortable. Maybe build up to two scales and three songs, and so on. Once you have the routine established, building on it becomes easier.

3. Setting larger goals can be a bit of a chicken or egg scenario for some folks. Sometimes, having a challenging piece you're motivated to learn can be really exciting and help you get over motivational hurdles when you're struggling. Other times, if the music is very challenging, it can de-motivate. Be honest with yourself and decide if the larger, stretch goals are going to create positive motivation or frustration.

4. If you miss a day, don't give up! We're all human, and life sometimes gets in the way of our best intentions. If you have to forego practicing your instrument for a day, don't let it derail you permanently. Hop back on the next day and keep plugging along!

5. If you regularly have issues motivating yourself to play music, find where the issue starts. Maybe you're always tired when you supposed to practice; this might mean that you need to change the time of day that you practice. Or you may need to create an option for yourself that isn't just "If I'm tired, I won't practice." Maybe that option is "If I'm tired, I'll take a 20 minute power nap and then practice."

6. Give yourself at least one month. They say it takes 21 days to create a habit, but I think it might take a bit longer. Be patient with yourself and understand that even if you never end up being someone who practices 365 days a year, even playing 5 days a week is going to improve not only your musicianship, but also your routine building skills and self-discipline. We learn so much more than how to play music when we learn an instrument.

7. Reward yourself. Learned that piece that you've always wanted to play? Don't forget to do something nice for yourself! It takes perseverance to work through all the unique challenges of a tricky piece of music. Maybe treat yourself to an ice cream cone or a new book. It doesn't have to be much, but small rewards mark an occasion and make the experience of achieving a goal that much more fun.

Make piano lessons part of your new year. From now through the end of January, we're offering the first 2 lessons free for all new piano students at The Summit Academy of Music! Contact us today to set up your first free lesson.

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