As the school year begins and we settle into a new, likely busier routine, time seems like it's becoming scarcer. We now have after school activities, sports, band class, instrument workshops, musical performances, meet ups, and more added to our already stretched schedules. What can we do to continue building in the ways that are most important to us?
How can we create powerful routines that allow us to slowly, steadily advance in all our goals without feeling drained and crazy along the way? Here's a PSA (Prioritize, Schedule, Act) for all the young musicians and musical families doing this amazing juggling routine.
With so many enriching musical, creative, athletic, and social activities in a town like Asheville, it can be hard to decide which ones to pick. We want to be very careful not to overload ourselves to our own detriment! A good rule of thumb is to do one thing that is athletic and one thing that is creative in nature. Much more than this can lead to burnout and only being able to give half of ourselves to any single task.
Music lessons are a great investment in your or your child's present and future, but they are a commitment that requires daily practice. It's not a once a week event, but rather a daily schedule that must be kept in order to see the maximum benefit and avoid the dread that comes with being under-practiced week after week.
Be honest with yourself: are there some activities that you or your child are involved in that are less than fulfilling? Are you overloading and overscheduling, finding it hard to meet the minimum requirements of any extracurriculars? Are there some extracurriculars that you prefer over others, which consistently are prioritized?
To truly immerse oneself in the intense study of music or any other discipline, it's crucial that it become and stay a priority; this may mean that some other activities need to cease in order to make room in each day for regular attention to these goals.
Do you have a time set aside each day? Perhaps you want to make yoga a regular practice. Are you willing to carve out 15-45 minutes each morning for this ritual? If mornings aren't ideal, is there another time that might be? The same goes for adding piano lessons or guitar lessons. Before you begin, have you already mapped out when and where you'll be able to practice? Does a daily regimen seem completely doable or would it be a huge undertaking to reorganize each day, making space for this new routine?
If you are tired by 9pm, perhaps it's better to practice earlier in the day when you're fresher to avoid nodding out or quitting after a few minutes when you realize you can't keep your eyes open and your fingers aren't cooperating.
One of the amazing benefits of learning to play an instrument is that it has the capacity to teach us self-discipline and to give us a sense of order and structure in our lives. Even if everything else is going crazy, there will always be passages to memorize, scales and arpeggios to perfect, and upcoming performances to prepare for. Learning to play an instrument well isn't a single event, but a series of many steady decisions to continue, day after day.
Once the activities are selected and the time in your schedule is set, all that's left is really the fun part: acting out your plan. When you sit down to practice, make sure that the conditions make it easy to enjoy what you're doing. Turn off the TV, make sure the lights are bright enough, get your reading glasses, adjust your piano bench, or whatever you need to do to get comfortable.
Have you eaten in the past few hours? Don't try to practice on an empty stomach. Your practice time should fall somewhere shortly after a snack or meal time, so you avoid the low blood sugar slump and accompanying frustration. If meals tire you out, grab a small snack and get to it!
The appeal of apps and screen time can be alluring later in the day, so often (especially for young students) it's best to arrange practice prior to the use of these devices so that the brain is still fresh and attention is available for music. Keep these devices out of the practice room unless they're being used as a metronome or as a part of the work itself.
To get the most out of our studies, we must ensure that we're approaching the often fun, sometimes challenging, sometimes outright difficult task of learning to play music fluently, with the same careful consideration that we would with any kind of detail-oriented work. A slow, patient approach will yield much better results than slapdash, careless, and hurried practice ever will. 5 minutes of truly focused, disciplined practice time can often do more than 20 minutes of mentally checked out run-throughs.
Later, I will write a blog about what it means to practice carefully, and with discipline, but for now, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this week's post. How do you create meaningful routines in your schedule?
We are now enrolling new guitar and piano students for the school year. Contact us today to schedule your first FREE lesson.