Tips to practice instruments without getting board and quitting early
Learning an instrument takes patience, dedication and years of hard work. As the saying goes, the way to get to Carnegie Hall is practice, practice, practice. But sometimes big dreams and love of music aren’t enough to power through the tedium of another afternoon of scales.
The process of getting better can feel like a constant struggle when you?re going at it every day. This is especially discouraging when you don?t feel like you?re making any progress. Luckily, there are several ways to practice an instrument without getting bored, like working with other students, setting reward systems and playing along with special recordings of music you love.
Create a practice log
Learning to play an instrument takes some serious self-discipline. Whether you?re the student or a parent trying to help your child, finding positive, meaningful encouragement will help.
Begin by setting a small goal for each session. Make a plan to practice for 20 minutes, then 30 minutes then an hour each day. Write these time goals in a practice log and update it after each session to hold yourself accountable. After fulfilling these time commitments, you?re ready to add another layer to the log.
Many musicians see their practice logs as a tool to imagine big goals and creating a plan to get there. For instance, choose a song you want to learn and write in which section of the song to work on in each session. Beginners should alternate between scales, exercises and a song they love in order to continue building and applying skills.
Block out practice sessions
Blocking out your practice time gives structure to the routine. As you learn how to practice an instrument without getting bored, note how your attention and energy changes during the session. Plan sufficient time to warm up then isolate the most difficult section you?re working on and focus on it for a set amount of time.
If it helps, use a timer to help you stick to the plan. Some musicians use a small block of time to rehearse technique or more technical aspects of handling the instrument. Spend another block playing through a few bars of a new song ? learning in small steps is less intimidating. Save the home stretch for a little play or return to the difficult piece.
Creating and committing to a plan doesn?t leave room for aimlessness in practice. This is an effective way to get better at the violin, piano, guitar, sax or any other instrument. It also trains you to learn multiple pieces in different stages and maximize every minute with your instrument. Setting a timer will keep you engaged and in the moment so you don?t veer back to mindless playing.
Expand your repertoire
What some students interpret as boredom may actually be detachment from the material. Continue challenging yourself by planning in some variation. You can do this by selecting a new song in a different style.
Make room for fun
Learning an instrument isn?t exactly a nonstop party, but it should be fun. That?s the secret to how to practice an instrument without getting bored. Bringing a sense of purpose to each session will keep your mind and body fully engaged. For instance, scales are boring, but once you know the rules you?re free to break them.
Practice scales until their perfect, then try augmenting them with notes from different styles and see how it sounds. See if you can make the dullest scale sound sad, beautiful or jaunty. Then change your pace and play faster and faster until your fingers can?t keep up with the notes in your head.
Stick to your practice plan and by the end of each session you?ll feel physically tired in the best way. Playing an instrument is labor intensive, so give yourself a break now that you?ve really earned it.