Practice in a rut- Revaluate it!
Practice in a rut? Can’t find the motivation?
As teachers or students, we’ve ALL been there!
I asked you for your latest struggles when it comes to efficient, or consistent practice, and I heard you! These next strategies are tried and true, (but not all the time). Some will work well on Mondays and Wednesday, others on Tuesdays and Thursdays… oh, but seriously, spice up the routine and try something out for a bit! Once does not create a habit :-)
Now let’s begin…
RE-EVALUATE YOUR PRACTICE ROUTINE
Enter into a “re-evaluate” time period. Give yourself some time to re-evaluate your goals with the harp, music, what you want from it and how you want to present that to the world.
Ask yourself these questions:
How are you functioning with your household chores?
How are you functioning spiritually?
How are you functioning with depression or anxiety?
How “together” is your life outside of music?
Use these questions to jumpstart your thinking on other aspects outside of music FIRST. Why? Because often times an unorganized house leads to chaos in the practice room. Feeling uneasy about your spiritual being may disrupt your flow of practice. Suffering depression or anxiety most definitely get in the way of an efficient, peaceful practice.
I bring these questions up first because sometimes an evaluation of our life outside of music helps us find the light towards the goals we have in music. Don’t neglect YOU outside of music. Take care of yourself mentally, physically, your health, your organization.
(If you want help creating a better practice environment FIRST, visit my website and download “Create your Practice Haven” right now.)
BE ON THE SAME PAGE AS PARENTS.
Next, let’s talk about the dynamic of the teacher/parent of student. If you don’t fall into this category, feel free to skip down to the next section.
When I teach, I want to make sure I’m on the same page as the parents when it comes to:
1- Expectations of the student within my studio:
a. How much to practice
b. How to practice
c. What order and emphasis certain pieces have within practice
d. The importance of exercises as much as pieces
e. The repercussion of not practicing
2- Creating a safe practice/lesson environment:
a. no parents aloud in the room
b. Distractions not allowed: no phones, no T.V., etc.
3- Discipline for effective practice: I am in no way telling the parents HOW to discipline their child, but I do feel strongly that if there isn’t some sort of discipline in place, 9 times out of 10, the student won’t practice on their own or show initiative. If they did, we’d all be fantastic players. Instead, I encourage a mantra of “No work, no reward” that’s comfortable for the parents to employ.
4- Accountability with practice:
a. Because I say “no parents in the practice room”, this is an opportunity for the child and parent to develop trust. If the child has practiced, and filled out their target goal worksheet (see info below), then the parents can initial after each box, or at the end of the week’s practice. The parent should check in with the child and ask “have you practiced today?” Or
“Have you met your daily practice goal?” If not, the parents should encourage the child to practice.
b. We often lose this accountability as adult students, so here I encourage the adult student to establish weekly goals, write them down, and evaluate your progress regularly.
MOTIVATION! This one can be tricky and different for each individual. These next ideas for motivation have worked for me, as well as my students, throughout the years or currently.
1- Play in front of people! This seems like a no brainer, but most people hesitate to try it. It can be a small gathering for your stuffed animals (to start), then graduate to your siblings, your parents, your neighbors, etc.
2- Give yourself a treat after a hard week or practice session. What I used to do was say “I can have a Snickers bar after this practice session!” A candy, a trip to the mall, trip to the movies, something small that that brings joy is a great way to motivate.
3- Put a gig on the calendar! Somewhat like playing in front of people, but stepping it up a notch. Keep in mind, you don’t need to have been playing for years to do this. This is an ALL harpist opportunity. Are you a beginner and don’t feel ready? Don’t worry, your “gig” can be a song or two at church. Play for a volunteer organization, or nursery home. Your gift is just that, a gift to others who will enjoy your playing, and you’ll become a better artists for having the experience. It’s a win-win!
4- Social media share! Give yourself a goal of sharing your latest project twice a month (or once a week if you’re ambitious) on your preferred social media platform. It doesn’t have to be the entire piece! In fact, pick a line of an etude or exercise. Pick a couple measures or lines of a piece. Share with your friends and family. This is an opportunity to grow and also get great feedback (which should be mostly encouraging!). #practiceprogress
5- If you don’t do social media, record for your own library of videos. Set up your phone or computer to record yourself. This doesn’t have to be fancy, in fact, the more casual the better. It will get your nerves going and illuminate both what you do well and what you need to work on. The more you do it, the better you’ll get. Trust me!
6- Try a new or different genre of songs you’ve always wanted to try. Maybe celtic, popular, jazz, broadway. Or a specific artist you really like. Put something on the stand that sparks joy. Now I sound like Marie Kondo, but don’t worry, I’m not asking you to delete items, add items that spark joy!
WHEN TO PRACTICE
This, again, will be determined by your schedule, technical level, and desire to become better.
The Practice Planner is all about writing down two sessions a day of WHEN you want to practice.
Session 1 might include “practice after breakfast, before school/work”.
Session 2 might have “practice after dinner”.
This process should help you with time management and allow you to see the week ahead and plan accordingly.
The Targets worksheet is more specific. Write your target goal for the week at the very top. As each day progresses, write down the date, what you worked on, and what you want to work on in the following day. This not only serves as a reminder of what you practiced yesterday, but keeps you on track to reach your target goal for the week.
At the end of the week, evaluate your progress and see how far you got towards your goal. Did you reach it? If so, fill in the circles at the top all the way. If not, evaluate how close you think you were and fill in accordingly.
(Tip: I usually say to some struggling students “no filled out target worksheet, no lesson”. This gives a mild bit of pressure to let them know I’m serious about teaching, and they should be serious about practicing.)
Once all is said and done, I sometimes hear from the parents “we feel our child should be progressing faster”. Remember, the child’s in the hot seat, not the parents. So sometimes we have to reiterate that as the child progresses, they won’t be learning two or three songs a week, but instead a song or two a month. This comes as the difficulty increases and shouldn’t be seen as a “slowing down” but instead a greater challenge with more time needed to practice. I’m sure we all learned how to walk before we learned how to run, so accomplishing a marathon will indeed take more dedication and practice than walking around the block.
IN THE END
If, after trying all of these new tactics you don’t see an improvement, you can always take a hiatus. Nothing permanent, I’m not asking you to sell your harp, just a “take four weeks off and re-evaulate your passion for it” time period. This doesn’t spell disaster. Sometimes absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder.
I wish you all the best, all the time.
I’m here for YOU!