How to Make Practice Fun
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Sometimes practice is enjoyable, something you look forward to. At other times it's like pulling teeth.
Kurt Vonnegut once said, "When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth."
If one of America's greatest writers said this about his craft, then what chance do we have with piano?
Although it's impossible to avoid a bad practice session once in a while, it doesn't have to feel that way most of the time.
Here are some tips.
Cut Yourself Some Slack
Are your standards too high?
It's only bad if you're not able to consistently reach them.
Instead, lower the bar.
It's like how people set certain goals or achievements ... in order to be happy.
I used to suffer from "I'll be happy when" syndrome myself.
But now, I realize I don't actually have to odo anything to be happy.
You can choose to feel good at any moment, but setting unrealistic expectations will make this impossible.
When I have a beginning student, we don't focus on results for at least a month. The only goal I have for them is to practice at least 5 days a week.
This is regardless of what I hear at the lesson.
So one suggestion I have for you is to focus on a minimum of time spent and days practiced per week.
That way, it becomes a game anyone can win.
It takes you away from thinking about the results and brings you back to the true nature of learning - the process.
Change your mind frequently.
I have a student who spends a half year studying with me, and a half year studying with another teacher in Taiwan.
He's been practicing "Waltz in A Minor" by Chopin, but told me he was sick of it when he recently came back.
Strange, I've never heard him say anything like that - so I pressed him.
The reason? His teacher (in Taiwan) had him practice the piece for the entire time.
Can you imagine playing the same song every day? For six months?
So if you've been going through the motions with a particular song or piece ... stop completely.
It's not sink or swim, because you can always come back to it later.
This is what's called spaced repetition. Instead of practicing something 3 times in a row, it's better to add some "breathing room" in between.
Try dropping whatever you're practicing for a month, or longer, and revisiting it.
What a lot of teachers forget is that effective learning is relearning.
Stephen Pressfield, author of The War of Art, says, "what we resist will persist."
So how do you overcome that resistance you feel when it comes to practice?
First, understand that the resistance is largely made up.
You begin to resist things when you start thinking about the past and the future - things that have already happened or haven't happened yet.
It's the incessant looping that tires you out before you even get started.
A way to eliminate this feeling of resistance is by focusing on the present moment - awareness.
Meditation is a supremely useful practice in this regard.
A second way is to write everything down.
Having a good productivity system helps, do you have one? If not, it can do wonders.
A good system helps clear your mind - it "closes the loop" as David Allen says.
If you need more help with this concept, read this.
Second, you can push through the resistance.
That feeling will disappear once you simply sit down on the piano bench - remember, the resistance is just everything before you do that.
Here's a tip: next time you feel like doing anything other than piano, just tell yourself the goal is to sit down.
Then, the next goal is to play one key.
Chances are, it'll suddenly be a half hour later and you wonder why it was so hard to start in the first place.
When practice feels like a monumental task, you can overcome it by breaking it down to the smallest action.
The tiniest step.
Just start, the rest is up to you.
Hope this helped and happy practicing.
How to Make Practice Fun
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