If you want to learn to play an instrument or get better at playing an instrument there is a guaranteed way that you can achieve this: practice. Like with anything we decide to learn, the more we do something the better we get at doing it. This applies to everything we do in life. Its obvious that practice is a requirement of becoming a better musician, so you want to set up a good routine that is enjoyable and will keep you motivated to want to continue practicing.
Define Your Music Goals
The first question you need to ask yourself is, what do you want to learn? What is it that you want to be able to play on an instrument? We are all different and there are many reasons why we play music. It might be because we want to learn how to play our favorite songs on guitar, learn to play jazz piano, play bass guitar in a band, master the drums to become a drum teacher and so on. They are all valid goals to want to improve on your instrument and they each require different focuses for study. If you sit down and think, what do I want to achieve on my instrument, then you can define your goals and what you want the outcomes to be from your music practice. This will help set up what you you need to work on and also will give you a measure so you can monitor your progress along the way.
What To Practice
Once you have defined your music goals, you can break down the goal to lower level details of what you need to do to achieve your goals and get the most out of music practice. Scales are great for many reasons, however, if your goal is to learn how to play your favorite songs on acoustic guitar, then learning how to play scales isn’t a very good way to go about achieving the goal that got you interested in learning acoustic guitar in the first place. It’s simple things like this, playing mundane exercises, that put people off sitting down and learning to play an instrument.
A better way to learn to play your favorite songs would be to get the music for the songs that you wish to learn, look at the chords in the songs and then spend your time learning how to play the chords and chord shapes in the song. Once you spend some time learning how to play the chords used in the songs you want to learn, you’ll be able to put the chords to use and start playing the songs.
When you break your goal down to a lower level like this, and focus on making sure that what you are practicing will give you the right for the outcome that you want to achieve, its easy to see that any music goal is attainable and can be reached in a reasonable amount of time.
Consistency Is The Key To Good Music Practice
One of the great motivation killers is that we get enthused over something, spend a large amount of time on it and because of the other things happening in our lives and we find that we can’t keep spending all that time on something every day. It’s a big misconception that you need to play for hours on end every day to become a really good musician. For most of us, it’s not practical to be able to spend hours and hours playing music on a daily basis.
When you first start out learning to play something, you usually think that you will need to spend forever on being able to play it. The fact of the matter is, its consistency that will get you to reach your goal, not massive amounts of practice in a short space of time. It is much better to work consistently for short periods of time, than it is to spend all your weekend working and then put not time towards study during the week. A large aspect of playing an instrument comes down to muscle memory. In that way music is a bit like sport. Your muscles learn what to do and they develop over time.
You will not become a good runner by running 6 hours every Saturday and Sunday and then not doing any running Monday to Friday. You would do more damage than good and would be much better off if you went on a 30 minute run on six days of the week and had one day off as a rest day. That’s comparing doing 12 hours of running against doing 3 hours of running per week, and its doing the 3 hour of running per week that will make you the better runner.
Its the same with music. Consistency is they key. Can you commit to spending 30 minutes a day, 6 days a week to learning to play your instrument? Even on a busy day, we can usual find 30 minutes to spare. If we make that 30 minutes a priority, it will happen on all 6 days that you decide you are going to commit to practice. If you spend 30 minutes a day, focusing on the music that you set out to learn to achieve from the goal that you defined, you will find that you will reach your goal in a short space of time. Not over months, more likely over the course of a few short weeks.
Try It Yourself, Become A Better Musician
Put the above, simply concepts into place to develop a music practice routine and stick with it for just 2 weeks. After 2 weeks you will find that you will progress significantly and realize that you will be able to reach any musical goals that you set for yourself.
As you achieve each goal you set, the motivation to continue will be in ample supply. After all, we are only talking about a 30 minute investment of your time. Anyone can afford to do spend that, especially when it will turn you into a better musician.
Post by: Nick Cresswell
Nick Cresswell is a musician, music teacher, author and webmaster of FreeJamTracks.com. Free Jam Tracks provides guitarists, bassists and drummers with free, high quality jam and backing tracks as well as articles and instruction on music and music theory. Visit Nick’s site to download free jam tracks and backing tracks.