“We first make our habits and then our habits make us.”
–John Dryden, poet (The Musician’s Way, p. 20)
When you practice, are you consistently focused and productive? If not, the reason may lie in chronic habits that undermine your attention and creativity.
Here are 7 ways to replace unwanted practice habits with those that foster deeper learning and higher creativity.
1. Reinforce Positive Thoughts and Actions
To acquire effective habits, we have to cease repeating unwanted actions and steadfastly employ desirable ones. A classic example would be when we want to undo habits of excess physical tension: we need to remind ourselves to stop forcing and, at the same time, take pleasure in releasing. Overall, then, we need to practice joyfully yet deliberately, emphasizing habits of excellence.
2. Work On Accessible Material
Choosing accessible material permits us to learn music quickly while allowing for the mental space we need to be spontaneous and monitor ourselves. Conversely, overly difficult music floods our capacity, making it impossible for us to be creative and evaluate how we’re doing.
3. Set Specific Practice Goals
When we identify small goals and attain them one after another, we boost our productivity and fuel our motivation. The guidelines in The Musician’s Way equip us to pinpoint and accomplish short and long-term goals.
4. Employ a Deep Learning Process
Given that our brains and bodies imprint, it’s crucial that we’re accurate and expressive from the start of the learning process. The Musician’s Way spells out deep practice methods that empower performers to become one with their music.
5. Alter Your Practice Environment
We can support fresh habits by adjusting our practice spaces, even if we merely point a music stand in a new direction or modify the practice room decor.
6. Keep to a Schedule
Consistent practice sessions are far more productive than scattershot ones. Moreover, to stay optimally focused and imaginative, we do well to work in 20-25 minute episodes with breaks in between. Ideally, we’d practice multiple times per day. It also helps to mentally review our objectives before we sleep and then act on them soon after we rise.
7. Enlist a Teacher
Like athletes, we musicians benefit from the feedback of coaches. But beyond mere advice, skilled teachers help us stay motivated and, over time, achieve our dreams.
See Part I of The Musician’s Way for comprehensive practice tips and guidelines.
© 2012 Gerald Klickstein
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