It’s that time of year again. After all the holiday parties, cookies, champagne, and quality time with friends and family, it’s the time of year where we turn to introspection. As musicians, that generally means at least one of our aspirations is to improve our abilities. But, as we all know too well, wanting to get better at something and actually executing on that desire are two separate things. Today, we are going to talk about some methods we’ve had success with for sticking to those musical resolutions.
- Discipline is more important than motivation. Let me explain. Motivation is when you hear your favorite song and then pick up the guitar. While we’ve all been there, this is different from setting aside a time everyday for dedicated practice. In short, excellence is a habit and it is best to do a little every day, at the same time, to show progress. Start now by setting aside a small amount of time every single day. It is encouraging to achieve that goal and will make you want to slowly extent that time as you hit your goals.
- Deliberate practice will help you improve faster than screwing around. K. Anders Ericsson has done a lot of research on how to get better at a skill. In this case, the best way to get better at guitar or any other musical instrument is to single out what you are trying to learn, and relentlessly try to master it. This will improve your musical abilities the fastest. You can see the full reasons here. So, while it is natural to get inspired and pick up the guitar to try to learn to play that catchy riff, most days you should stick to a structured lesson plan where the goals are clearly defined and the practice is created to support those goals.
- Remove the excuses from your playing. If you find yourself making excuses for the reasons you aren’t practicing, systematically address them one at a time. Find you’re missing your lessons due to time constraints? Invest in flexible online guitar lessons. Do you not pick up your guitar enough at home? Instead of hiding it away in the case, make it easy to access by putting it on a stand so you can pick it up frequently, even if for only a few minutes at a time. Need to keep it quiet to accommodate neighbors or sleeping family? Play unplugged or through headphones. You get the idea. If you really evaluate your excuses, you’ll find most have solutions.
As we head into 2018, try to to an analysis on what is keeping you from attaining your musical ambitions and address a small facet of it. Those changes you make will compound, and you’ll find yourself making significant progress. Good luck!