You do have a practice plan, right? It’s one of the most important tools for any musician.
But what do you put on your practice plan?
Here’s the challenge: you list the important basics, the cool playing techniques, all the styles you’d like to get into, the tunes to master…
You put everything on your plan and you end up with a gargantuan practice schedule that’s totally impractical and even counterproductive.Why?
Because it’s not sustainable.
You have a life to live. There’s family, friends, social activities, work (best case scenario in music), other hobbies. You have responsibilities and commitments that prevent you from practicing 24/7.
So basically there’s a limited amount of time available and a seemingly unlimited amount of material to practice.
No wonder you feel overwhelmed and frustrated.
Here’s a concept that can help you overcome that feeling.
I call it “The Challenge of the Month Concept”
Here’s how it works.
Step 1 – Focus
You pick 1 single thing you’d like to focus on.
This could be a Jazz standard like “Giant Steps” or a Rock classic like “Sweet Home Alabama.” It could be a concept like chord substitutions or upper structure chords. You could focus on a specific playing technique for your instrument – economy picking for guitar, pedaling on the piano or pizzicato for string instruments. It could be a musical style like Flamenco or Blues.
Whatever interests you at the moment. You get the idea.
Step 2 – Decide How Much Time You Want to Dedicate Per Practice Session.
Find the right balance. No need to go berserk – too much time and it becomes an unrealistic chore. Don’t underestimate the effect that focusing on something for 1 full month can have. Even if you start out slowly with only a couple of minutes, the consistency really does add up.
Step 3 – Follow Through on Your Plan.
Keep the commitment you made and muster up all your discipline and work ethic. Stick with it at all cost. Remember, it’s called a challenge.
Step 4 – Observe and Analyze.
Keep note of your findings. It’s amazing what’s to discover when you stay with something instead of jumping around. Don’t worry, all the other things to practice will still be waiting for you anyways. 😉
At the end of the challenge set aside some time to reflect on your experience.
- What has changed?
- Any new insights?
- What are your conclusions?
- Any spin-off ideas for your next challenge?
Why does the Challenge of the Month Concept Work?
First of all, it forces you to make a decision. You need to assess your current playing situation and abilities and decide where you want to improve.
That in itself is worth a lot.
But since that focus will be valid for 1 month only, it takes away all the pressure at the same time. You are NOT making a huge commitment, this is NOT a decision you are stuck with for life. It’s only for 31 days at the most.
After the challenge is over you are free to completely ditch whatever it was you practiced should you choose to do so.
Also, there’s this competitive element involved. Are you going to make it? Are you tough enough? You value your self-respect, you better make it through the challenge.
My Personal Challenge
I know this stuff works. I’ve used the technique in the past. I will continue to use it.
Occasionally I’ll share my results here on this site. It could be some spectacular result after a completed challenge. It could also be some really poor result. But guess what? Even the really poor results will teach you valuable lessons and provide you with something to take away with. You’ll know what doesn’t deliver and can tick something off your gargantuan practice schedule for good.
Or at least until you want to try that topic again… 😉
Most importantly, have fun. A playful attitude – in my experience – is the best way to tackle the challenge. Practicing is something to be enjoyed. It helps you to develop as a musician and therefore should be something to look forward to instead of a dreaded or feared activity.
Share Your Challenge of the Month Projects
Hopefully this post does inspire you to start your own monthly musical challenge.
Feel free to share your projects, experiences and results.