Accelerate Growth and Have Fun In the Practice Room

March 24, 2017

Faculty Author:

How making two small commitments to yourself can maximize your time and accelerate growth.




If you’re anything like me, practicing during a busy semester can be overwhelming. At any given moment you’re responsible for learning solo repertoire, pieces for ensembles, and etudes and/or excerpts for your lessons. On top of that, you’re just bone-tired.


It isn’t just having too much to do that can make you feel overwhelmed, either. Long summers of no concrete performance plans turns into the summer of wishing you had something to do.


In both cases, you are just two commitments away from being more productive, more at-ease, and generally less stressed out.


My story


When I was getting ready for my final recital at the end of my master’s degree, I acknowledged that my tendency to put off stressful things until the last minute was not going to be a successful tactic if I wanted to play my best. So, a few months out from the performance date, I made a chart of how much time I had left to practice, and broke up my pieces into sections that I could manage inside that timeframe. I knew I needed to learn these pieces deeply so I could be less nervous on stage (an issue I always need to plan for), and therefore I needed to digest them slowly.


By the time of the recital, all of my solo pieces were completely committed to memory and I was able to enjoy making music in the moment. It was Valentine’s Day and -25 degrees outside, but damnit, I was prepared.




So what are the two commitments you need to make to yourself? 

  1. Commit to a goal, and

  2. Commit to a plan


Notice the word “commit.” It’s used instead of “make” because it is too easy to “make” a good idea then not act on it. Gary Vaynerchuk talks about how just about everyone in any given room has a ton of great ideas, but only about 1% of people will ever actually act on them and get stuff done.


Be in the 1% of people that gets. stuff. done.


To accelerate your growth and actually have FUN in the practice room again, follow the two steps below.


1. Choose a goal and commit to it


My goal for my recital was to be so prepared that I could enjoy making music in the moment instead of being stressed out.


Your goal could also be based around a performance in the future, or it could be as simple as working up the speed on your triple tonguing to a specific bpm.


It almost doesn’t matter what the goal is as long as it is realistic and easy to understand because, face it — you won’t be able to commit to a goal that takes a full piece of paper to explain. In other words, your goals should be made of BR.A.S.S., or “Be Realistic And Stupid Simple.” (Leave it to a trumpet player, right?) Read about S.M.A.R.T. goals here.


2. Build a plan that will accomplish your goal and commit to it


My plan involved breaking down the amount of time I had left and designating parts of that time to practicing specific pieces.


I’m guilty of making this step too difficult for myself all the time. I often catch myself making grand plans about how I’m going to write in my practice journal everyday and organize it by color before having to talk myself down to more manageable projects. (I should be building my plans of B.R.A.S.S. too)


You don’t need a complicated chart laying out your practice schedule for the next 2 months. You don’t need someone to hand you a secret short cut. You need to a plan that deepens your commitment to your goal.


“I will speed up my triple tonguing with these exact exercises by taking it one BPM at a time. I have to play it correctly and cleanly twice before I can bump up the metronome.”


“Every day between now and next Friday, I will start all articulation studies on an A above the staff because I need that note to be awesome for my next concert.”


In short:

  1. Commit to a goal

  2. Commit to a plan


Enjoy the process and results will follow.


Tell us what you think!


What goals are you working on right now? How are your plans coming along?

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