One of the most common challenges for musicians and singers of all levels is the ability to sustain growth and continued improvement on their chosen instrument. How do you stay creative and get better in the midst of the daily grind of performances, rehearsals, and even the occasional partying? It’s a situation that requires some attention to time management and, most of all, discipline.
Creating Habits – The Magic of Repetition
I remember reading some time ago that any activity repeated for 17 consecutive days can be transformed into a habit. It then seems reasonable to conclude that any habit that can be sustained for six months has the potential to become a lifestyle. At its simplest, the act of repetition is what separates mediocre from good, and good from great. Muscle memory goes way beyond learned physical response. When muscles are trained and subject to the same activity over a period of time, there is improved strength, speed, and coordination.
Coordination and speed, in particular, are closely connected to brain functioning, which is directly linked to repetition. The boxer that practices throwing 200 jabs and 200 hooks is hardly likely to be as proficient as the one that commits to 1000. The guitar player that works on the C natural minor scale for 4 hours will seldom match the fluidity of the one that spends 12 hours on it. Try to remember the first time you learned a song……….any song, and then recall the difference in your timing and delivery one month later.
There are a number of great online apps to assist musicians in honing their craft. Keeping a journal of your practice helps greatly in efficiency and organization, and helps you set goals with structured practice.
Putting The Pieces Together
Some of us are naturally gifted with great powers of recall. We learn activity and are able to catch in some detail all the nuances of this. I know some singers that can learn lyrics and melodies in mere minutes. These freaks can learn complete songs in less than an hour and remember them. For those of us who are not in that place, many hours are needed to achieve the same result. Enter the Practice Journal!!!!!! Keeping a journal of your practice helps greatly in efficiency and organization, and helps you set goals with structured practice.
You will also learn to be honest with yourself when measuring your work habit against your growth rate and performance. Every single Olympic athlete logs training and times. Why not musicians and singers? If you have chosen this path in your life, why not maximize your potential? Or, are you willing to live on the shallow praise and accolades from customers and listeners that stroke your ego night after night, seducing you into a deluded limbo of doing as little as possible to get by?
Basically, your journal should show time spent, an activity engaged in, and notes on your thoughts on your own progress. (“working on the first four measures of the Herbie solo…………30 mins. Very rough. Will repeat again tomorrow”) A good idea is to take very small bits at a time, so you give yourself the best shot of “getting it” and building a sense of accomplishment and motivation to stick with it. Spending 2 hours on a 32 bar solo and barely getting through it will not help you nearly as much as 30 minutes on the first 4 bars that you come away from successfully. I have found a few online sites that are very useful in helping you get organized in your practice. Some are listed below. In the meantime, I wish you many smiles and great music.
Until next month – Greg Lassalle