4/28/11

Squeezing In Piano Practicing

guest post by Heather Husted Wilson



The Seasons come and go... 
We see the flowers bud – we know it is Spring. 
We feel the sun shine fiercely on our backs – we know it is Summer. 
We see the leaves turn shades of yellow, orange and red- we know it is Fall. 
We see the clean white snow fall from the heavens and coat the Earth – we know it is Winter.
Then the snow melts and the rotation begins again.

The Seasons of our lives are the same…
There are seasons of learning and growth, pain and joy, stress and relaxation, work and play.
They come and go…and then come and go all over again.

How does this relate to Practicing?

I’m sure if you look back on your life you can see that with each season of YOUR life…
your practicing habits and schedule has changed right along with each change in life’s seasons.

So where are you now? 

Are you a student? Are you married? Do you work full time? Do you have one or more children?
Are you in a season of 4-8 hours, 1-4 hours, 30 minutes, or 15 minutes of practicing? 
How does your practicing correlate with the specific season of life YOU are experiencing right now?

Each one of us have different schedules and responsibilities, but one thing remains the same…
we ALL wish we could squeeze in a few more hours in each day to accomplish more!
Please tell me you are nodding your head right now…

So is it possible to create more time in your day to accomplish all the things you desire?
I believe it is.
It isn’t easy. It won’t be perfect. It will require YOU to make some decisions and work out the kinks.
But it’s possible…and YOU CAN DO IT!

First let’s figure out the things your heart most desires.
Go grab a piece of paper and a pen.
Yes, I mean right now…I’ll wait.

You back already? Wow…you're fast! Okay, here we go…
What do you love to do? What do you do that makes you feel alive…makes you feel like YOU?
Now make a list answering these questions.

You have your list? Okay…good.
 I’m assuming since you are reading this blog you love creating, performing and/or teaching music.
Is that on your list? That MUST be on your list!
Well, we all know that those three things require practice.
So how can you find time to squeeze in practicing?
You must MAKE time.

1. Break out your calendar. 
If your schedule doesn’t permit practicing everyday…figure out which days you CAN practice and write them down. 
I have one or two specific things each day of the week that MUST be done that day!
i.e. Monday is “cleaning house” and “laundry” day, Tuesday is a “teaching” day, etc.  
I then, work my schedule from there. That way, the BIG things get done each day and I feel accomplished even if some of the smaller things get left for another day.

So go make some of those days in your week “practicing” days.
Decide what is going to work for you and write it down! 
Seriously…go grab your calendar – NOW!

2. Set a specific time aside.
Don’t just wait for the perfect moment to smack you in the forehead. It isn’t going to happen. I haven’t ever found my life to work out that way…I always seem to find something else to use up my time. 
Go back to that calendar and write down what TIME you are going to sit down with your music. Treat it like a doctor’s appointment – if you don’t show you will have to pay a $25 ‘no show’ fee and you are NOT going to throw away $25!!!
 Don’t allow anything else to get in the way of your appointment with your instrument.

For example, a while ago I really wanted to try a new workout routine. With my schedule I just couldn’t figure out how to squeeze in an extra hour each day so I woke up early to get my work out done before my boys woke up. 
Now, if you know me well, you know that waking up…especially early…is NOT something I do especially well. It’s a HUGE sacrifice! 

But my desire to try the new routine overrode my inability to wake up and I did it…every single day at 6am for several months in a row! 
Squeezing in something you LOVE to do will make you feel like a million bucks and it will change the way you live the rest of that day… for the better!

3. Make sure your conditions promote concentration (for YOU)
Some people can concentrate in any situation by ‘simply’ blocking out all that is going on around them. Personally, I have a hard time concentrating when there is much noise at all so I have to juggle people and responsibilities around to create an atmosphere where my time and work will be productive. That seems next to impossible with two small boys, but it is doable. 
I usually plan my practicing around nap time, bedtime or when my babes are with a babysitter  to create an atmosphere that will work for me. The last thing I need is to spend time at the piano only to feel it was wasted by lack of concentration.

4. Start small and use your time wisely
Don’t plan too much for yourself…it will only result in frustration. Choose a piece you are going to work on and then start with the most difficult sections during your practice session. You probably don’t have time for anything else until you master those technical obstacles…then you can think bigger.

There are days when my practice session consists only of tiny sections of continuous repetitions. Then after 10-15 minutes of concentration I have a little one tugging at my leg. At this moment I have a choice…do I get frustrated and send my babes away? Or do I stop my practice session and feel I accomplished something by mastering that one particular section, even if it only lasted a short while?
What do you do?

Feeling accomplishment and hearing the beauty of the pieces as you slowly gain control make practicing motivating. 
With the kind of busy schedules we have these days the accomplishment and beauty come in small moments…small sections…so start small and you will feel BIG!

5. What KIND of practicing works for YOU?
“It's not necessarily the amount of time you spend at practice that counts; it's what you put into the practice.”
-Eric Lindros, Canadian ice hockey player

Do you work best with a timer at your practice session?
Do you use an ipod application similar to the one Jenny mentioned this week?
What kind of practice works for YOU? 

I’m a goal oriented teacher and that’s how I practice as well.
I set small goals for myself…knowing that if I master each individual goal it will not only help me learn quickly and more efficiently, it will all add up to mastering the whole…which is the ultimate goal.
If sitting with your instrument and practicing will make you feel fulfilled, successful, accomplished and motivated to do even more…then you NEED to DO IT!
 No matter how long or short that time may be.

REMEMEBER: seasons come and go…
There once was a season in my life when I practiced 4-8 hours every day, but that season has gone for now…I know it will return one day.
For now, I know what season I am in and that is alright with me.

Figure out what season YOU are in and set up your practicing accordingly.
You CAN continue to practice…
it will just be different than it once was.
Accept that. Move on. 
BE MOTIVATED. BE INSPIRED. 
Think small to accomplish BIG things.
You CAN DO IT…don’t let anything get in the way of what your soul was made to do. Your students, your loved ones and all who hear you perform will thank you for taking the time to nurture yourself from the inside out.

Thank you, Heather, for your motivating and inspiring words! 
Be sure to check out Heather's wonderful blog, Squeezing It All In

5 comments:

DavidTheSteak said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Megan said...

So I posted that last one under my husband's account...ha ha. Well I just wanted to say I loved this post and I'm totally inspired to get some practicing in. One problem is that I've sort of had a "falling out" with classical music as of late. It's a really strange feeling to me. I think I need to just find that piece that I just fall in love with.

JenSwen said...

Heather, you are so motivating! Thank you for your inspiring post. I have been doing so much accompanying that I've fallen behind on my solo practicing - the "real" stuff - and this post helped me recommit to practice the stuff that is most rewarding.

Anna said...

I loved your post. I love that you still think so much like I feel like I once did-checklists and planning. I have to say, my life isn't like that anymore. And I am totally fine with it. Here's my tip for those of you who may feel like it's impossible to practice anything with the little ones around and the loads of laundry around...
I just make sure it's very accessible. Our house is 700 square feet, so I can't really "get away" from the little tykes. I just make sure I leave MY music on the piano. So it's right there. So I can sit down at the piano as I pass from the kitchen to the bedroom and play for 5 minutes. 4 little hands usually join me while I do it, but since I am used to them, I feel like I can still concentrate for those 5 minutes.
I definitely don't feel like I accomplish grand things, but 5 minutes here and there sure make me feel pretty good. :)

Don Caron said...

Thanks Heather for the great post. Brought back a lot of memories from when practicing the piano was always on my mind. Reminded me of something Margaret Ott used to say, frequently, "Play music everyday." I guess I let that slip. Thanks for the reminder.

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