I overheard one of the piano teachers talking with a student’s parents after a lesson one Saturday.
“He doesn’t practise enough,”said the teacher, followed by a knowing chuckle from the parents. “Ah, good, so you know it, then.”
That conversation is not unlike many that every teacher has (or will have) with the parents of a student. It was good to hear this piano teacher reinforcing the very things I say. In fact, I was talking about a practice routine with one of my clarinet students that morning, someone who had earlier that morning been involved in that all consuming sport called swimming.
My classic ‘when to practice’ advice usually includes.
- In the morning before going to school (I did this as a kid but it only works if you don’t have a long commute)
- Before dinner, because mum always knows when dinner is, then you can at least build up an appetite. This one relies on the parents getting involved which doesn’t really promote kids being self managing.
- Straight after school when you get home
- If you’re super keen, before school starts if the music department studios are unlocked. This is why one should always have a good rapport with their teachers. You could always do lunchtime too if you’re not the socialising type. That being said, you could play sport with your mates 3 out of 5 of the school days. Always a possibility when a music exam nears.
Ultimately, each of the above has/requires one thing in common: they all need to happen at the same time every day. There is a schedule. As the piano teacher said to the parents that day, practising a musical instrument requires a schedule just like any extra curricular sports team practices before or after school. Their scheduling is fixed. Don’t just think “ah, what a nice day, I’ll practise saxophone/clarinet/piano/whatever later,” it’s important to allocate a certain time of the day to do that practise just like you would if you were doing football training with a team.
We’re creatures of habit, goes the saying, so there’s little reason why one can’t fall into the routine. Practising your musical instrument at a certain time of day just becomes the routine thing that is done. Before you know it, you’ll be freak’n amazing at your instrument because you’ve been practising (the year just flies by).
The same scheduling discipline isn’t confined to just music of course. My Monday, for example goes; work, gym, dinner, side project. I’ve been hammering out that routine for months. I’ll never become the next American Ninja Warrior but the exercise keeps me sane (and now I can get 20 wide-arm pullups in a row if I go stupidly fast). Dinner prolongs my break away from the computer just a little bit more to allow me to then make some progress on my side project. “How do you find the time?” some of the guys at work ask. My answer; “I don’t have a wife and kids.” (but it’s also because I do a little bit of my project every day).
Now I’ve just got to apply this disciple to the exercises I need to do to rehabilitate the patella tendon injury I have. My left knee pain is the bane of my life at the moment.