Procastinate less and do more

This list of tips which I will post over 7 weeks was published by CMuse

Choose what to practice next

Have you ever had a “what now?” moment after you are done practicing a particular piece? Being at loss as to what to do is a huge productivity killer, so make sure you plan ahead of time what to practice next. Alternatively, have your instructor give you a sensible list of compositions you can study and practice.

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Procrastinate less and do more

This list of tips which I will post over 7 weeks was published by CMuse

Just do it!

Overwhelmed by a task and at loss as to where to begin? There’s no best way to go about it than just starting. If you know you have to tackle the first Prelude of Rachmaninoff but you have no idea how to convey that pathos that has most pianists end up drenched in sweat, just start playing, and, eventually, things will take care of themselves. Diving into a cumbersome task headfirst can get your productivity (and creativity) flowing.

Monday motivation

The following is from a blog post by Samantha Coates.  Over the last 5 Mondays, I’ve posted her sport / music analogies. Please visit her fabulous blog.

Be your own practice coach

Piano practice is actually much harder than sport practice, because it is a solitary activity. In sport, the coach is there all the time, telling you what to do. In piano, the ‘coach’ is the piano teacher, and you only get one lesson per week with him/her; the rest of the time, you are on your own at home. So a practice coach analogy helps:

First of all, don’t skip piano practice. The same way you would never dream of missing basketball practice and letting the team down. The same way you reluctantly get out of bed at 5am to go to squad training at the pool, knowing that you won’t improve if you don’t do this and that the coach will really yell at you if you miss it.

Secondly, don’t slack off in your practice. Playing pieces once from beginning to end is as useful as a training session where your coach offers you a hot chocolate and a comfy chair. Just as you are expected to put in 100% effort and be exhausted at the end of sport practice, you should be prepared to engage fully in your piano practice, working on your weaknesses and constantly trying to improve.

Procrastinate less and do more

This list of tips which I will post over 7 weeks was published by CMuse

Avoid repetition

The importance of repetition is a notion that we are taught upon our introduction to musical training. “Play each passage ten times before moving on” was a mantra we all had to abide by, even though we really did feel annoyed and spaced out at the end of such task. Well, turns out that our brains are not hardwired to pay attention to repetition. They like change! Think of how pre-verbal infants react to stimuli: show a baby the same object over and over again and, at the end of the day, he will just stop paying attention to it. This process is called “habituation.” However, if you change the object, attention will return at its fullest. Even among adults, less stimuli mean a reduced brain activation. So try to vary your practice session as much as you can. In a 25-30 minute session, try to practice at least three different excerpts/passage. You can either devote ten minutes to each of those or divide your schedule into ten three-minute sessions, and sequentially practice each passage within its three-minute time window, and repeat the cycle until you reach your 30-minute goal.

Monday motivation

The following is from a blog post by Samantha Coates.  Over the next 5 Mondays, I’ll post her sport / music analogies

Breaking down practice

I have a student who competes in long jump at a state level, and we recently compared her training sessions to her piano practice:

Long Jump Piano Practice
Jumping from the foul line without a run-up Don’t start from the beginning, concentrate on a small section
Jumping over an obstacle to achieve more height as well as length Practicing a passage in a different way e.g. rhythms, to achieve evenness
Sprint training, to work on run-up Scale practice, to improve technique for fast passages
Turning up to training wearing high heels Coming to lesson with freshly manicured long nails

 

Procrastinate less and do more

This list of tips which I will post over 7 weeks was published by CMuse

Put off checking your social media handles

facebook musical notes

This tip may, at first sight, contradict what we preached so far, but you may agree that being too plugged in really hinders your productivity. Facebook, Whatsapp, Snapchat, etc.  need constant checking, and they are guilty of breaking focus. So, as a corollary to the pomodoro technique, set aside a few designated times to interact with your social media community of friends. Set a timeframe to respond to emails, another one to engage in sheer social media activity. If your “plugged-in” time becomes an item of your “to-do list” rather than an aimless refreshing and scrolling, mostly dictated by boredom, it will no longer kill your productivity.

Monday motivation

The following is from a blog post by Samantha Coates.  Over the next 5 Mondays, I’ll post her sport / music analogies

Making a practice routine

Most children who take up piano will practice because their parents insist on it. I have done many other blog posts about how best to form a good practice routine. But what happens when the adult is in charge of their own practice?

Many mature age students, who are either taking up piano for the first time or returning to piano after many years’ break, think of it as an intellectual pursuit. They are taking up music – music! – and have a clear idea in their heads of what and how they would like to play, taking much pleasure in the thought of pursuing this musical goal.

Then real life sets in… busy days looking after family… practice only happens once a week or so, if that… and the frustration of not being able to play sets in. A sporting analogy is helpful here, one of personal training:

Imagine you want to run the half-marathon next year, but have not done any running since you were a kid. (Insert ‘play Fur Elise’ where it says ‘run the half marathon’). You engage a personal trainer, paying them each week to have a one-on-one session with you. What is that trainer going to expect you to do in between these sessions? Run. Run every day, a little more each time. Now, if you don’t ever manage to squeeze this running practice into your week, you would not get any fitter and would also not expect to gain much from the sessions with the trainer.

Procrastinate less and do more

This list of tips which I will post over 7 weeks was published by CMuse

If you feel zone-out after a while, try the Pomodoro technique

Have you ever felt increasingly bored while practicing for an extended period of time and gotten too lazy to power through?

It turns out that stopping for a few minutes, even to watch an extremely silly tv show, is actually beneficial to your learning abilities. Taking a short break to get back in focus is actually a well-known productivity method that goes by the name of the pomodoro technique. It’s a time management system invented by Francesco Cirillo that works with the tendency of the human mind to become overwhelmed by too much work. The pomodoro technique suggests breaking a bigger project into smaller tasks, and separating each of those by smaller breaks, which will help you recharge your batteries. It’s called pomodoro technique because Cirillo used a tomato-shaped kitchen timer (Pomodoro in Italian) to time his  session and breaks. Since you will have a break to look forward to, you will also be more likely to work harder during your work periods.

What you have to do is choose a task to be accomplished, set your timer to 25 minutes, work until it rings, take a short break (up to 5 minutes) and then start another 25-minute session. Every four sessions, you can take a longer break.

Monday motivation

The following is from a blog post by Samantha Coates.  Over the next 5 Mondays, I’ll post her sport / music analogies

Not ignoring technical work

Most students avoid playing scales because they do not grasp the relevance of doing so. I use the following tennis analogy:

Everyone loves to watch Lleyton Hewitt play tennis (when he wins). People enjoy watching the games. But no-one would enjoy watching his coaching sessions, when he is working on just his forehand over and over again – that would be boring. Imagine if Lleyton also thought that was boring, and didn’t do any practice? Imagine if he didn’t go to the gym and work out? He wouldn’t be a very good tennis player, and therefore no-one would enjoy watching his games.

Scales are the training and exercise that form your technique. Pieces are the ‘games’ that people can enjoy. You can’t have one without the other!!!

N.B. Professional musician Carolyn Worthy has blogged extensively on the tennis analogy. It’s fantastic – click here to read it.

Procrastinate less and do more

This list of tips which I will post over 7 weeks was published by CMuse

Practice whenever you can, even just for five minutes

Have you ever lived with a roommate who would play his instrument in any situation—during breakfast, tv commercials, before going out to dinner, and maybe on a late Sunday morning while waiting for his eggs to be cooked to perfection? At that time, you might have deemed him/her the most annoying person ever, but, come think of it, this person got handier and handier with difficult passages by just practicing them for short periods of time, as often as s/he could. It’s like finding a couple minutes every day to go through, say, five sets of lower abs, ninety seconds of plank and one-hundred squats.