Robert J. Lawrence (Jimmy)
Ok, so everyone probably wanted to hear this first – how can I make practice more fun? Here are some quick and easy tips:
Sometimes a simple extrinsic reward after a robust practice can help make the “trouble” that much more enjoyable. Looking forward to a sweet treat or some videogames (or whatever external reward may motivate you) is the icing on the cake. If you are easily distracted by your favorite music, another helpful thing is to commit to playing that stuff only after a specific allotted time of productive practice, or after reaching small, short, attainable goals.
Allow time to explore and create
Along the same lines of playing your favorite music, save some non-practice time for checking out some music that interests you. It will help your sight-reading and give you a break, all while keeping your interest and willpower high. Also try composing some new music (at your instrument) during this time – it’s a good skill to learn, and can be very rewarding.
Try something new
Always have at least a small library of new music around. Reward yourself with some new piece, even something “below” your level. Having something new to chew own will up your interest and keep your motivation high – after all, success (with an easier piece) can breed success, and that always feels good.
Tweak your practice – try playing through a piece without touching the keyboard (or guitar strings, or without touching the bow to the strings, without blowing through the flute, you get the idea). Play it swung. Doing scales? Play your right hand staccato & piano and the left hand legato & forte. Or, play the right hand swung and the left hand inverted swing (Swiss-triplets for us percussion/piano combo players). Guitarists, play them with the right hand (that’ll throw your brain for a loop). There are all kinds of ways to really mix things up, and they will force you to think and get out of the routine of mindless practice, which can end up being very fun and/or engaging.
Really try something new – make it up yourself! Your ear and experience will tell you what sounds good, so go with it. Better yet, when you do come up with something interesting or fun, write it down. I’m a little biased, because I’m a composer – but there’s nothing more rewarding than playing or hearing a piece of good music that you wrote yourself. I’m going to stress it again: write it down, or you’ll regret not remembering that awesome riff/lick/phrase you played the other day.
Sure - music can be hard work, but it needs to be fun, too. What kind of things do you find the most rewarding about playing an instrument or singing? Let us know in the comments:
Jimmy here! My desire is to help others grow musically - especially those who don't have access to resources. I'm a husband, father of three, graduate student, and music educator.