There comes a point in every students’ learning when practice becomes arduous and stale. This can happen to any student at any age or skill level. Often hectic work or school schedules leave little time for practice making it feel like a chore, or students plateau at times and feel as if they are not making progress. The plateau often happens at the intersect of learning a new skill and a busy life schedule. No matter the reason it is important to remember that this a normal part of the learning process that everyone goes through not just once, but possibly multiple times throughout ones playing career.
Knowing plateau or busy schedules will happen, it is a good idea to have plans that will keep practice fresh and productive:
- Recording — This is an underutilized technique which has many benefits. Learning the basics of sound recording and technology can open doors to new interests which were not thought of before. Recording a practice session helps a student with their listening skills as they are not listening as intently while they are busy playing. Often a student will hear something in a recording that will help them solve a problem or better interpret what their teacher is talking about in lessons.
- Ensembles — Practicing on your own consistently is another reason why many will struggle with practice at some point. We are social creatures so locking yourself up to practice alone for any amount of time is challenging for some. Finding someone to make music with is a refreshing way to keep interested and challenge yourself. Many schools offer ensemble opportunities and teachers love to have students playing together.
- Playing for family and friends — Although most practice should be spent alone without distraction, it is fun and encouraging for students to play for family and friends to showcase new skills. This also helps with preparation for recitals and helps get students used to playing for an audience and with distractions.
- Explore — When a student is playing for a while and I can start to tell that they are looking for more, I encourage them to explore new music or styles they want to play. Students should follow the path the instructor has them on, but making time to explore helps keeps interest and desire to learn churning.
- Gigs — Learning an instrument without a goal in mind can feel like going in circles especially when a student finds themselves in a rut. Finding gigs at a community event, party or recital are good goals that students can work towards. Teachers are often looking for opportunities to take students out to play for this reason: it gives students something to look forward to and a great feeling of accomplishment.
So don’t let your practice get boring or stale. Reach for new avenues to keep it exciting and fresh! Happy music making!