Ever wonder if you're making the best use of your time and energy as you practice and study each day? Students often ask me about developing good study habits, and how often they should practice, or for how long. I find that no two individuals are exactly alike, yet I've been able to arrive at some very interesting conclusions during my teaching career regarding the psychology of musical growth. I'd like to share a few of them with you.

First of all, to truly be in charge of your destiny, you need to spend some time on a regular basis away from your instrument, devoted to analyzing your current direction. How often? Daily would be too much, but weekly or monthly would be just about right. My goals have changed considerably throughout my career, and I've had to constantly adjust and "massage" my practice program accordingly to match my desires at any particular place in time. Try to be goal-oriented, and I would suggest that you keep a notebook handy, reserved for that purpose.

Secondly, you have to convince yourself that, once you've established a "quality" direction for your studies, the only thing keeping you from attaining your current goals is the time that you choose to devote to practice. This is an extremely important point because, as much as artistic pursuit is a lifelong affair, time is a measurable factor. Let me elaborate on that...

Since everyone's aptitude and learning ability differs, you're really only in direct competition with yourself. In the time that it takes you to learn something, it may take someone else considerably longer, or shorter. But it's all a moot point. The one thing that you can bank on is your own dedication, or lack of it. For instance, if you practice for thirty minutes a day, you'll total three and a half hours a week, around fifteen hours a month, and so on. You don't have to be a "rocket scientist" to figure out the results if you'd practiced sixty minutes a day. You'd simply accomplish twice as much. Guaranteed!

So, where does that leave us? You've made a game plan, and you understand the importance of the time you spend practicing. Now what? Let me discuss briefly how little goals can lead to big accomplishments. Basically, it all deals with a tiny bit of psychology.

The path to musical success is strewn with hurdles of frustration. The key, in my opinion, lies in controlling the "degree" of frustration, so that you're not left with a feeling of failure. Simply put, success breeds success. Set small, short-term goals for yourself. For instance, let's say that you decide to tackle a potentially frustrating project. Now, if you were to put everything aside, and go obsessively at this task, what do you think might happen? Well, besides the inherent frustration, you'd also be exposing yourself to a lot of pyschological frustration and failure as well. Why? Because it's human nature for our level of expectation to rise in direct proportion to the amount of time that we invest in a pursuit.

On the other hand, if you set your goal to simply spend ten or fifteen minutes a day at the same task, you reduce the frustration factor enormously. You don't expect as much, because you're not spending all of your time and energy there. Continuity will be established, and you will succeed in achieving your goals. Trust me!

"Coach's Corner" is an ongoing addition to Vision Music. The purpose of these brief articles is to share philosophy, offer practical insights, and to enhance your musical studies.

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