The Necessity of Practice

Our country was built on the principle of hard work and integrity. People from all around the world immigrated to the United States, often with very little. These people assimilated to the culture, started businesses, and created innovative products and services that have shaped and influenced our lives. Unfortunately, we have lost much of that work ethic in our present day. We have become immersed in social media, video games, and vanity that has consumed and numbed the minds of people. We have become a nation that is driven by entertainment. Billions of entertainment dollars make up our gross domestic product. While rest and social activities are important aspects to life, we need to find a balance between recreation and hard work. This same principle applies to practicing our instrument. Talent alone is not sufficient. It must be coupled with practice, patience, and persistence. You may have a God-given talent at your instrument or inherited a gift from your dad, but it will never evolve if you don't put the time and work into it. In simplest terms, it's not about how much talent you have, but it's what you do with the talent you have.

In this resource, we will discuss the necessity of practice and the fruits you will bear with practice. Practice is a must for progress and success at your instrument. There is no other way around it. If we solely relied on talent without the necessity of practice, the music industry would be flooded with talented and amazing musicians. Many musicians have the desire to get good, but they don't have the discipline to practice. It is similar to a talented athlete. For example, there have been first round draft picks in the NFL with an amazing gift to play football. Because of their poor work ethic and lack of discipline, they ended up being "busts". They end up losing their positions and getting cut. This is wasted talent. There are three essential components in developing the discipline of practice: 1. Find a selective and steady time to practice each day. 2. Divide up your time of practice to review past material, present lesson material, and personal practice. 3. Find a trustworthy person to hold you accountable to practicing.

1. Find a selective and steady time to practice each day. Life gets busy at times. The demands of being a student, working, and having other responsibilities can all be draining and time- consuming. In addition, time goes by extremely fast. When we don't have control over our schedules, our schedules will have control over us. We put to-do lists together, but get distracted by other things. Or, other emergencies occur that occupy our time. We look back at the day and wonder what happened to the time. It is important to find a steady time to practice each day. This should be at a time that works best with your schedule and where you are most focused and creative. Eliminate all other distractions during this time (T.V., phone, video games) and let others know in your household so they are informed and you won't be distracted. This is very practical, but many students want to practice but are disorganized. For instance, they'll practice on Monday and Tuesday at different times, but they'll forget on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. This is why it's crucial to select a consistent time each day. Just like we have to be in a certain class at a specific time, we should select a specific time to practice. This will result in continuity, consistency, and become a good habit.

2. Divide up your time. One of the reasons students get bored practicing is because they spend all of their time going over the lesson material. While this is the primary material to work on because this will determine your progress for the next lesson, practice time should also be developed in reviewing previous material and personal practice.

Have you ever looked in a book you had for a class a few years ago? Although you probably forgot the detailed content, the material will likely come to you more naturally, because you have grown in wisdom, knowledge, and experience. The same thing occurs when we take the time reviewing past lesson material. It will give us a chance to further enhance our feel, groove, and timing from previously learning it. This is recommended, because it will help you learn to play subsequent beats/patterns naturally and with more fluidity. This is such an important component in learning your instrument, because music is made up of feel, groove, timing, and rhythm.

A common concern with taking drum lessons is what to practice each week. For example, when students alternate drum lessons between the drum pad and drum set, they should spend time on both instruments, regardless of what they have the following lesson. For instance, if you have a drum pad lesson on Friday, spend most of your time preparing for the pad material. Spend time on the drum set as well so you don't forget what to do on the drum set. This is simple instruction, but many students will solely focus on what they have for the following lesson, and forget about the other material. When it comes time to practicing the other material, they completely forget what to do and end up reviewing that lesson. Make sure time is allocated to both instruments. Simply maximize your time on the instrument you have for that week. You will always be on track, prepared, confident, and ready to proceed with new material following this process.

The last component of dividing up your practice time is investing time in personal development. Personal development is the result of innovation, originality, and creativity. Personal practice can be done in different ways. First, you can invest in instructional resources such as: books, CDs, and videos of influential musical educators. Expose yourself to different styles of music, musical philosophies, and books that will help enhance your reading skills. If you are a visual learner, you can watch and learn from musicians giving instruction. If you are an auditory learner and a hands-on learner, you can purchase books with CDs included. You can hear the beats played and follow along reading from the notes. Second, you can develop personal practice by playing along with other music. For instance, I have my drumming students play along with an instrumental CD without drumming. The purpose of this is for the student to create and incorporate his or her own beat and ideas into that rhythm so he/she can develop their own sound. You can play along with a click track, programmer, drum machine, or whatever device that can help enable you to develop your own style. Third, you can develop personal practice by what I call "free playing". This is when you create a beat or rhythm and continually improvise it as you progress every few measures. You don't have any accompaniment (no reading, CD, video, or memorization). It's solely you developing ideas as you play along. This often takes time and experience, but you will be surprised how musical and creative the motor cortex part of our brain can be!

Find a trustworthy person to hold you accountable in practicing. There are several terms associated with accountability. These include: responsibility, ethics, answerability, and liability. It is best defined as appointing a well established person in monitoring one's character, work ethic, and production. It is widely used in many governmental, educational, and business scenarios, and was also a strong practice used in the early church. According to the early church fathers, catechumens (new believers of the Christian faith who received teaching/education on the faith before their subsequent baptism) were carefully monitored for their lifestyle and morality. If their lives matched their profession, they would be baptized, which was entry into the church and participation in the Eucharist. Conversely, if their lives were filled with immorality, hypocrisy, and other kinds of sin, they would be rejected. This process was rigorous and often lasted up to a few years. The reason I share this is because accountability is the only measure someone can be monitored if he or she is doing what they're supposed to do. Regardless of age, it can be easy to lose focus/discipline without having someone to encourage and keep you on track. It is strongly recommended to find a dependable person you can trust to hold you accountable in practicing your instrument. In addition to helping a student stay on track, having an accountability person will motivate you to practice even when you don't feel like practicing. They can encourage you, challenge you, and motivate you at your level of success and progression. It is always encouraging to have a role model who genuinely cares for you and your level of progress.

Practicing can often be associated with boredom or an obligation to do. Any student wants to get good, but few students are willing to put forth the time, effort, and practice. I believe, without reservation, that these principles will help make practice fun and motivating. Moreover, when a student sees his/her level of progress increase, practicing will become even more exhilarating. There is no such thing as overnight success. Progression and precision develop over a period of time as a result of consistent practice.

 

 

Testimonials

It is my pleasure to highly recommend Breaking Grounds in Music. My son has taken private conga lessons with Chris, the business owner, over the past several years. Private lessons with Chris have not only enhanced my son's comprehension of music theory and improved his skills and technique, but also given my son tremendous confidence and joy. My son enjoys working with Chris and always looks forward to his weekly lessons.

Chris is an excellent teacher, dedicated to serving the varying musical needs of all students. He has a genuine interest in the lives and passions of each student, providing a tailored curriculum for each. Chris believes in the importance of music and the appreciative use of music to enhance life.

Finally, Chris is a man of great personal integrity. I appreciate his honesty and professionalism when it comes to lesson scheduling and reasonableness of fees. He is an exceptional communicator and facilitates honest exchanges between and among student, instructor and parent.

- Georgiana T. (Review from Yelp)