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How To Practice Better | Tips for Musicians

Journal entry with the text, "Instead of trying to fix things, just make them better."

Instead of trying to fix things, just make them better. Practice better.


You might say, “It’s not that simple.”


But isn’t it?


Sometime over the past year, I began internalizing the idea of inching forward as the goal over completing, perfecting, finishing, fixing, etc.


I repeat to myself as often as I can remember, "One step at a time. One step at a time."


My brain hurts less. I feel more at peace. And it’s just a change of expectation.


  • Instead of failing to get in a full hour practice session, I have curiously worked through 20 minutes of music and exercises.

  • Instead of failing to clear my inbox, I have done a good chunk of decluttering and deleting emails.

  • Instead of failing to clear my to-do list, I have done one tiny thing, and magically, every tiny thing you do makes the list shrink.

This is not to say don’t set goals, but more to say, your progress bar will not pop from 0% to 100%. It will hardly pop from 60% to 100%. And you have to remind yourself not to expect it to.


There are some simple, but not easy, goals and wishes that will possibly never reach 100%: playing “more” musically, increasing your scales tempos (forever?), preparing a piece of music to your desired expectation (?) deep cleaning your house, getting your inbox to 0…


But everything can inch forward. The beauty is in NOTICING the inches. Notice the quality shift in your day when you practice 5 minutes instead of no minutes, eat 3 bites of lunch instead of no lunch, or send 1 email you’ve been meaning to send. Each of those feels monumentally better when you recognize and feel into the abundance of progress instead of berating yourself for your perceived lack of moving forward.


Expecting near flawless, incessant productivity and excellence from ourselves is not only unsustainable, but it's unproductive in the long run. Human beings are deeply flawed souls of flesh and bones. Computers will always be able to outrun humans in speed and efficiency (and sometimes perfection). But humans will always surpass computers with emotion, with care, with compassion, with soul, and with love. It's what connects us more deeply to art made by real humans than robotic sounds of correct pitches and rhythms spewed from computer code. Computers might have near-perfect accuracy and speed, but the unparalleled creative and emotional nature of the human soul is exclusive to us.


Excellence only happens one step at a time. To expect more of yourself is to expect robotic proficiency, and there is no need to conform to robot standards in a world that needs more humanity and human standards.


If you’d like to guilt and shame yourself into reaching your goals, be my guest. But ask yourself, why is this my default? Why do guilt and shame and lack of self-compassion make me feel like a hard worker?


Does it feel like the only way to get to "success" or 100% proficiency and completion, is by skipping all the tiny steps and completing one huge step flawlessly?


Are you more of a musician if you can learn music without trying and failing and learning and succeeding over and over again? Is that really what would make you worthy? To be able to hide your tiny, rudimentary, human steps of progress and appear as a "natural" virtuoso?


Are ants not moving forward just because their steps are smaller than lions?


You are always moving forward. Even if you’re just existing.



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