It’s that time of year again and with 2016 just around the corner lots of people are making resolutions to make 2016 the year they learn how to play a new instrument or learn how to sing. If previous years have taught us anything though, it’s that New Year’s Resolutions are easier made than kept. Using these tips (along with a little hard work and determination) you can make 2016 the year you succeed in keeping your resolutions- at least the musical ones!
Buy Your Instrument
If you don’t already own the instrument you want to learn, it’s a good idea to outright purchase your instrument of choice. While rental programs are also viable options, especially if you are on a tight budget, when you buy an instrument you are making a monetary commitment. You also can’t return it to the store you’re renting it from at the beginning of February!
Find a Teacher You Like
While online tutorials can be great resources, having a teacher that you visit on a weekly basis is by far the best way to learn an instrument. Your teacher won’t just help you learn how to play, they’ll also keep you on track with practicing and make sure you’re not developing bad habits or technique. Like having a gym buddy, your teacher will hold you accountable for putting in the time needed to keep that resolution.
It’s also important that you like your teacher and that your learning style fits with their teaching style. If you don’t enjoy your lessons you’re less likely to stick with them. Musika’s risk free trial lesson lets you take a lesson with your teacher before committing to studying with them, so if it doesn’t feel like a good fit you can try another teacher.
Don’t Cancel Your Lessons
After a long day at work or school it can often be tempting to cancel your lesson in favor of going home or grabbing a drink with friends. When you feel the urge to skip a week, remind yourself why you wanted to learn in the first place and think about the progress you’ve made. Also remember that your teacher has set aside time for you and they are expecting you. Things like family emergencies and coming down with the flu are bound to happen once in awhile and that’s okay, but try to avoid those “my dog ate my lesson book” weeks.
Practicing is where the real progress happens. It’s also the hardest part of learning any new skill. Even if it’s just 15 minutes per day, regular practice is how you’ll get better. When you’re juggling an already busy schedule, picking a time and setting it aside helps make practicing a habit. It also helps with fighting procrastination! Sit down once per week and plan when you’re going to practice during the upcoming week. Write it into your calendar or planner so that it’s part of your daily schedule and you can’t avoid it. If you don’t keep a written or digital calendar, try setting alerts on your phone or computer.
Do Mental Practice
Sitting down and formally practicing your instrument is the main way to improve, but mental or informal practicing is also a useful tool. If you commute to work or school, use your travel time to listen to a recording of your most recent lesson. Have five extra minutes waiting for an event to start? Go over key signatures or the order of the notes on the staff in your head instead of playing with your phone. If you’re a doodler, try drawing the music you’re working on or the lyrics to the song you’re learning instead of your normal doodles. Practice hand positions with a tabletop for a keyboard, a pencil for wind instruments, or even just in the air. You’ll not only be more prepared when you sit down for formal practicing, you’ll also keep yourself actively interested in learning which will help you stick with it.
Any time you set out to try something new there will always be things that are especially difficult to master. When you’re stuck on sixteenth notes or fuming over finger placement, step back, take a break, and remember why you wanted to learn your instrument in the first place. Put on some music by a musician you look up to or admire and think about how awesome your instrument sounds. Keep in mind that everyone started somewhere and that all musicians have something they can improve on. Stick with it and by this time next year you’ll be glad you did.