Soundfly

Home for the Curious Musician

3 Practice Tips for Short Attention Spans

Practice tips for short attention spans

“Practice makes perfect.”

While I can’t necessarily say I’ve heard any “perfect” music yet, I will certainly attest to the fact that putting in the time will improve any musician’s sound. Throughout my college and post-degree years, I’ve heard people talk about how they “hit the shed” for days at a time — stopping only to deal with human necessities like food and sleep.

I was (and still am) envious of people who can isolate themselves like that and come out sounding noticeably better. However, as someone with a disturbingly short attention span, marathon practicing has never really been my style. That said, I still manage to hold my own as a professional musician and am constantly improving at a healthy rate.

So how is that possible? I’m so glad I just made you ask that question! Here are a few tricks and tips I’ve picked up in my two decades of musical experience.

+ Learn more: Not sure what to practice? Get inspired with our creative music courses!

1. Alternate practice with something self-indulgent.

Super nerdy confession time: if I have something I need to work on and am not feeling too motivated, I’ve been known to reward myself with video games. Thirty minutes of some tedious exercise or piece I’m playing, followed by a round of Mario Kart. The interesting thing is that after a while, a shift usually happens, and the playing starts to feel like the reward. Sometimes you just need a little motivation to jump over that hump and get back on track.

2. Sound the alarm.

Practice Tips, Soundfly CoursesWhile I’m not a huge proponent of measuring practice in minutes and hours as a general rule, I do love timers. Short increments of inspired time are often more productive than huge chunks of frustrated drilling. If you’re not feeling motivated, try setting a timer. Knowing there’s an end in sight can really help you focus while the clock counts down.

3. Focus on small chunks and simple victories.

Compartmentalize your goals. If you’re like me, you may even want to write them down so you can have the satisfaction of crossing them off later. When I learned Liszt’s “Liebestraum”, I practiced in one or two bar segments. In the beginning, I set a metronome at a speed so low I could play with few or no mistakes. Eventually, I turned off the metronome, combined the measures, and played at the proper tempo. Thanks to the tiny chunks method, I didn’t have to go back and correct any bad habits. Also, memorization was a breeze.

+ Read more: Need more inspiration to hit the shed? Check out all our practice tips here!

Hopefully your things-to-practice list is looking a little less intimidating now. Let us know what you’re working on and what works for you in the comments below!

Get the top Flypaper articles delivered straight to your inbox once a week.

Mahea Lee

Mahea Lee is a classically trained pianist and composer who has a degree from a jazz school and leads an electro-pop band. Her greatest musical passion is lyrical songwriting, but she's been known to write the occasional fugue. She graduated from Berklee College of Music, where she majored in Contemporary Writing and Production and minored in Music Theory. For more Mahea, check out Soundlfly's course, The Improviser's Toolkit.

  • Hacker

    Really great way to break up the sometimes monotony of practicing. Thanks for the tips!

Get music news and tips delivered to your inbox once a week.