Setting up a proper workspace can make practice time infinitely more productive — at least, it definitely did for me. Here’s a list of things to keep at hand when you’re honing your craft.
1. A notebook
Okay, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be a literal notebook (though I personally feel pretty tied to my kelly green Moleskine). If you do better with digital, start a Google doc or series of emails to yourself, or even a note page on your phone. Whatever the format, keep a record of your practice time. This will become an excellent resource, full of information you’ve collected and lessons you’ve learned in your musical journey. It will also allow you to gage your progress and keep track of random bursts of inspiration.
2. A muse
Speaking of inspiration, have something around that gets your creativity going. That might mean warming up with recordings of your favorite songs, taping the unsmiling face of Sergei Rachmoninoff to your wall, or adding upcoming gigs to your desk calendar in bright ink. Give yourself a visual source of inspiration.
3. A recording device
Huge confession: I listen to recordings of myself practicing when I’m on the subway. And you know what? It’s super helpful. Record some of your practice session and listen back — even when you’re nowhere near your instrument. If you feel weird about it, nod your head subtly. People will probably assume you’re listening to the new Kendrick Lamar album. Also, maybe you should listen to that album.
4. A mirror
Narcissistic though it may sound, having a mirror in your practice space can be incredibly useful. Set it up in a way that will allow you to check technique. As a pianist, I usually keep mine at one end of my keyboard so I’m reminded to relax my wrists and curve my fingers. Just don’t aim it at your eyes or you run the risk of getting lost in them!
5. Some resources
Keep musical goodies like sheet music, your favorite albums, or a list of exercises nearby. Having these items directly in your workspace is a good way to make sure you don’t get distracted by everything else in the world during your practice time.
6. A metronome
That’s right, kids — a metronome. If you took piano lessons as a child, you probably have resentful memories of that cruel pendulum swinging back and forth as you struggled through your Hanons, but good news! There are now websites and apps that do the same thing, but with exciting lights, pleasant sounds, and a wonderful lack of gears to wind. The fact is, practicing to a set tempo is a pretty necessary part of strengthening your sense of time. Playing to tracks (especially those that were clearly recorded to a click) is really helpful too.
Bonus: This picture of my dog
If all else fails, let Norman inspire you to keep at it.