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Practice Makes Perfect: Finding Motivation to Improve

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    “Practice Makes Perfect” is an age-old phrase we are all told to get to greatness in our respective careers, but it can be a complete pain, especially as a performing artist.  After practicing for hours, days and weeks for one performance to then fall on your face, its just….a pain!  It makes the purpose of practicing seem elusive.   There have been countless times of trial and error.  I have dropped practice routines from boredom or frustration and mindlessly went through songs and did not get the most of my effort.  From my experiences, I am going to share some ways to get back on the wagon and keep you there longer.

    Find Your Goal

    With anything you set out to accomplish in life, a goal must be in place.  A goal can be difficult to define and in some cases, requires some soul searching.  Find a song, album, or artist that truly lights up your soul.  Do not let the people around you define what get’s that imagination going.  Think about it this way:  Why would you study the shredding technique of Steve Vai when you melt to the sweet melodies Al Di Meola?  Develop how you want to present yourself as an artist and then the goal will become clearer and the work more enjoyable.  Now you can begin to break down what you need to study to achieve that goal.  

    Goals can be simple or as complex as you would like, but I recommend keeping it simple.  Maybe you want the ability to play through a 12 bar blues, work on a new picking style, or even learn the notes on your instrument.  Pick something within your attainable skill and that will give you positive energy when you achieve results.  Also, one of the best aspects of music is its open landscape of learning.  If the goal you set gets stale, put it aside and study another aspect.  This can only improve your musicianship.  Maybe even help you get over the hump of your stale goal.  It’s a win – win!

    Music Practice Music Production Recording Studio DMV Virginia Washington DCPractice Melodically

    When I graduated from college if someone asked me to play one more major scale I might have imploded!  Do not get me wrong… learning the major scales is imperative if you want to continue growth as a musician, but I had to develop a new approach to practicing.  My most recent goal is rebuilding my strength on bass guitar.  Which means breaking out the metronome and begin repetition of scales and arpeggios.  Sounds appealing, right?  To combat complacency, I practice the major scales melodically.  Do not just go up and down the scale to say you fulfilled your obligation.  This creates pits of insecurity as you are not being deliberate with the physical connection to playing your notes with integrity.  Instead, create a melody line and repeat it for each scale.  Not only are you creating a new melody, but you are also applying it to your instrument.  You are more likely to play your notes to their deserved value because you want to hear it played great!

    And most importantly, do not forget to slow down the tempo.  Use a metronome to help keep you in a groove.  If you struggle with the metronome, click here for some direction.

    Record Yourself

    Recording is an amazing invention and today it’s so widely available.  Even your phones have the ability of a mini-DAW or a basic recording application.  Despite the scary truth of listening to your own weakness, take advantage of these tools and record your practice.  It really can be eye opening when you realize how uneven your notes sound or the attack of a note is tentative.  Even Better… you can document your improvement!

    Exercise Your Mind

    There are plenty of opportunities to practice even if you are miles away from your instrument.  The brain has a powerful tool – visualization.  Waiting in line for your coffee?  Name the notes on your instrument.  Seems like you will never leave the dentist chair?  Pick a scale and name the notes.  Dog taking their sweet time finding their local toilet?  Envision performing your latest piece for your favorite audience.  Microwave not mutating your lunch fast enough?  Look at the countdown, turn around and see if you can make it zero at the same time.  

    This all may sound ridiculous, but visualizing is equal, if not more, important than the physical playing of an instrument.  These days most musicians are bound to full-time jobs while trying to devote energy to their craft.  Use every moment as an opportunity to challenge your brain with music.

    Stop Comparingmozart-guitar-quote

    Comparing can be devastating to a musician’s ego.  So many times I’ve compared myself to other, often more experienced, musicians and this is not a healthy approach.  Each of us come from such diverse backgrounds, comparing is just not realistic.  However, you should be realistic with your level of musicianship.  Concentrate on developing your craft using the tools of the musicians you respect.  Let your mind become curious instead of furious.  Don’t idolize.  Grow.  


    Peace. Love. Rock’n’Roll.


    Recording Studio Washington DC Music Production

    Lani A’Kea


    Multi-instrumentalist, composer, audio engineer, producer, and recording artist, Lani a’Kea, is a Nashville native who found her passion for music at a young age. Following her path, she continued earning her degree in music from Cumberland University and is also involved in music production for the local DC scene. Now, Lani writes, produces, and performs her own works, fronting The Watch.  

    Lani a’Kea…Pure Magic.

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