Getting Back To Your Practice Ritual

Mar 02, 2022
Getting back into a regular practice schedule can be difficult for musicians.

I had a conversation with an adult student of mine recently who was very embarrassed and a bit ashamed that, after establishing and maintaining a regular and consistent daily practice ritual, he hadn't practiced for months.  "Man", he said "I was doing SO well.  I was playing everyday and I could really see the improvement.  I don't know how to get back to practicing daily.  My life has become so busy!"

Does this sound like you?  Maybe even a little?  C'mon now, you can tell ole Uncle Christopher!

As much as our Practice Warriors program shows people how to build a daily routine (I like the term 'ritual'), it's foolish and disingenuous to say that life won't knock you on your butt and knock you off your firmly established practice schedule once in a while.  For my aforementioned adult student, it was a change of job, working out of hotels and not having a stable home situation that disrupted his practicing.  However, despite all the challenging and time-constraining situations he had, I was able to make some suggestions that we both felt were simple yet strong strategies that could get him back on track.  

While some of these suggestions are specific to his particular situations, the solutions can be applied to most anyone who has fallen off their practice routine.  So, if you find that you haven't practiced consistently in a while...

* First and foremost, get back to doing something musical every single day.  Start small.  15 minutes.  5 minutes.  Heck...1 minute per day (okay, maybe 1 minute per day is pushing it).  The most important thing to do is to RE-ESTABLISH some kind of daily ritual around music, put it in your daily schedule, and DO IT!  

Again, it's all about re-establishing a scheduled, daily ritual.  You've got to get yourself re-conditioned to practicing, so that you conscious and unconscious mind are programed to practice every day.  

* Coming from a PRACTICE Warrior, I may now say something heretical:  you don't have to start "practicing" right away.  If you've been off your practice schedule and haven't been spending adequate time with your instrument, ANY type of playing will help you get your routine back.  Just sit and jam on your horn or strum some guitar chords or sing your favorite song...just make sure you schedule this time and do it.  Once you've been able to stick with a short amount of daily playing for about a week, then you can start making your practice ritual longer with less random jamming and more focus on improvement.  

* Let go of the past.  The funny thing is, most people who don't practice consistently feel a little bad about it.  However, when you get yourself an awesome practice ritual that you do consistently and THEN you stop practicing, you almost feel worse about it.  This is because you know you don't have any excuse not to practice.  This can be a good thing, because you are always in control of your self-improvement.  It can also be a bad thing, because now you could feel quite guilty about letting yourself down and not putting in your best effort.  

Let it go, my friend.  The past is the past.  Don't let that disappointment keep you from getting back up on that horse.  Schedule just a few minutes TODAY to get your practice ritual going again.  

* Re-establish some leverage.  This is basically where you tell yourself why it's important to YOU to practice regularly.  You may have to ask yourself "Why is it important to me to improve my musical skills?".  Think about what is it that you want to get out of being a better musician?  Impress your friends?  Attract a romantic partner?  Become famous? Feel good about yourself?  Getting clear on your initial motivations will help give you the DRIVE to sit down and practice regularly. 

Now, my student also had to deal with spending a few nights in hotel rooms.  Fortunately, he was driving to all these places instead of needing to take a plane (we discuss how to travel and still maintain your practice ritual extensively in our Practice Warriors Masterclass).  Since he was driving, I suggested he take his instrument with him and simply play for a set amount of time each day.  Frankly, with all the hours he was working and traveling, sitting down with his instrument at the end of the day was a great way to unwind.  

Again, more importantly at this point it's simply about getting back to a daily schedule.  Once the daily schedule is firmly established, more focused improvement can begin.  

A final challenge was that he had was that he wasn't living at his own home.  Rather, when he wasn't staying at hotels a couple of nights a week, he was staying at a friend's house.  He didn't feel comfortable excusing himself to find a corner to practice, or make some racket that might disturb his hosts.  

I suggested that he have an honest conversation with his hosts.  Tell them that practicing and improving on his instrument was very important to him.  I said he should find out from them the most convenient time and place in the house for him to get in at least 20 minutes to practice.  I also said that he should include his housemates in on the fun.  If he is working on a scale, then after practicing he should jam on his scale for them for a few minutes (free house concert!).  If he was writing a song, he could preview it for them and ask for their feedback.  People are very tolerant and giving when they are included (especially when you ask for their opinions!).  

The thing is folks, as much as we'd all like to practice our instrument everyday, life has other plans for us.  Being a Practice Warrior isn't about grinding it out day in and day out.  It's about being smart with your time, organized with your goals, and making adjustments when things get tough.  Practice Warriors get back on their feet when they get knocked down.  So, if you've been slacking at your practicing, whether it's by laziness, frustration or things out of your control, simply start back up slowly, reestablish compelling reasons why playing music is important to you, and stick to a short time frame each day.  You'll be back on top of your game in no time!

Good luck, my friend!


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