A common email that I often receive goes something like this:
“Hey Joe: I’ve been playing bass for many years and although I love music so much, I just can’t seem to find the time to practice. What is your advice for how I can improve my skills even if I can’t find enough time to practice my bass?”
The answer to this question is that there are only two aspects that you have to acquire in order to successfully improve as a musician. The first thing is having the burning desire to do it and the second factor is being able to develop an organised plan of study in order to transform that ‘burning desire’ into action.
The problem that most people face is that they haven’t yet defined that ‘burning desire’ to play music within themselves. Oh, they might be attracted to the ‘idea’ of being a good musician, but once they realise what is entailed to actually get good, the flame that they once thought they had turns into a flickering blur of what they first anticipated.
A question I often ask my students is, “Do you love music?” Resoundingly, people boldly profess their love for music without really thinking about it. They just can’t wait to say… “YES!” My follow-up question is, “Okay, what sacrifices and commitments have you made today to support your unquestionable love for music?” Unbelievably, this is usually followed by a long pause, or a list of irrelevant answers like, “Well I made it to the lesson today, didn’t I?” The punch line is clear- if you don’t develop that burning desire to do it, then you never will. Unfortunately, there is a litany of bass teachers around these days who will not tell you this because it’s not politically correct to do so in this day and age; or it’s not in alignment with their hyperbole marketing to sell you a bunch of worthless ‘you’ve got to be having fun while you practice’ bass lessons.
There is a basic principle that permeates through life called Cause and Effect. When you practice you are operating from the cause part of the cycle. The result or effect of your practice time (cause) is where the fun part comes in as a result of developing a strong musical foundation. I have always religiously stuck to this basic truth when teaching my students and as a result have a very strong student retention relationship with the people who I teach. In fact, it is uncommon for people who study with me to leave before at least 2 to 3 years of intensive lessons; many stay with me much, much longer.
Time management is the biggest stumbling block after you have your ‘burning desire’ epiphany. A simple fix, but unsettling for most in the beginning, is to figure out how many hours there are in a week. Some quick calculations reveal that there are 168 hours in your week ahead of you. Commonly, people profess that they don’t have enough time, but simple math often enables more than enough time if you are organised. Let’s say you sleep 8-hours per day. You can get by on much less, but if you are sleeping more than eight hours per day you can find some extra time right there. However, sleeping 8-hours a day leaves you 112 hours to do everything else. Let’s take some time off for work. 112 minus 60 (work hours) equals 52 hours. 52 hours minus 21 (3-hours per day practice) leaves you with 31 hours for fun. Now what is important about these calculations is that they are reflecting your hours on a daily basis. Most people who claim they practice 3-hours per day, in reality only do that for a portion of their week- maybe two to three days max (these calculations are derived from over 30 years of real-world case studies).
Now, 3-hours per day is not for the faint hearted (I’m talking about every day)! Try it for just one month and you will see what I’m talking about. But what would it be like for you to successfully accomplish practicing just one hour per day? Again, I mean every day! You see, most people who might have practiced one hour for maybe two or three days in their week, will often claim that they do this every day, but the truth is that they often fall very short from their desired goal. Try to put this into a Cause and Effect action plan, where the next 4-weeks you practice one hour every day- that’s 28 days in a row, no exceptions. If you can do one month than you will be able to do three months. Remember- a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step! You have to write it down; you have to have an organised plan and you have to want to do it.
Until next time…practice smart, work hard and play creatively!