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How to Create a Music Practice Schedule That’s Right for You

January 28, 2021

How to Create a Music Practice Schedule That’s Right for You

How do you create a music practice schedule that keeps you on track to meet your musical goals? How do you break through procrastination and so you can amaze even yourself with your level of motivation?

The new year rolled around, and you made big, ambitious music goals for the next twelve months. And yet, now that you’re in the thick of the year, you’re finding that it’s harder than expected to stick to your music goals. 

The novelty and excitement around the resolutions wears off and life does not grant you the perfect opportunity to get back on track. You meant to practice at the end of the day but by the time 5 pm rolled around you found yourself sprawled out on the couch browsing through Netflix. Sound familiar? 

I’ll show you how to avoid the procrastination Bermuda Triangle that is: “I’ll find the time to practice later.”  In today’s article, I’m going to show you how to create a music practice schedule that’s right for you.

Creating a Music Practice Schedule That Helps You Achieve Your Goals

a young musician creates a music practice schedule

1. Schedule Your Practice Time Into Your Days

First of all, you must schedule your practice and create calendar alerts for your practice sessions, and take your practice sessions just as seriously as you take any other commitment in your life. Set alarms on your phone as well.

Don’t just schedule your sessions in when you wake up in the morning. Plan a week in advance. Every Sunday, take the time to schedule all of your practice sessions plus a couple of “insurance” sessions in case something comes up. 

2. Scheduling Your “Insurance Sessions”

You probably will not need these “insurance” sessions very often, but it’s a good idea to have them in place to ensure you hit your practice hour total, even if unexpected events disrupt your original plan. 

I typically schedule these “insurance” sessions on the weekend when I know I’m less likely to encounter disruptions in my schedule. Having these insurance sessions means your music practice gets a little backup, and you don’t have to fret if a last-minute opportunity crops up that causes you to miss a mid-week session.

3. Create a Practice Sessions Outline

Next, outline WHAT you will practice in each session.  Refer back to your yearly, quarterly, and monthly practice goals at the beginning of the year and set your weekly practice goal accordingly.  To achieve your musical goals for the week, you must evaluate your schedule on the macro level.  It can be very easy to get distracted once life gets busy and performance commitments pile up. 

Your Sunday scheduling sessions ensure progress towards your goal and provide the opportunity to course correct.  Once you set your weekly goal, set progressive daily practice goals that guarantee the achievement of the weekly practice goal. Divide the daily goal into actionable tasks. For example, if my weekly goal is to increase my dynamic range on low F, E and E flat, Monday’s daily goal would be to work on long tone crescendos on low F, E, and E flat. I would then make sure I scheduled 15 minutes of long tone crescendos on low F, E, and E flat, spending about 5 minutes working on each note.

4. Don’t Break the Chain of Consistency!

Finally, establish a pattern of consistency that incentivizes your practicing. Have a physical calendar and cross off every day you achieve your practice goal. Do not break the chain of “x’s”! 

You’ll be amazed at how forming a habit around your learning will change your relationship to your music practice. Instead of trying to carve out time to play, you’ll automatically sit down in your practice chair, without even thinking about it. Pretty soon, you won’t even remember having a hard time getting motivated.

5. Reward Yourself for Your Success!

Reward yourself for successfully achieving your weekly, monthly, and quarterly practice goals. Take the time to appreciate your success!  For example, if I achieve my practice goal for the day, I reward myself with a piece of my favorite dark chocolate. Another option would be to put a dollar or two in a jar every time you achieve your practice goal and save towards a nice pair of shoes, nice night out, etc. 

6. Take Lessons With Other Students

Having friends and fellow students who share your musical goals can be a great way to improve your commitment to practice time. A weekly music class or lesson gives you something concrete to show up for, and means you’ll be held accountable – not just by yourself – but by a group of other people or a teacher.

Developing a Music Practice Schedule is About You and Your Goals

Get creative! your music practice schedule may look different from your fellow students’. Some of your friends may find early mornings are the best times to play music, while you may find practicing late at night works best for you. Some musicians keep the same music practice schedule for years on end, while others like to change things up every other week. 

Remember, as long as your schedule works for you, then it’s the perfect solution; even if it’s uniquely your own.

I am a versatile performer and educator who engages audiences with performances in solo, chamber music, and orchestral settings throughout the greater San Diego area. I was recently appointed Adjunct Professor of Oboe at the University of San Diego and have served as an oboist with Navy Band Southwest since 2017. I completed a doctorate in Oboe Performance and Pedagogy at the University of Texas at Austin in 2016, where I served as the Oboe Studio Teaching Assistant. I perform as a substitute musician with the San Diego Symphony and frequently appear with the California Chamber Orchestra and Strauss Symphony of America. I have also performed with the New World Symphony, Austin Symphony, and the West Point Band.

Clara Blood