Practice is essential to the development of any skill--and music is no exception! Sadly, most music students don’t enjoy practicing, which in turn makes playing less fun than it could be. On the bright side, it is up to you whether or not practicing is enjoyable. If you want playing to be fun, practice!
You may be wondering, “How can I make practice fun?” Here is a tip used in the Musikgarten program that increases the benefits of practice, not just the fun of it! Every Musikgarten class contains four elements that you can add to your practice time at home. We use the acronym “SLIM” to help us remember. They are:
S - singing
L - listening
I - instruments
M - movement
SINGING and VOCALIZATION -
Singing develops a relationship with specific songs. It develops your ear to hear changes in pitch, which is part of becoming musically literate. Singing your songs can increase your excitement of learning them, especially songs you already like. You can make practice more fun by singing before and during your time at the keyboard.
Here’s where counting aloud comes in. The act of vocalization (such as counting aloud) unlocks a greater capacity of the ear to be able to control physical movement in the body. When you count aloud, the sound is not only in your mind, it travels through the air and into your ear, and your body feels the vibrations! All these things while physically playing allow you to internalize the rhythm in such a way that deepens your learning and your understanding. Almost all students dislike counting out loud at first, but it will be more engaging and make practice more rewarding once you have learned through your own experience that counting aloud is a faster pathway to learning the music before you.
LISTENING - Like singing, listening develops the ear. When learning a new language, listening provides a path to understanding the meanings of different words, tones, and expressions. Listening to music will help you learn to understand melody, harmony, rhythm and expression, and other key elements that give music a voice. Music is a language and becomes learnable like one when the ear is engaged! You can add fun to your practice by listening to different instruments, genres, and periods of music. Feel free to draw a picture, drum along, or dance to express what the music says to you. At the very least, listen to what is coming out of your instrument and learn to adjust. This type of highly focused listening that motivates your own action is one of the deepest rewards that come from performing music.
Playing INSTRUMENT(s) - If you are a music student, there is likely an instrument you are trying to learn. This is obviously an important part of your practice, then, right? Build a relationship with your instrument so it becomes your friend. Practice becomes more like a play date with your instrument when you’re excited to learn and improve. You can name your instrument, tell it your dreams and fears, and express yourself by playing how you feel. Though it is important to practice your assigned tasks, it is totally appropriate to take a short break to make up your own piece. Keeping this balance as you practice your instrument can help you have the patience to work on songs that require your best effort.
MOVEMENT - You don’t have to sit at the keyboard for hours at a time to have a quality practice. In fact, the quality will improve if you add some movement! Dance, drum, or play a game to the song you are preparing to practice. This not only builds a relationship with the song like singing does, it also helps your mind focus so you can play even better than if you went straight to the piano. Movement also helps with long-term memory. If you’re struggling to remember a scale or the notes to a song, add movements that will help you remember! Movement is also a great way to renew your attention and determination. The simple act of standing and stretching, breathing deeply, or walking around for a minute can be tremendously balancing during a practice session, especially when practice feels frustrating or difficult.
There are countless things you can do to make practice fun. The only limit is your own imagination. As you practice with the attitude of a champion, you will become a champion practicer--and champion practicing makes playing fun!
What ideas do you have that can make practice fun? We would love to hear your comments!