Setting Yourself Up for Success in the Practice Room
The past year has been... interesting? In the artistic community we have seen many people talk about using the pandemic to their advantage by songwriting, home-recording, practicing more, and feeding the never ending self-promotion monster. The concept is great - turning catastrophe into positivity and giving everyone a sense of control during a time that's been everything but controllable. That overlooks a fundamental piece of human nature: healthy, sustainable habbits don't generally develop during a time of distress. Our brains simply aren't wired for it. We already see this in students that lack a stable home life or that deal with isolation, bullying, and abuse. Their mind is surviving, and when that's the primary focus, it becomes much harder to absorb new information.
So, what can you do to get yourself (your brain) into a positive learning mindset during an international pandemic? Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
Take 5 minutes at the start of your practice to ground/meditate. Put away your device, close your eyes, and think about your favorite musical things. This relaxes your brain and reminds you why you love music, which inherently makes the writing and practicing more enjoyable and, therefore, more memorable.
Move around before practicing. Weird, right? No! Activity releases endorphines which will improve your mood. It also gets your blood flowing and coordinates your body motion. All of these things help your focus, coordination, and productivity in playing.
Start with success. Begin your music making with something that makes you feel good - an easy song/scale, something original you've written that you're proud of, etc. Again, reinforcing success on previous pieces opens your mind to learning and tackling current pieces that are a bit harder or problematic.
Pay attention to your frustration meter. We've spent a year cooped up and stressed out, so our irritation can flare up suddenly and strong. When it does, SWITCH GEARS. Break the pattern. Put on a song and dance, or play a random song for fun. After 3 minutes, your brain has reset and the difficulty you were having has organized itself.
Everyone develops techniques that work wonderfully for themselves. The most important part is getting to know your own brain and then taking steps to work with it rather than fight against it. Good luck!