4 Ways You Waste Time When You Practice Music

By Connor McCoy, iZotope Contributor | November 8, 2018

4 Ways People Waste Time Pics

Practicing music is one of the hardest activities to motivate yourself to do. When you’ve finally found the energy to sit down and work on the scales or songs that you need to, it’s even harder to stay focused when there are so many digital distractions.

Fortunately, there are some proactive ways you can combat your distraction-oriented tendencies in order to make every practice session a productive one.

1. Spending too much time on your phone

Whether it’s checking social media, responding to texts, reading obscure news articles, or somehow falling into the deep abyss of YouTube Vine compilations, if you’re glued to your phone, then this is the first thing you need to address to make practice more productive.

Solution: Try leaving your phone in a different room than the room you’re practicing in. I justify this by letting my phone charge for a while. Usually, by midday or nighttime, it could use a good charge anyways, and it gives you the chance to seriously unplug from your phone and plug your guitar into an amp and work on your craft.

If you’re someone who likes to use your iPhone for guitar tabs, notes or chord apps, lyrics, sheet music, etc., you can try out the new feature in iOS 12 that allows you to limit your screen time, or even shut off certain apps for an allotted amount of time.

Even if you’re the person who’s not easily distracted by their phone, there are a lot of arguments to be made for taking it out of your pocket and keeping it out of your reach for an hour or two every day.

put away your phone

2. Coming unprepared

Most musicians prefer to practice in their bedroom, or a room designated for music or practicing within their home or apartment. Having your practice room close to the rest of the amenities in your living space can sometimes be extremely detrimental to getting the most out of your practice time.

I’m not recommending that you change the space you normally practice in (although this can also be beneficial to getting the most out of your practice time), but by imagining this room as a destination for your practice time, you can trick yourself into staying in the room for a longer period of time.

Solution: One of the easiest ways to do this is by bringing everything you need to the room. Try actually bringing a backpack full of all the things you might need in the next hour, like a water bottle, notebook, capo, tuner, metronome, cables, and something to snack on in case you get hungry.

By limiting the reasons why you might have to leave the room, you’ve eliminated multiple possibilities for distractions, and forcing your mind to focus on what’s important, the room and your instrument in front of you.

3. Practicing parts you already know

A huge tendency for musicians when they practice is to find a phrase, lick, or section that they play really well and play it over and over again, but this defeats the whole reason for practicing! It’s good to be able to recognize when you’ve “nailed” a certain note, scale, or part in a song, but once you’ve realized that you have it down, don’t give in to the desire to keep playing it over and over again.

Solution: If you have a scale that you’re trying to learn, start slow, use a metronome and find a tempo that you can play at comfortably (even if it’s really, really slow). It might seem daunting or even depressing when you try something in the practice room and fail at first, but this is where everyone starts from.

Most of practicing in music is muscle memory, so by starting slow and forcing your body to learn the part at one tempo, you can naturally see yourself begin to nail down the part and speed it back up to its normal tempo. And then you can repeat the cycle: once you have a part down - move on!

Then the next time you practice, you can refresh your muscle memory by playing each part, scale, or song that you practiced and mastered last time in the beginning of the session to keep it present in your head.


4. Losing track of time, losing track of goals

Every musician has their own way of organizing and managing their time, but in the practice room, it’s very easy to lose track of it. If you’re looking to practice multiple areas of proficiency or multiple songs/parts before your practice session and find that you haven’t worked on everything you wanted to afterward, it’s easy to feel frustrated and to feel like you’re not progressing nearly as fast as you thought you would.

Solution: Know how much time you’ve given yourself to practice, bring an alarm, set 15–30 minute timers, and make sure you cover every base, even if you aren’t fully satisfied with the area you’re working on.

It may seem difficult at first, but by forcing yourself to move on and address other areas of practice, you not only protect yourself from getting frustrated or emotional from struggling to learn one part, but you train yourself to better understand the passage of time while you practice, covering every ground that you’ve intended to cover in practice so that you stay true to your original goals and intentions, and learning to become more efficient at knowing what you need to practice in these short amounts of time to get the best results.

Again, it might take a few sessions to get good at it, but soon enough, you might be 2x as efficient as you used to be, making one hour of practice time that much more valuable. By saving yourself time in the long run and helping to stay focused and less distracted, your practice time becomes more efficient and gets you to where you want to be faster.

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