This is the fourth installment in our series of articles on hidden or obscure strategies for improving musicianship.
Obviously, spending time playing your instrument is extremely important in developing your talent. However, these articles explore some of the subtler more psychological angles to gain musical advantage. Sometimes you have to trick your mind or body into acquiring the behaviors you need in order to reach the musical goals you want.
So here is Tip Four. It's all about time.
You need to find the Golden Time. You need to carve out that little segment for your piano playing each day, and make it a sacred priority.
Here's the trap. You decide to pick up a new hobby, learning piano or whatever. So making time for this new activity is something new to add to your already busy schedule. You don't have a busy schedule? Yes you do. Everybody has one.
So now you've got to squeeze an extra 45 minutes into your daily routine. So what do you do? You tell yourself, OK after the day is over, after the chores are done, the dishes are washed, the kids are in bed, hey that's going to be my ME time. And I'm going to spend my ME time practicing the piano.
Doesn't work. When day is done, your body is programmed to go into shut-down mode. Your brain is starting to disengage. Resistance is futile. That's not the time, not if you have a busy day schedule for tomorrow.
You need to find a special, specific time to do the ME time. And then make it your priority. So when is that going to be? That's the challenge isn't it? The answer will vary, depending in part on how dedicated you are.
We've heard about would-be authors who decide to write a book, so they set their alarm clock for 4 am instead of 6. And they spend those two hours every morning writing their manuscript. The rest of the day is as usual. Work, family, social, etc. But they carve out their writing niche. And two years later their novel is done.
You want to play piano on cruise ships in two years? That's one way to do it. Set that alarm clock. (How counter intuitive for a musician)!
I look back on the early days of my piano studies and I see how powerful this time management stuff can be.
I've told the story repeatedly about how I got hooked on playing the piano when I was 23. And I started taking lessons then. The part of the story that you may not know is that at the time I started these piano lessons, I didn't even own a piano.
I was working full time as a clerk in a camera store in East Oakland and lived in a little one room hovel that was attached to a garage. We're talking tiny. And I had no piano to play. But I was paying for weekly lessons, and I was determined to succeed.
So for the first six months, every day, six days a week, I drove to my parents' house just to do my 45 minutes of practicing. It was a perfect situation. I got to use a piano, they got some attention from me, I got dinner every night and a chance to do my laundry once a week. And the money I saved on meals and laundry helped pay for my piano lessons. And I was saving up to buy a piano of my own some day.
The point is I had to make a concerted effort EVERY DAY to drive the five miles to the parents' house just to make my piano commitment. After a few months I knew my passion was real, and I saved up $85 and bought my first piano at a yard sale. But the pattern was established, and that 45 minutes a day became sacred to me.
Can you find your time? Even if it's just 15 minutes a day, that's enough to get yourself into a pattern, which then becomes a habit, which then becomes a routine, which then becomes your desired behavior. Playing piano.