Crap, you missed a day of practice again. Why can’t you just stick to your routine? Or maybe you’re having trouble starting a practice routine in the first place. Or maybe your practice sessions are worse than useless—you feel bored, disinterested, or frustrated, and it almost seems like the music is getting worse. If only you could just get motivated. We all feel like this sometimes, but what if it’s not a motivation problem? What if trying to get motivated is just making the problem...
After years of practice, most of us have a finely honed “focus muscle”. As professional musicians, we are used to working with other focused, attentive professionals, and we can get a lot accomplished in a short period of time. But when we are teaching non-professionals, it can frustrate us to realize that they don’t have the same focus, and they can likewise be frustrated by their lack of progress. What you may not realize is that your own years of musical practice have strengthened a...
One of the keys to mastery is building up a large body of knowledge that you can access when you need it (“Domain Knowledge”). For musicians, one of the most important subjects we can learn is how to practice better. Here are nine books that can help you build that domain knowledge. Learn, and then put the lessons to work right away. Mastery by George Leonard The original book about discipline and mastery. Leonard is an Aikido expert who offers useful advice on motivation, energy...
If you’re a regular reader of The Practice Habit blog, you know that the path to mastery takes focused attention in increasing your abilities in three areas: Direct Practice, Domain Knowledge, and Self-Management skills. Recently, we’ve been focusing on increasing domain knowledge, on gaining and managing the huge amounts of information that masters use to create great performances. Today I’d like to share a practice habit that will increase your ability to gain and retain musical...

At The Practice Habit, we’ve talked about the Three Pillars of Mastery and how they can help organize your practice and uncover missing pieces on your path to mastery. How different types of Direct Practice can improve your skills. How mental models can help you increase and organize your Domain Knowledge. And soon, we’ll talk about the mental conditioning, habits, and paradigms that will help you practice and perform at the top of your game. Today, I want to share with you a simple way to...
An introduction to Domain Knowledge and mental maps, with tips on rapidly increasing your expertise in music and practice.

Comparison is the single most effective direct practice strategy you can use. In its most basic form, comparison practice is simply modeling your playing after a better player, such as a private teacher or a professional. In middle school, I changed schools in the middle of the year. When I started band at my new school, my band teacher Mr. McBrien put me between the last two trumpet players and told me I could challenge my way up the section, which had ten players. It was a new experience for...

Conditioning is one of the most overlooked and misunderstood forms of practice. There seems to be a common belief out there that if you want to get more strength, endurance, capacity, and control, you just need to practice more. Inefficient, to say the least.

Direct practice is the what most of us think of when we think of practice. It is, of course, only one of the three pillars that goes into making a master musician (the other two are Self-Management and Domain Knowledge). If you aren’t already familiar with the three pillars, I recommend you start here. Today we’re going to start drilling down into some specific strategies to use direct practice more efficiently. Specifically, we’re going to talk about practicing for consistency and...

We all want to be better musicians. But how do we know whether we're working on the right things?

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