Today is Thursday, February 21, and it is my 52nd day of my project 365. I hope to post a few videos or soundclips soon to share my progress, but for now I’d like to share the most important thing I’ve learned thus far.
The number one thing that I’ve learned so far is that if you want to accomplish something or improve, the best way is to do it a little bit at a time each and everyday. This isn’t some revelation I’ve had all on my own, we’ve all heard this said at some point in our lives, but putting it into actual practice is something entirely different. It’s not easy.
When I was in high school and at university, I would sometimes practice anywhere from 3-8 hours a day because that’s what I thought I needed to do. but I didn’t do it everyday. I only practiced every so often and would sometimes go days without any practice at all.
That’s not to say I wasn’t playing everyday – because I was – but it was in rehearsals and performances, which is good, but entirely different. With many of my students I emphasize that “practice” is different than “playing” or “performing.” The reason we practice is to improve things we struggle with or to learn skills we have not yet acquired. Performing is when we play the things we already know.
I’ve had 52 straight days of actual “practice” and my “playing” has started to show little improvements, more than when I would practice for several hours straight. For the most part, the changes may unnoticeable to the average listener, but I notice. My time is better, I can play altissimo (when I couldn’t at all before), I am comfortable soloing in more keys and most of all, I’m really excited about playing again. I’ve worked hard and I am excited about it, so I take every opportunity I have to play.
I admit, there are some days where it’s hard for me to pick up my saxophone to sit down and practice. I think, “Ugh, I really want to take a break, my lip hurts and I’m tired.” But I fight it, grab my sax and start playing. Once I get to that point, it’s actually hard to stop despite what I was feeling before I started. I actually have to set an alarm to sound so I know to stop and don’t overdo it.
I always thought that the hardest part of practicing was getting my sax out of the case. After that, it might be frustrating but it was easier. The same could probably be said for a lot of things. The hardest part of writing or composing for me is the same – it’s opening whatever program I’m using (or getting out a pen and a piece of paper) and getting started. But once I start, the words or notes just flow.
Doing a little bit everyday, even just an hour, has done more for my playing than when I practiced longer but less consistently. The total time per week may be less, but the improvement is far greater. I only wish I had figured this out a long time ago.
I’ve started doing the same with my other endeavors. I try to study language at least 15-20 minutes each day, do a little with Teen Jazz or Teen Jazz Radio, and I’ve even been going to the gym three times a week! Each day I get a little better at playing, a little more fluent in Croatian or Italian, get a little more traffic to Teen Jazz and a little bit stronger.
Doing a little bit everyday does a lot, it just takes getting started.
What would you like to start doing everyday? Or if you already are doing something, what differences have you seen since you’ve started?