“Practicing is really all about X.”
X is different every time, as you might guess:
“Practicing is really all about repetition.”
“Practicing is really all about consistency.” (Or “doing it whether you feel like it
or not” or “showing up every day.”)
“Practicing is really all about thinking in advance so you don't have to think
when you're performing.”
They're all true enough. And each is useful; each is a simple idea that you can build your practice routine around for a while, just to see what happens.
“Practicing is really all about goals.”
“Practicing is really all about standards.”
Reorganizing or reimagining your practice routine periodically is a good idea.There are plenty of things that can discourage you from practicing; one of them is doing it the same way over and over. There's already a lot of repetition involved in practicing. You really do have to play things over and over for your body to learn them. Varying your routine helps – scales today, arpeggios tomorrow – and varying your approach helps, too. These insights help with that. For example: thinking about goals keeps you focused on your progress, but thinking about standards keeps you focused on the immediate, in-the-moment details of what you're playing.
“Practicing is really all about what you can do, not what you know or
what you think.”
“Practicing is really about two questions: Can you do it? And now, can you
do it better?”
I have been asked to sum up First, Learn to Practice in a few words, and I have been asked, “What do you think is the most important thing about practicing?” And I really think you could use any of the Seven Big Ideas or the Seven Good Habits from the book as the answer to either of those questions.
“You affect everything by concentrating on one thing.”
Again, simple ideas around which you can design your practice routine. One might make more sense this week than another. One might make sense for you and not for me. They're all easy to try, and each has the potential to make a big difference.
The first Big Idea is, “If you're not enjoying your practicing, change it until you are.” The enemy and the opposite of enjoyment is not displeasure or discomfort; it's boredom. You really do need to change things from time to time, either in response to boredom or to head it off before it arrives. Simple ideas like these can provide a good place to start.