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  •  The EvO:R-Pedia Musicians Tips Section

    Welcome to the EvO:R Tips Section. We call this section EvO:R-Pedia because it is like a complete reference library for Indie musicians...Just about every tip has been used so you won't find false promises and a series of books to buy after reading each tip. This section was put here by musicians so that people that followed can take this knowledge and use it's power.

    Human Nature, Time Travel, and How To Be an Amazing Musician
    What will you have accomplished two months from now?
    by About.com Article

    The Problem

    Do you have trouble practicing as much as you know you should? I used to be the same way, until I figured out a simple solution. I'll share it with you in a minute, but first I want to point out the real problem.

    The fact is, humans are basically lazy, short-sighted, pleasure-seekers. (At least I hope it's all humans and not just me.) Consequently, practicing our instrument on a regular basis can be an uphill battle. Since we're lazy, just getting off our butts and starting a practice session is a challenge in itself.

    Since we're short-sighted, we have trouble recognizing any forward development in our skills. Rather that look at our achievements over the past months or years, we often end a practice session by thinking: "Geez, I feel like I didn't learn a damn thing today."

    Since the practice session in itself didn't offer us any immediate gratification, the pleasure-seeker in us thinks, "Why do I bother with this? I'd rather be doing something fun." This thinking only gives our initial laziness more ammunition when practice time comes around again.

    If you're not careful, the cycle continues to loop until you slump into an I-practice-every-once-in-a-while-when-I-have-nothing-better-to-do routine. This routine is the best way to ensure you are never as good a musician as you want to be - and can be.

    The Solution
    Imagine if things were different. What if you eagerly looked forward to every practice session? What if you finished each session by thinking, "Wow, I'm getting really good!" I'm guessing the pleasure-seeker in you would pretty much take care of things from there, don't you agree?

    The trick is time-travel. You have to negate your short-sightedness by traveling through time on a regular basis, watching yourself practicing two, three, or six months ago, and realizing how far you've come in such a short time. (Believe me, when you actually see how far you've come after two months of solid practicing, it will blow your mind.)

    So where in the universe are we going to find a time-travel machine? Amazingly, you can find one at any supermarket, drug store, or office supply.

    That's right. Stick with me here, I don't want to lose you. All you need is a spiral notebook and a pen. What you're going to do is keep a Practice Log, and in this Log you're going to put different sets of goals.

    Before you start yawning and thinking, "Oh geez...not goal-setting!" keep in mind that I'm going to show you how to time-travel with this notebook. But first: The Goals.

    Note:This goal system was originally suggested by Barry Green in his outstanding book, The Inner Game of Music

    Here's the deal. You are going to keep different sets of goals based on their length in time. The longer-term goals you can keep in the beginning of your notebook, but you should refer to them frequently, at least every few practice sessions. Let's look at the goal sets and some examples of each:

    Long Term Goals - Five to Ten Years
    These are basically your career goals. Maybe you want to appear on MTV, maybe you want to have your own national tour, maybe you want a job in a symphony orchestra. Be honest about your dreams and dare to put them down on paper.

    Medium Term Goals - One to Five Years
    These are the major building blocks of your long-term goals. They could be things like master all music in your Jazz for Guitar book at 150 beats per minute, complete 4-year music degree, or join a band that is gigging at least once a month. Again, be as specific as you can.

    Short Term Goals - Two to Fifteen Weeks
    Get even more focused, and make an effort to keep these goals realistic within the time frame specifed. You might write add ten 1980s dance covers to repertoire, transcribe and memorize Louis Armstrong solo in West End Blues, or master Mozart Sonata at 150 beats per minute.

    This Week's Goals
    Basically a breakdown of short term goals: Learn two 80s covers, transcribe 16 bars of West End Blues, raise Mozart Sonata speed from 100 bpm to 110 bpm. Pick a regular, weekly day and time at which you will review your entire goal list and then rewrite your Week's Goals accordingly.

    Today's Goals
    Write down what you are going to do (or what you did) in today's practice session. Do this every session. Entries might include Mozart Sonata at 100 bpm for 30 minutes or played first 16 bars of West End Blues solo for 20 minutes. The key here is little steps. You don't have to feel like you made any progress, just spend some time with your instrument and document what you did (and even how you felt about it).

    Ok? You've got it all spelled out. Now back to the original topic.

    The most astonishing thing will happen after you keep your log for a month or two. It's nothing short of a miracle, really. You will find yourself looking back through the log and seeing how far you've come. Your future goals suddenly turn into past achievements. You will realize that - holy cow! - you really do make progress, and you do it quickly. More importantly, you will begin to close practice sessions feeling really good about what you've done and what you're doing. As I said before, the pleasure-seeker in you will automatically take that ball and run with it.

    What I'm telling you is absolutely true. The only catch (there's always a catch) is that you have to start the log and really stick to it for a month or two before your can reap the rewards of time-travel and pure practice pleasure. Being a lazy, short-sighted, pleasure-seeker like the rest of us, this might be a lot for you.

    If you don't try it, you'll never know what you could have done. If you trust me, however, and stick to your log for two months, you will have successfully taken contol of your own future.

    Trust me. Just do it. Two months from now, when you travel back in time and see how far you've come, feel free to write me at musicians.guide@about.com and tell me I was right all along. I'll be happy to hear from you.


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