How practicing music is like exercising

fitnessGoing to the gym is so hard for me. And it’s not because I don’t like it. I actually do. I feel good, once I’m there. It’s getting there that’s the hard part.

For many years now, I have hired a personal trainer. Not because I can’t figure out how to exercise but because I need someone to hold me accountable. I need someone who expects me there at a certain time. For that, I will go. I have spent a lot of money just to have a “gym buddy.” And so far, it seems to work.

Practicing music is much the same. Making time to practice is a challenge and learning tunes is a necessary chore for me. I really just want to be able to play a million tunes beautifully without practicing. Just like I would like a killer bod without exercising. Unfortunately, that’s not reality.

Recently, I just finished taking an Irish music class with the Vermont School of Traditional Irish music. We learned one tune a week for the last six weeks and it has been great. It has forced me to diligently learn a full tune every week.

The class has been my musical personal trainer, if you will. People were expecting me to know the tune the following week so therefore I made sure to carve out time to practice it. Now that the class is over though, I have to be disciplined enough to go it alone. So here’s what I’m going to do:

Set Goals

When I meet with a personal trainer in the gym for the first time, the first question is always – “what is your goal?”. My goal is to live a healthy lifestyle and get a toned body. And that only comes with patience, eating right and hours of exercise.

My goal with music is to build my repertoire and sound good playing it. And this too only comes with patience and hours on the fiddle. So I’m committing myself to continue learning one tune a week and knowing that tune so well, I can make it my own.

Make it Fun

Working out is hard work so the only way I will continue to do it is if I make it fun. I do this by listening to my favorite music or doing some form of exercise that I enjoy, like power-walking with my dog.

We all know that playing scales and learning tunes is not that much fun. So my practice will start with scales for only 5 minutes then some of my favorite tunes to remind myself why I have to practice. Then I will focus my new tune.

Make it a part of your daily routine

I get up every morning at 6am to walk the dog. This has become our ritual and aside from the fact that I’m really not a morning person, I actually look forward to my new habit (and I’m pretty sure so does my dog).

Fitting in just a few minutes of practice every day will become a habit. And in my experience, once I get my instrument out I usually end up playing for more than a few minutes.

Reach out to others

Just like going to an exercise class is easier to do with others, playing music is much more fun when you’re playing with others. I’m going to commit myself to playing more music with other people. Maybe that means getting back to the session or just playing with some local folks for fun.

Balance it out

Life is about balance. We all have to go to work, do our laundry, clean our houses, pay the bills, etc. But we need to make time to spend with loved ones, to take care of ourselves, our bodies and to do the things that we love to do. It’s all a balance.

There will be some weeks I just can’t get to learning a new tune and other weeks where I’ll learn two. I think it’s more about committing yourself and working towards a goal and being ok if you miss a gym session or practice session as long as you get back to it tomorrow.

Happy practicing.


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