How to Practice Smarter, Not Longer

Seek to accomplish more in less time - and have fun doing it. - Linda Ratcliff

We’ve all heard the saying, “Work smarter, not harder.” Actually, I’ve been trying to do that all my life - succeeding and making good money with some ideas and losing money in others. But I have never given up. I keep on trying to think up new ways to work smarter.
Work smarter, not harder!
Could we apply this mantra to our music. Most of us don’t need to practice harder - we are already practicing hard enough. But are we making any progress? Learning an instrument isn’t easy. If we don’t feel like we’re gaining ground, maybe we need to examine ways to practice smarter. Here are a few that came to my mind.
    • Get a teacher, or sign up for lessons with Dulcimer Crossing. Three months with a good teacher (or our good teachers at Dulcimer Crossing) is worth a year of fumbling on your own and creating bad habits.
    • Practice consistently. Practicing music is like going to the gym. When you skip a day at the gym, you don’t feel it so much. But skip a week, or even a month, and your muscles are trembling - it feels like you’ve backtracked a year. It’s the same with playing your instrument. When you skip a week or two or three, you have to catch up again.
    • Be patient. Most of us have been older when we first picked up the dulcimer. And a major difference between older beginners compared to children is that the older beginner is impatient. We want to learn reading tabs overnight. We want faster fingers (when some of us already have arthritis!). We want a magic formula to learn those songs they play at jam sessions in short order. But like good cooking, good playing takes time.
  • Practice playing by ear. Try playing melodies from the songs you sing at church. Many church tunes have simple melodies that repeat several times, and are relatively easy to recreate. You’ll be able to transition this skill over to a jam session, when they start playing a tune you don’t know.
Did I miss any ideas. Let’s open up the floor to the dulcimer community. What is your secret for practicing smarter? And, as always, if you have any questions, always feel free to ask Steve or myself.
Happy dulcimering,


1 comment

Cecile pitts

Practice techniques and fillers, as a warm up. I do the pentatonic scale up the key board and move it into little tunes and riffs using the same notes. It creates muscle memory for my hands. I can use thus to practice different timing patterns with the right hand.
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