Biting Off More Than I Can Chew, or, how to make a REALISTIC practice plan.

Life’s done that pesky intervening thing and I’ve had to scale back my ambitions a bit. Too many changes at work and too much to prep for in the next few weeks has made me change my plans regarding music study and performance art.

I’m taking a short break from crazy (thankfully), but now I really have to work all weekend on lessons for tutoring kids the rest of this summer, which will take a lot of checking online to make sure the programs we use aren’t faulty…at least for the first three days. Which certainly means less time to get back into playing music.

I haven’t played a thing in a month as it is.

(forehead meet desk…repeatedly)

So, my music plan hasn’t done me any good yet. I have to make myself acknowledge that trying to work my way up into hours of musical study each day, with dad’s health issues and my work issues biting off every aspect of my time…yeah, that’s not gonna work.

I feel bad because I have my lovely acoustic electric guitar hiding in my room that I’ve barely brought out to see the daylight in a month. And my clarinet’s feeling neglected. And my keyboard’s gathering dust.

Note to self–get a blanket or something to put over it so it stops getting dust in between the keys–and computer duster, yeah, that too.

But more than that, my eyes were bigger than my stomach. I just wanted so badly to get into learning that I didn’t take into account practicality.

I have an all-or-nothing, impulsive mentality that I’m trying to get over. I have to take over more and more of the household responsibilities as time goes on, and that leaves less time to learn. But I can build up to it, and when I feel proficient enough and flexible enough, I can learn to practice at other times and places.

My initial study plan was 20-20-20 to start: 20 minutes clarinet, 20 minutes guitar, 20 minutes piano, and working my way up by 5 minutes each week. Well, except for the clarinet: I planned to increase it every 2 weeks because my mouth hurts too much to go that fast–it’ll be a slow build for that one to get my musculature and air flow back to shape).

I wanted to get up to 3 hours music practice a night and get really good, for 4 nights a week. And then on the other three days I’d alternate between playing strictly clarinet for a longer-than-usual period of time, then guitar, then piano (between 75 and 90 minutes, which would help compensate for insane days at work and last-minute call ins…and give my mouth a break from clarinet so I didn’t give up so fast).

I certainly forgot to account for a FEW things in that plan.

Namely that I barely remember how to read music and I’m “starting from scratch” with every instrument. Especially the clarinet.


That’s pretty much where I’m at, keyboard wise, too (sigh). Reality bites.

It wouldn’t take long before I devolved into my old habit of “what’s the use?” and gave up playing for another few months.

You can’t improve your technique that way, can you?

Well, I changed that up to something more realistic. And it’s worth a try this next week because I have a solid schedule to plan around for the first time in years.

I figured I’d do better planning on one instrument at a time.

Part of me’s already cheesed off about that, especially after I set up my bedroom to incorporate my keyboard and space for my guitar–the one I’m still paying for and have barely spent 2 hours playing.

But it makes sense that once I’m more comfortable with one instrument, I can gradually work in learning another.

My plans consist of me working with the clarinet first, since I’m most familiar with it (and definitely need to get breathing, rhythm, and my embouchure working right). I’m starting out at 20-25 minutes a day, going for 30 on Saturday and Sunday. Then, next week it’ll be 25-30 minutes a day, 35 on the weekends, and so on. If I have to break it up a bit, because my embouchure’s had it, then I can work on music reading and theory til I feel I can play a little longer.

The main thing is not wearing myself out and making myself give up. I lost a lot of enthusiasm for the clarinet when I left marching band in high school (and suddenly those band friends weren’t my friends anymore), so I gave up trying to get better at it, which was a shame because I’d probably be really good if I didn’t let events and other people sour my affection for one of the few things I was okay at other than reading and passing classes.

Not saying I was great, very middle-of-the-road at best, but I wanted to improve. I just could never get the hang of playing and marching at the same time, at least, not without stepping in a hole and cutting my mouth on the reed (yeah, breaking the reed over and over just made me fake play it on the field most of the time–those suckers got expensive after a while!)clarinet-3246642_1280

Anyway, as written, that idea will take a couple of months at least, maybe even three. When I get up to practicing for an hour and not being in pain or winded most of the time, then I’ll incorporate some keyboard practice, 20-25 minutes a week, alternating Saturday and Sunday between clarinet and piano, adding 5 minutes on the piano each week…

You get the idea.

Guitar’s last because there’s a LOT to be learned about acoustic-electric guitar, and I don’t want dad to see it til I’ve finished paying for it anyway (and maybe he’ll think I only got it after getting really back into learning music so that I wasn’t wasting my money. I’m also doing research into playing methods, and holding it properly (I can practice that a little at a time when I get it–I’m just unfamiliar with it big time. Come Thanksgiving (when I’ve nearly got it paid off), I’ll be bringing it out again to practice with gusto.

At least, that’s the plan, as long as I do well with my other instruments and really dedicate myself to it.

I’m bummed out that I won’t be learning them all at the same time, but it’s time to be realistic about what I’m really willing to do and make time for, rather than going “wow, that would be great if…”

I think that’s what was behind my initial crazy schedule. I get so eager to try everything that I’ll end up learning so little, and stuck without an idea of what I should try next, or learn first…and then I give up because I think I’m too stupid to do it.

I wanna give my old band teacher a wedgie right about now, or pay somebody else to do it, preferably. He didn’t help me be a better player and yelled at us all the time anyway. I guess I just figured out I internalized more of their haranguing than I thought I did.

No wonder I’ve been good at making plans, but suck at following them.

Time to put those crappy band memories aside and make better ones for my shined and worked-on clarinet, and keyboard, and guitar eventually. Music and good books are about all that make me happy… time to see what I can do with them, and how much I can make myself happy through learning.

Happy playing.

Related image

Always the same song, too (hee hee)

One thought on “Biting Off More Than I Can Chew, or, how to make a REALISTIC practice plan.

  1. Rae Longest says:

    Don’t quit striving to play, and play well. Just because your plan A didn’t work out shouldn’t discourage you (or beat yourself up over) because there are 25 more letters in the alphabet to help you revise your plan. Now you have plan B. If people (and events) ruin and wreck plan B, try out plan C, etc. Never give up. You haven’t failed until you quit, and YOU are not a quitter!

    Liked by 1 person

Penny for your thoughts? We'll listen...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.