The Four “S” Words That Will Improve Your Music Note Reading Practice

music note reading practiceI am always looking for changes I can make in my daily life that will help me to be more efficient and effective.

I don’t know about you, but I get tired of being “busy” and feeling like nothing is getting done.

My frustration level runs really high when I work on something for countless hours without seeing much in results.

We only have so many hours in a day.  Why waste them?

Working the System

If you have a system set up for your music note reading practice, it’s important for you to find a way to get the most bang for your buck.

“Simplicity in effort will conquer the most complex task.” -Thomas M. Sterner

Am I really working on this in the most effective way possible?  In comparison to how much time I’m spending on this, what am I actually getting done?

The Four “S” Words

I am currently reading The Practicing Mind: Developing Focus and Discipline in Your Life by Thomas M. Sterner.  It’s a great, short read, by the way, and I highly recommend it.

In this book, Sterner talks about 4 techniques he calls the “S Words” that help you to develop control over your practicing mind.

Each of these areas sustains you in the process of practice through the easiest way possible.

1. Simplify

When you are practicing your note reading, break it down into smaller sections.  Many times, I like to think of this as “chunks.”

Setting realistic goals that are easy to reach will generate motivation to keep going.  Taking smaller bites will also keep your mind from suffering too much fatigue at once.

Instead of looking at the entire page, focus on the beginning line or maybe even the first measure.  Mastering this amount first will give you more confidence and momentum to master the next line or measure.

2. Small

Know what your overall “big picture” goal is, but break it down into smaller components.  Your little goals need to be small enough to be achieved using a comfortable amount of concentration.

Focusing on these smaller sections is much easier than trying to focus on the entire task.

Any job that looks HUGE appears really daunting and unachievable.  It seems like it’s going to take forever, so why bother starting now?

“I think I might put that off until tomorrow.  Maybe I’ll feel like it then.”  Do you see what’s happening here?

Staring at the large goal, instead of a series of smaller goals, breeds procrastination.

My big picture goal may be that I want to learn how to read all of the notes on the treble clef staff.  In order to accomplish this effectively, I need to start with 2-3 notes and build gradually from there.

3. Short

Start with a short amount of time you are going to work on your note reading.  “I’m going to work on my music note flashcards for 2 minutes a day over the next few days until I have them mastered.”

You can survive 2 minutes, right?  That’s all you have to do and you are done for the day.  Time it and stop when that 2 minutes is up.

Here’s the thing: Often when we get started working on something, we may want to keep going a bit longer.  We are suddenly motivated to keep practicing even more.

If you have the time and really “want” to do this, go with your feelings in the moment.  Take advantage of the situation and keep practicing until you feel like it’s time to stop.

What we have the most trouble with is not the “doing” part of practicing, but the “just getting started” part.

Telling yourself that you only have to work on something for 2 minutes is a great way to get yourself started.  It’s also okay to stop completely after that time is up.

You made the commitment and you followed through.  Progress will happen.

4. Slow

Do not rush during this process.  Slow yourself down enough to pay attention to what you are doing.  You need to move slow enough to observe the details of your actions.

Working slowly may seem counter-intuitive to what you want to do (hurry up and get done), but you will find yourself accomplishing the task more quickly with less effort.

You are no longer wasting your energy.

Once you start practicing with deliberate slowness, your sense of time will change.  You will be less aware of how much time is going by.

This is because you are more focused on what you are doing and the details of the task (quality) versus how much you are doing or how much time is left until you can quit (quantity).

Putting the “S” Words Into Practice

  • Decide what your large goal is.
  • Break that goal down into 2 or more little goals.
  • When tackling the task, start with a smaller, more reasonable amount of material to master first.
  • Set a shorter amount of time you are willing to work on the project.
  • Force yourself to move slowly paying close attention to everything that is happening.

What Do You Think?

Are you working slow enough, short enough, and on smaller amounts of material at a time?  Have you simplified your overall strategy?  Go ahead and share your insights in the comments below…

photo credit: just.Luc via photopin cc

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2 thoughts on “The Four “S” Words That Will Improve Your Music Note Reading Practice”

  1. I just want to say that I love the book and thank you for writing about the four S:s. I easily forgot one of them. Good to have a reminder. I find that this mindset moves mountains.

  2. Hey Tore, great to see you here! I agree, The Practicing Mind is a great book filled with so much valuable information. Having the right mindset is key to truly accomplishing anything you want. Thanks so much!

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