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  • Chris Anderson

Setting Music Practise Goals

I often find that having a goal helps me focus on what I need to do. It’s all well and good having a practise plan and pieces to work on, but not having a goal could make things difficult. In this blog I explain the importance of setting goals, and how you can make them work for you.

What Is Goal Setting?

Think of goal setting being like a map. There are many different directions and paths you can take to get to the same destination. It’s up to you which one you take. Just bear in mind that taking a shortcut isn’t always the most beneficial. While you may get to your destination quicker, you may well miss out on points of interest. Conversely, by taking the longest route available you may get frustrated. It’s all about finding the balance and what works for you. Once you’ve reached your destination you have to decide where you want to go next. You may wish to go into more detail or you may wish to move onto the next piece.

To put this into a musical context. You may succeed in performing a piece well. But if you only do the minimum of work to succeed at the piece, you won’t have developed the techniques to enable you to perform other music with similar challenges. You don’t want to just focus on a whole load of technical exercises, but you do need to add some into the mix. The stronger your foundations the more secure your playing. All the skills you learn can and will be developed as you progress. It’s never about perfection (there’s no such thing anyway, unless you’re nature) it’s about learning a new skill and constantly working on and improving it. I always say to my students, “Progress, not perfection.”

Why Set A Goal?

Setting a target can really help you focus your practise. You can work towards specific things that need attention. I like to set a daily micro-goal and a main weekly goal. The mini-goals are stepping stones to the main goal. Setting a goal will help you work towards specific things that need attention. Micro-goals can also help you work on specific ideas and techniques to help you towards your main goal.

For example if you are learning Mozart’s Piano Sonata 16 - “Facile” I may make your main goal to complete the first 12 bars. Micro-goal one would be to look at the left hand for the first four bars. Micro-goal two would be to practise the C major scale hands separately and getting it so you can play one octave, in semiquavers at an allegro speed. Micro-goal three would be to practise the right hand scale sections that follow a sequence bars five to tight. Micro-goal four would be to look at bars nine and 10. Micro-goal five I’d ask you to practise the left hand of bar 11 as block chords. Micro-goal six bar 11 as written.

Little Wins

Each practise aim for a little win. Yes, you may have your micro-goals, but if you don’t achieve them it’s very easy to get despondent. But think about little things you did achieve and celebrate that. It’s always worth remembering that sometimes it can take a little bit longer to reach a goal or get something right. There’s nothing wrong with that at all - we all learn at different paces. Examples of little wins might be, I managed to keep my fingers curved when doing the scales sections. I remembered to support my breath when I was singing a long phrase. My bowing wasn’t like a banana today.

In the same way as it’s important to write down a little win with each practise it is equally important to write down things with which you are struggling. If you don’t write it down, you may forget the issue by the time you next see your teacher. Your teacher will be able to help you sort the struggles and put a plan in place so you can achieve what you’d like to achieve.

Benjamin E Mays said it perfectly…

“The tragedy in life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach."

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