Today we’re starting our 5/5/5 Practice Challenge! You know our policy on practicing — while we encourage it, the decision of when and how much is entirely up to the student or family. That said, we know that students who practice consistently also progress consistently, so we decided to create a challenge to help our students develop some healthy practice habits. Read on to learn the details of our challenge, how we came up with the idea, and how you can develop healthy habits for yourself or your students!
I’ve read quite a few articles on the interwebs pertaining to habits; music blogs, home de-cluttering sites, and healthy living (exercise, nutrition, and mindfulness) podcasts all have great resources for creating and maintaining life changes. The more I consumed, the more I noticed a trend — if you want to create a habit, start small.
One recurring analogy I’ve seen is the idea of starting a habit by just “flossing one tooth.” The musical equivalent of this concept would be to practice for a minute a day. While at first I was skeptical of the premise (how could dedicating a mere one minute a day actually help me progress at the violin?), the more I thought about it the more it became evident that taking the first step is the hardest part of any task. Once you’ve put forth the effort to floss that first tooth, tie your shoes and set out on a walk, take your guitar out of the case and practice one minute, why not floss the rest, walk another block, play a bit more? If you can actually take the first step, you’re golden!
So, we decided to start a challenge to help our students floss that first tooth. While I like the idea of a one minute challenge, I didn’t think the majority of our students’ parents would appreciate us seemingly advocating for a minute of practice a day. We settled on five minutes for our minimum length of time, mostly because 5/5/5 had a better ring to it than 1/1/1. 🙂
Here are the rules of our challenge:
Practice a minimum of 5 minutes a day, 5 days a week, for 5 weeks. Record how long you practice on your challenge sheet. Please practice the TAGGED songs in your book for your 5 minutes of challenge time – then play anything you like if you want to practice longer!
We emphasize that students practice the tagged songs in their books as those are the songs that are current works in progress. We want them to see what improvements they can make with a truly focused, consistent effort, and reap the rewards in their weekly lesson. Once they fulfill their minimum five minute practice requirement, we hope they’ll continue playing on their own steam!
It took Marcus and me a while to decide on the challenge prize. We’re not big on giving out trinkets or treats as rewards (see above mention of de-cluttering and nutrition blogs), so what does that leave? Here’s what we decided:
If you complete 5/5/5, you’ll get a “Choose Your Own Adventure” Lesson! Design your own lesson incorporating any instrument, genre, artist, song, etc. and we’ll follow your lesson plan the week after you complete your practice time.
One thing we love about our studio members is their inquisitiveness and enthusiasm for all things music. Most of them could hop from instrument to instrument all day long, playing and asking questions. We wanted to reward this enthusiasm by allowing our students to explore something that they’ve been wanting to learn more about, either on their own instrument or another, that takes us off our current path of focus and into exciting new territory. When we floated this idea a few weeks ago one of our Epic Solo members said with glee, “Oh, that could be dangerous!” when he learned he’d be able to plan a full hour of his choosing.
In addition to seeing our students improve, we’re eager to see where they take us with their Choose Your Own Adventure Lessons (overall, more time on the drum set seems to be the resounding first choice!). Our debut 5/5/5 Practice Challenge runs from August 7th through September 9th. We’ll update you down the line with the results of our challenge and stories of students’ awesome Choose Your Own Adventure Lessons!
If you’re a player or musician needing some extra motivation, feel free to download our 5/5/5 Practice Challenge. If you’d like to learn more about forming habits and successful practice, check out the following articles:
Practice a Little Bit Every Day: 3 Steps to Create Lifelong Habits — I enjoyed the approachable nature of this post. It’s all about moderation; do a “little bit” of something!
Building the Practice Habit: 6 Science-Supported Steps to Great Musicianship — This is a fantastic article! The steps it gives to create solid practice habits are actionable and manageable, and we incorporate all of them into our challenge. Read it for more context, as well as how to identify your “triggers” for practice.
How Many Hours a Day Should You Practice? — Unlike what I was taught in college (4 hours a day minimum — ahhh!!), it seems that practice quantity does not actually trump quality. This article emphasizes the importance of deliberate practice above all, which is a message we can get behind.
Please comment below if you have any tips as to how to take that first step to practicing! Our favorite tip is to leave your instrument out of its case in a visible (and safe) place.