The Power of Practice

  • Article briefly tells about the fundamentals of practice by a musician that will will pave the way for a higher degree of motivation to play and enjoy your art form.


The most important aspect of any aspiring artist, musician, surgeon and dancer is practice. It is this which makes him an expert.

On the way to becoming an expert, comes the gulf of the journey that only practice as outlined by the coach worked. Only if one follows THE correct way, not only The way will it give happiness and attainment.

So let us first examine The Whens.

TIME and TIMING two different aspects.

(Instead of diving into practice at that hour, hold on, close your eyes and clear the objective. In the words of the famous golfer Ben Hogan, “I never hit the course and go and hit the ball. I take time to first think in advance where I want the ball to go, and how it will go.”)

Record the Objectives in a few Words for you to compare at the end of your practice.

A decision to be taken at this time clearly, Not Doing more of the same, how much or how little of each ingredient of practice units given to you by your teacher.

For e.g. if the objective is playing Bansuri Alankar, then the duration is only 5 mins, after which stop, get up, drink a glass of water.

Come back if you will perhaps, and a fresh session of objectives will need to be initiated by you.

For e.g. if the objective is to warm up on Bansuri - if you are playing long notes (Thehraav) in small flute C scale , as you would do in bigger flute G scale, then you may just be wasting your time, rather focus on shorter duration notes with focus on lips and examine the note timbre/pitch.

It would be prudent to add that after the end of the practice we must evaluate the objective achieved for few minutes, just as we did when we started with framing the objectives. Did the ball go where it was intended? Did the how part of it go as we had visualised? Did the ball go over that steep small hill, did the ball bounce too much, or too little than what we had envisaged? Did the ball stop where we had wanted it?

In sports it is easy to measure, assess, but for creative arts it is a tough task. Hence read on.....

TIME - Here is an interesting dimension when it comes to practice. Who has unlimited time? Ask around you and they will say they have no time, so where will this time come for one's daily practice.

Problem A - those that don’t have time to spare will practice less, (incorrect way);

Problem B - those that have lots of time to spare will practice longer, meandering here and there with lesser focus and attention (incorrect way again).

The journey towards becoming an expert needs a strong heart and patience, therefore coupled with the right approach to one’s practice. There are no shortcuts; or examples of statements like, oh I only sing or dance only for time pass, it is my hobby. The situation does not change at all as you will want to begin to increase the enjoyment of music, dance, sculpture or painting as you may chose.

Choose a Time that matches along with an activity you do daily for eg brush your teeth, prayers before sleep, or getting up or bath etc. So the practice timing gets roped on nicely with a tag along task that is already being performed daily. So the elder brother task takes care of the younger brother task of practice, instead of a creation of a separate standalone task,

Then stick to the Plan!

Coming back to Time, let us look at two important concepts Duration and Distribution.

DURATION-Practice putting brains into the muscles, and not muscles into the brains.

My Guruji once smiled and said some words, which even today resound in my mind when I practice...( if you practice with your fingers, God Help you, no amount of time is enough and you will keep playing till frustration stops the eternal process. However, if you practice with your head even 15 mins is enough!)

How’s and what’s of Practicing 

Thus the highest stable levels of practice that can sustain before exhaustion is the time to stop. Easier said than done!

When does this happen? Do we fall into the trap of recognising or do we continue to press ourselves beyond? What happens next is really negative returns start setting in, leading to the exhaustion, stress, and boredom.

Tread very carefully, do not squeeze the lemon, so much that it starts getting bitter. Watch carefully! Know when to stop! This will require each individual to figure out, it is not really 15 mins, or 75 mins. Do not get time bound, or watch/clock bound, get objective bound and exhaustion bound. One clear indication is when your enjoyment and learning levels starts to fall, STOP!

Knowing when to stop is the key to further learnings and daily improvements.

Leave your practice in the stage in which your mind says why, instead of Why Not. It will be a great motivator for you when the next session, you will dearly wait to get back to your Bansuri! Or any other instrument, or practice.

Two more aspects are important.

Please practice alone! It is a common aspect to hear, come let us practice together invites. Practicing together is not practice, it is at best playing together. It does hone other skills yes, but not the objectives of practice.

Keep a diary or video of your dances, or audio of your singing. Most important, please listen to them at the end of practice session, already mentioned above.

Find a coach so that your practice is constantly supervised, by the teacher, feedback, good, bad, painful, all with the greatest listening/discerning powers you have. As well be sure to think, there could be a few feedbacks purposely thrown in as a ploy by your coach that may not work for you? Are you clever enough to introspect and find them out?

A common fallacy is I have not done my homework, thus I cannot go to school or am scared or have a guilty conscious so can we cancel today’s session as I had no time to practice?

The back end of the brain does work, believe me, it does work overtime in unconscious memory and therefore sometimes we are surprised of how the practice is better even though hardly any inputs have gone into it?

The sessions with your coach or any teacher would typically start with 50% warming up, review of techniques etc. This gives the coach and you a fair idea of where you stand today and paves the way for the next 50% of additives or further explorations.

So a session if it is viewed that way, of the DOCTORS DIAGNOSIS, check-up first, then the further remedy it becomes clear that daily practice as little or nothing to do with the sessions with your coach/guru. Finally as mentioned above;

The singular most important step – Introspection

Ask yourself the questions -

Did the practice fit into the objectives? What happened in between, where, look for nooks and crannies. Initially it will be like searching for a needle in a haystack, but soon lo behold you will be able to see them crystal clear with your eyes closed! Record an audio of yourself critically examine each of the objectives.

Record the objectives as well at the onset, in simple few words, as mentioned above.

Implement these few steps and you will not only feel the difference in your practice going from strength to strength, but will pave the way for a higher degree of motivation to play and enjoy your art form.


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Author is a Toronto based BANSURI musician,teacher,speaker, maker of flutes of various worlds, a published author. His writings rely on his experiences of learning music, as he continues on that beautiful never ending journey. His thoughts emanate from the discipline and study of music spans over decades. He is deeply influenced by the Indian Music Traditional guru-shishya parampara; his guruji Late Pandit Malhar Rao Kulkarni bansuri musician, Swami Parmananda of Kangra Valley Ashram where he spent learning ancient Vidhis of India, principally Chanakya Neeti. The priceless subject that strengthens thought processing abilities.A  subject forgotten as Chanakya did not write any of his teachings down as a matter of his principle. The views and ideas expressed are his own, the objective being to invoke the person to think differently, on simple issues that surround all of us in day to day life. Site is

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