My Dog Ate My Music!

Whining About Lack of Practice Time?

Are Your Excuses For Not Practicing Justified?

As a teacher of the banjo, guitar and mandolin, I often hear the various reasons why someone is not able to practice.

After earning my BA degree, I first attended law school and then moved on to graduate school. My career soon required me to move eight times to four states. Yet, in all these moves and disruptions, I never took a break from my music. I am not claiming to be a poster child for practicing. However, I find it amusing when a child or an adult tells me they are too busy to practice.

When I teach my guitar class for children, 20 youngsters appear on the first day of class, ready and anxious to play. That number sometimes dwindles to a smaller number as the term goes on.  A few of the children soon realize that learning a musical instrument requires dedication and effort. When I ask the children to raise their hands if they practiced every day the first week, not many raise their hands. Yet, when I ask them if they watched TV or play video games daily, many of them salute in unison.

Adults are not much different. In the past, I had adults tell me that unlike me, music is not the way they make a living. Music is not their sole interest. They have a family or they have other obligations. My response to such comments is that if I had ever thought that way when I started playing music, I would not have reached the level in which I play today. I never considered practicing music in a manner which would generate income or as a means of making a living. I never let my job, family and friends, hobbies or other interests, or the various moves I made from state to state,  interfere with my determination to practice and learn music. I simply practiced because I enjoyed the music.

I guess my rationale is that if you have the time to take a shower (which I hope you do) then you have the fifteen or twenty minutes a day to play the banjo, guitar or mandolin.  If you can watch an hour or more of the latest reality shows on TV, then you can practice your instrument an hour a day. It is all a matter of how you prioritize your time.  In my case, music just became a passion and a high priority.  It was never intended to be a career.

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About fretmentor

Born in Detroit, Michigan, David F. Jakubiak has been involved in music since the age of 7, beginning as a clarinet player and then at 9 turning his attention to stringed instruments. He earned trophies in group talent competitions while a student at the University of Michigan. The instructor earned a BA degree in Organizational Psychology from the University of Michigan and a Masters in Public Administration at the University of Kansas. At college, he also studied classical music and music history. His passion is teaching music and in performing as a musician. In addition to on-stage performances, David has played in various venues from outdoor festivals to small nightclubs. He plays, performs and teaches various styles of music, including rock, pop, blues, jazz, classical, country and bluegrass styles. He performs and teaches acoustic and electric guitar, five-string banjo, and mandolin. His styles range from Scruggs, melodic, Reno and old-time style on banjo, to finger-style and flat-picking technique on guitar, to various styles of mandolin. For over 45 years, Mr. Jakubiak has taught all age groups, taking a personal interest in each student to ensure that they receive the attention and lesson plans that meet their needs and interests. His lessons and instructional materials place a strong emphasis on the practical use or music theory to ensure that the student understands the instrument and learns how to improvise to develop their own style. Mr Jakubiak teaches group and studio classes, webcam lessons over the internet, and individual private lessons to students of various ages. He has compiled and produced six instructional books on CD. David has written for Banjo Newsletter, a monthly publication for the banjo enthusiast and is in the process of writing an article for the Fretboard Journal. He is the founder of www.fretmentor.com. To contact David Jakubiak, please feel free to e-mail him at david AT fretmentor.com (substitute the @ sign for the word AT)
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9 Responses to My Dog Ate My Music!

  1. avatar Tigerpaws says:

    I think this is mostly a personality issue. Many wish to achieve through “osmosis”….others realize that hard work is usually required. Some of us are the lucky ones that are not “scared away” by hard work (practice), however a great number of people do not have this “gift” so they use excuses as to why they aren’t setting time aside to learn their instrument.

  2. avatar Dave Lamont says:

    Music really isn’t any different than anything else that requires time and discipline. Anything that is worthwhile in life needs a time investment. Even relationships require time. Everything requires a time slot, and the management of them. We’re only given so much time, we should use it wisely.
    The mechanics of the instrument and the language of music takes time and discipline to learn, a lifetime.

  3. avatar screen dude says:

    Thank you for all the encouragement.

  4. avatar Brilind says:

    Music is all about training that other part of your brain. Practicing has to be a game seperate from just playing and you have to figure out what seems to be entertaining during practice. When you first start playing progress comes easy since you are starting from zero. Much harder to go from something to creating “music.” The improtant thing is the process.

    When I was growing up it seemed like everyone took piano lessons. It seemed like 90% dropped before they ever graduated from book 1. BTW, activities and TV don’t mix.

  5. avatar Jim Joyce says:

    Practice habits can be considerably enhanced by owning a good instrument and having it set-up properly. I find it is also helpful to have the instrument handy such that I can grab it and play it in a very short time when something of interest pops in my head, generally leading to a lengthy session.
    I keep my older entry level banjo handy for practicing a new song, lick, timing exercise, chord changes, etc. I lowered the string action quite a bit by adjusting the single coordinator rod, and reset the bridge to the proper position which matched the 12th fret notes to the open notes, at a higher octave. I also “tap tuned” the head to an A to brighten up the tone and added some lighter guage strings (JD Crowe ghs medium light stage set (PF135). All this significantly improved the “crack” and tone, and playability. I also removed the resonator and associated attachment hardware to lighten it up for “endurance”. It is much more enjoyable to play, sounds much better and literally puts some excitement in some of the tunes that had become rather stale.
    Bottom line…….get the best your instrument has to offer, make playing less painful on the fingers and watch your practice frequency and intensity improve.

  6. avatar Bobby Clyde Hickox says:

    Thanks for the wake up article.

  7. avatar gogogal says:

    I think I’ve recently made more of a committment to practise as I’ve seen some improvement in my playing. I think practising becomes more satisfying and rewarding as the results become more apparent…….but it’s kind of like a 2 way street: the more you practise the more results, the more results the more you practise.

  8. avatar Andy Baumann says:

    While I still consider myself a beginner, I’ve come to see that it’s not just the amount of time you put into practicing everyday – but practicing smart. Like everyone else, I have to balance work, family (I have two five-year olds) and chores (lawn doesn’t cut itself after all). Simply putting in long stretches of practice don’t work in my life, so I found that dividing practice up into shorter stretches helps. Also, this helps organize the practice time. For example, I might start with 15 minutes of playing scales then put the guitar down and go about the rest of my life. Later, I might sit back down when I have the chance, and play some old songs to keep them fresh. Then I finish with working on something new. I’m always amazed when I add all that time back up how much time it really amounts to.

  9. avatar John Kino says:

    I must admit FM was right to say we were in for quite a treat. These two guys are fantastic. I found it to be a pleasure to watch them perform, you can see and feel that they really love what they are doing and enjoying it at the same time. As Uwe said they play music six to eight hours a day (not practice), and know some 900 songs, with some played 2000 times so as to play them to perfection. I enjoyed listening to Uwe telling us what it takes to be a successfull musician and telling us the tricks of the trade. These two guys should write a book, it would be in demand to anyone who wants to be a professional musician. I guess its like any other trade, it takes alot of work and as I have always said 99 percent prespiration and 1 percent inspiration.

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