How to Get Better When You Don’t Have Time

apostolicchurch apostolicmusician churchmusic hgrmusic inandout momlife pianoplayer son upcimusic Apr 06, 2022

My son has asked if we can have In-N-Out for dinner for the last three weeks. Before I was vegan I would eat in and out 2 to 3 times a week. Hey, no judgment, it's good!

 The nice thing about being vegan in 2022 is there are so many options other than salads. I recently got married and moved far away from my current favorite vegan burger spot. If you are ever near nice guys in Newport Beach, Treat yourself, I promise you won’t know it’s vegan!

If you’re a burger junkie AKA In- N-Out, you know to ask for more spread. This is the secret sauce to their burgers!

…today I’m going to talk about the secret sauce to getting better on the piano when you don’t have time.

 The first thing that comes to mind when I talk about how to get better when you can’t do it all is I’m trying to be ruthless with my priorities. Really, really hone in on what are the things I should be doing because I can make a to do list as long as a Christmas list. I never get those things done and overload myself. 

 I’m in the middle of a big transition season myself; so I’m living this.

 When I moved that meant that I was also moving my business away from my team. I had been operating as a Music Director for the last 18 years. I went from living by myself to a house with five people. So having priorities, having a schedule and learning rhythms is definitely something I’m working to prioritize right now.

You probably also wear a lot of hats and are juggling a Christmas list of priorities every day too!

I'm a piano coach and I teach a weekly piano coaching class. I’m also having to learn to prioritize my own practice time.

I have noticed for myself the time of day plays a huge role in me being able to stick with a goal. If I don’t get the hard things done before lunch, my willpower fades because I get tired or as a day goes on and then I end up talking myself out of trying to reach that goal.

I’ve had to ask myself what my endgame is. At the end of the year what is the thing that I will be proud of myself for focusing on.

You guys already know this, but it’s impossible to get better without practicing!

So how do you (realistically) find time to practice.

One of the ingredients to this “getting better secret sauce” is that once your practice time is done even if you only spent five minutes, you automatically feel encouraged and inspired. That’s what’s going to keep you motivated for the long term!

How do you prioritize your priorities?


This will look different for everyone because everyone has a different personality. Which means our minds all work differently.

 If for example, you’re not a naturally tidy person….it’s easy to spend so much time on: I want a clean house, I want a clean room and spend two or three hours cleaning a room but there’s no long-term change. Because the focus is to have a clean room instead of having clean habits.

 If I can learn to build habits in my life where if I see something, I put it in its spot versus just throwing it on the next clear counter. Then those things help me build better rhythms that I can also stay in for a lifetime.

 One of the main priorities is looking at where I can build my small habits. And maybe you can’t give an hour of practice a day, but what can you give. If you can give five minutes to pursuing your dream and becoming a better piano player consistently is better for you than getting caught up in having to sit in front of the piano for an hour. Small steps consistently are more powerful than trying to tackle a big chunk of practice time. Especially when it doesn’t work with your lifestyle of cooking, chores and church responsibilities. 


Ask yourself where you can build a smart habit versus putting pressure on yourself. Unrealistic expectations to practice for a long amount of time already feels overwhelming.

Big, unrealistic goals will sabotage your ability to reach your goal!!

 Think long term small sustainable goals versus huge unattainable goals.

 How to find practice time.

  1. Set a timer for 15 minutes
  2. Plan the day before what you’ll be working on.
  3. Print out the chord chart and put it on your keyboard.

Consistency is the secret sauce.

 Let’s talk about practice strategies!

If I set a goal for myself of learning a new song a week I wouldn’t even make it past the first week. Something much more manageable for me is keeping a notepad by my keyboard with one new chord that I’m learning. 


Let’s Set You up with Realistic Practice Expectations!

 Here are some things you can try: 

  1. Break a song up over a month - learning it piece by piece (I’ll talk more about this in a second)
  2. Write down A fancy chord or fill  you already learned in the song, and take each week to practice it in a new song.
  3. Practice doesn’t always have to be something new. Sometimes our brains are overwhelmed and the thought of learning something new isn’t even manageable. Playing a song you already know keeps you from getting rusty and gives you a boost of energy because now you feel like you’ve accomplished something.


How to Find time to Learn New Songs Break a song up over a month. 

  1. The first week focus on verse one chorus
  2. The second week focuses on the chorus. 
  3. The third week focuses on the bridge. 
  4. The last week focuses on putting it all together.


If your practice strategy is to focus on one chord here’s…..


The Best Way to Learn a New Chord

  1. If you don’t already -  play it in a song, add it to a song you currently know.
  2. Play that same song in every key on the piano, yes including E, A and B. 
  3. Now see how many songs you can have that same chord and then play those songs in every key. 


Here’s how to know when you’ve really learned something on the piano.

  1. Playing it becomes natural to you. You play it without thinking about it.
  2. You can play it without looking at your hands.
  3. You can play it with your eyes closed.
  4. BONUS You can play it 10 times in a row and get it right every time.



 Sometimes we try to learn too much and as we move onto the next thing too quickly we forget the thing we learned before. So our playing never really changes.

 You will easily overwhelm yourself by learning too much and trying to go too fast.

The goal is to learn a trick or chord or song so well that the next thing you learn will be building on that. You’re not just learning a new song, you're changing the way that you play.


Don’t forget to subscribe to my channel and let me know how these practice tips helped you!  TuneBucket  

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