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I’m Too Busy to Practice!

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Do you remember the first time you picked up your instrument?  (Bear with me pianists, drummers, and pipe organists)

Remember what it felt like the first time you figured out how to play something that didn’t sound terrible?

That wonderful moment where you thought “Hey!  I can play this instrument.”

Your friends gathered around you to hear the latest pop song that you had spent hours learning how to play.

Yea, we’ve all been there.  There’s something special about the first experiences with our instrument.  I remember being so proud of myself when I learned how to play Everlong.  Or years later when I figured out how to play a basic beat on the drums.  I felt like I could conquer the world!

Somewhere along the line I joined a worship team.  I was in way over my head and spent hours each night trying to learn the music that we’d be leading on the weekend.  And you know what was weird about this experience?  I enjoyed every moment of practicing at home on my simple guitar.  I reveled in being able to play the whole set that weekend.  I was darn proud of myself for learning how to play that Lincoln lick.

I know you’ve been there too.  It’s part of what brought us to where we are now, serving God through music.  Leading His people in worship.  Planning Sets.  Mentoring Others.  Programming the Lights.  Meeting with our senior pastor.  Making a hospital visit.  Calling people to make sure they’re lined up on the greeting team.  Going to staff meetings.  Fixing that projector in the kids room.  How on earth were they able to get bubble gum in the projector in the kids room?  Sending our chord charts.  Booking team members.  Wait, the drummer is sick this weekend.  I can’t find any drummer to play.  Do I plan an acoustic set?  

When did I get so Busy?

Have you ever just stopped to ask yourself this important question?  I imagine you’re like me.  When life gets busy, I stop practicing.  I don’t take time to work on some scales on the guitar.  I won’t go through some vocal training.  Heck, I won’t even warm up before we start our rehearsal time.  Months will go by and before I know it, I’m not getting better at all musically.  If you find yourself in the same situation, here’s what I have to say to you.

Just practice

Powerful, isn’t it?

Sometimes you just need to take the time and practice.  Force yourself to become better at your craft.  Need some scripture?

Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy. Psalm 33:3

This verse should really hit all of us right between the eyes.  We are leading God’s people in worship.  To bring anything less than our very best musicianship shouldn’t be an option.  God has placed you in the position you are in for a reason.  Don’t insult Him by winging it and relying on yesterday’s ability.  Cultivate your craft.

  • Schedule.  Carve out 20 minutes every day to practice.
  • Be Intentional.  Don’t just play your instrument or sing.  Work on a specific scale or piece of music.  Do it with a metronome and take notes to track your growth.
  • Keep it Practical.  Challenge yourself with a song you’d like to do in the future but can’t do now.
  • Don’t Beat Yourself Up.  You won’t practice every day and that’s ok.  Just don’t let it slide for days at a time.
  • Take Lessons.  Find someone better than you and learn from them.  We all need someone to speak in to our lives.  Heck, leave a comment here and I’ll hop on skype with you for a bit if you need some help.

What do you do to make sure you get practice time in?

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13 Responses to “I’m Too Busy to Practice!”

  1. Guilty as charged! Thanks for the simple and great points, Ryan. I’m going to go for it!

  2. Guilty!
    Man this home to something I was feeling yesterday!

  3. Oscar Fuentes June 23, 2014 at 9:00 pm Reply

    Great article! Keep on keepin’ on…..

  4. Excellent observation and advice. Another good way to strive for excellence is teach. Most of us know of a potential student or two we could take on. It keeps us sharp and is a good investment in others.

  5. So true Tam! Teaching gives you a whole lot of insight into your own abilities.

  6. Great article, Ryan. I am guilty of this often. Sometimes I get to rehearsal time and teach new songs I myself have only played once or twice. Luckily, I’ve most likely listened to it a thousand times (I learn mostly by listening). But thats no excuse to not continually hone in and develop the abilities God gave me. It’s a new day! I’m gonna put these principals to practice.

  7. Getting in on the conversation late, but better late than never. These are great thoughts. I especially like the “be intentional” part of what you write.

    I spend a lot of my time practicing secular music. “Secular music?” you ask. Yeah, for real. I just use it to increase my skills on my instruments, while having great fun. The other day, I spent an hour figuring out how to play the ancient U2 song “Twilight.” It was a blast! Not only did I enjoy myself immensely, but I also learned another way to play a very colorful Em chord. During another time, I spent a couple of weeks learning to play David Gilmour’s solo on “Money.” It was amazingly fun. And imagine my surprise when my worship leader (at the time) decided we were going to do the song “Money” as an out-of-the-box special music number to lead into a sermon about God and finances. Are you kidding? Figure the odds? I was already set!

    Another thing I’ve done since becoming the full-time worship leader at my church is to work from home for 3 hours on the morning of our rehearsal day. This gives me a set time, “on the clock,” where I can concentrate solely on that week’s music. I play and sing in my basement — loudly — and make all my mistakes, get comfortable with what I’ll play, figure out what’s too hard to play while singing at the same time, and just prepare my musicianship for THAT WEEK. It also gives me time to be in prayer and personal worship, focusing my thoughts on the songs and message at hand. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. We can get so busy working in ministry … intentionally setting aside time, AWAY FROM THE MANY DISTRACTIONS OF CHURCH, really has helped. Instead of “relying on my talent to wing it” at rehearsals, I’m truly prepared. And when the worship leader is truly prepared, others on the team will follow … and they have.

    Thanks so much for sharing these thoughts.

  8. Like Petri Nauha; I too am guilty as charged. Your five practice tips are printed out and taped to my music stand along with Ps 33:3. Thank you!

  9. Thanks for taking the time to do this. In my case its the worship leaders who wont arrange any practice as they are “too busy”. We turn up 1hr before service and use this time as soundcheck/practice. I know we could be so much better & I want to be the best I can for the Lord but what can I do? I practice by myself but dont always get the setlist till the Saturday. Ive tried asking them about practice but the most theyll commit to is once a month. Help!!!!!

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