Knowing your musical goals is essential to success.
If you don’t know where you are aiming, how do you expect to hit your target?
Setting musical goals is something that many students don't take the time to do because they don't see it as important. "Surely it is a better use of my time to practice my instrument, not sit down writing" is the argument I commonly hear. "I could complete one of my goals in the time it takes to write them all down" is another. Fast, smooth progress in any area of life comes from knowing where you are going, and music is no exception.
footballer scoring a goal
He knows where he is aiming.
In the same way you need to know where you are aiming with your playing. Having clear musical goals means you progress much faster.
Once your mind knows its goal, i.e. where it needs to get to, it will be able to work on achieving that goal. I am not saying all you need to do is have a goal and not practice here by the way! I am saying that having a clear goal and smaller targets to achieve as steps means more effective practice for you. Your mind will find how to practice efficiently and keep you focused on your targets. Imagine going on a journey where you would only know the destination when you arrived. "I'll know it when I see it" or "I'll know when I get there" are common phrases used by people... the trouble is most of them never do "see it" and never do "get there." Having clear musical goals helps you achieve what you want to from your music, whether that is playing on a huge stage to tens of thousands of rock fans, performing as a soloist with an orchestra in one of the world's great concert venues, playing in your local church, teaching, taking the lead role in the next school play... whatever your aspirations, you have a much greater chance of achieving them if you turn them into clear goals.
What will I gain and what might I lose?
Be aware of what you stand to gain and lose through working towards and achieving your goal. It is important to think consciously about this as your unconscious will already have thought about it! Better to have these things out in the open as far as your mind is concerned!
Not that you should let these things stop you, just be aware of their presence. Thinking about them consciously brings them out into the open and helps you evaluate your goals clearly. It also allows you to be aware of the pitfalls coming up and prepare to deal with them "I suspected this might be coming and I just need to work through it" is much more likely see you conquer any difficulties you have along the way. It also allows you to evaluate and balance your goals, and reevaluate them if you need to. Once you have done this you find it much easier to achieve your long term goals... in life as well as music!
Where do you want to be in 10 years time with your music? How about in 5 years time? or 5 months time? Where are you aiming to be in 5 weeks time? Do these goals fall in line with each other? Take some time to think about your musical goals. Discuss them with your teacher and parents.
it takes approximately 10,000 to become an absolute expert at something. That is 10,000 hours to become a top concert pianist for instance. Translated it would mean roughly 3 hours a day for ten years. If your final goal is to be a concert performer you have to start thinking in terms of making this commitment. Even while you might be happy to do that, your parents may not be as enthusiastic as other areas of your life may suffer, school work, friends etc. They may want you to have a much broader education, especially since even with the 10,000 hours actually becoming a concert pianist (or olympic athlete etc.) is not guaranteed!
Think about your long term, medium term and short term goals. Do they match up? Is there a flow from one to the next?
Target based practice
Planning practice targets for your practice sessions is also very helpful in achieving your goals.
If you don't have a teacher and you are following a home based or internet music course it is even more important to have clear overall musical goals and practice targets each week. Give yourself a certain time to have completed your practice targets each week and get into the habit of sticking to it. That way you will ensure faster, more effective musical progress.
What if you feel you aren't making progress?
Whenever we learn a new skill there is often a steep curve at the beginning when we feel we are making very fast progress but then comes a plateau when we often practice but feel we aren't really getting anywhere. This is the point that some people give up. It is important to get over the plateau.
Clear practice targets every week
Lesson Notes and Practice Targets is the best way to make more from your music lesson. It helps all music students make better use of their practice time helping them achieve more in less time.
And what should you do if you don't achieve one of your goals in the given time? Or you don't achieve your practice targets for a week? Don't beat yourself up!