Oh let me count the ways! Actually, you can break it down to three main components of practicing that are very easy to improve: environment, music and techniques. When your environment inspires you, the music you are working on motivates you AND you have many user-friendly techniques for accomplishing your goals, practicing soon becomes a joy, not a chore!
Environment: Perhaps you would like to practice in the same room you usually do, but make it more inviting. Paint the walls, put up a beautiful picture, switch out the light bulbs, light a candle - the possibilities are endless when it comes to designing your ideal practice environment. Perhaps you would like to switch locations. Bathrooms are excellent practice rooms; the tile insures that you sound beautiful (think of how great you sound when you sing in the shower!). Perhaps your garage would provide more space and a nicer acoustic. As long as it's not raining, maybe you could even practice outside!
Music/Repertoire: Is the piece you are working on too hard for you? Take it down a notch and work on something more accessible. Is it too easy? Seek out something more challenging! Do you crave variety? There is nothing wrong with working on seven pieces at a time! Do you crave simplicity? Quit trying to do it all and just pick one lovely piece to work on. Do you hate fundamentals? Design your own warm-up that is tailor-made to your preferences. There are absolutely no limits when it comes to choosing what to practice. The choice is yours! (If you are in school and your teacher insists that you play certain pieces, change it up with fun pieces that you can play as a break from the mandatory ones!)
Practice Techniques: Talk about endless possibilities! If repetition or drilling makes you sick to your stomach, then DON'T DO IT. You can try practice games (see my "Practice Games" article) or slow, exploratory practice to figure out ways of playing challenging passages. Or... if you are overwhelmed easily by the sheer amount of details and technical demands in your piece, than perhaps working on one small section at a time and repetition of small elements are exactly what you need!
The key to effective practice is not to do what you "should" be doing, but finding fun and creative ways of what you WANT to be doing. It is very difficult to practice hours on one line of music when it's not even that rewarding once you are able to play it. On the other hand, if a passage of music thrills you and sends goosebumps up and down your spine when you hear your favorite flutist perform it, you will search to the ends of the earth to find out how you can do it, too!
Instead of beating yourself up with guilt and self-loathing because you don't practice as much as you should, seek out ways to motivate yourself. When you are motivated and inspired, practicing becomes a beauty and treasure-seeking adventure!
by Terri Sanchez