Music Miracles Blog

The Power of Practice in Music & Life:

5 Tips to Make Your Practice Effective and Fun!

               From The  Motivational Music Coach

“Go practice piano!”—I hated hearing these words when I was a kid, so much that I stuffed my little blue duffle bag with a few shirts, a toothbrush and jeans and started down the street in an attempt to run away cause I DIDN’T WANT TO PRACTICE!

But why?

If you ever took piano when you were young, you probably were told these words by your parents. As I reflect on this experience, a number of things were happening, some external and some internal, that led to my distaste.

Some parents will tell me how much fun the lessons are, but that their child is not practicing. Instead of forcing students, I prefer to discover where the resistance is and then develop simple methods to make practice as inspiring and enjoyable as the lessons.

My resistance started by practicing on a beat-up, out-of-tune piano in our dark, dingy basement. And I was forced to practice alone. It was like I was princess being summoned into the musical dungeon.

Here are five tips I use to make my own practice effective and fun!



Create an inspiring musical space with excellent lighting.  Have all  your practice materials organized and in order along with your monthly practice sticker chart. When we feel comfortable and enthusiastic in a creative, musical nurturing space, it helps us associate positive feelings with practice time.

Tip #2: Create a Special Time Daily to Practice

at least 15-30 minutes five   days a week. Have a working metronome and timer in your space to help monitor time and use those     stickers! 

Tip #3 : Set 1-3 monthly goals and a practice intention.

Write them down and post them where you can see them each time you practice. Make them clear and doable like these.

My goal for piano is to play Bach’s Prelude in C from Start to Finish smoothly and confidently.

My goal for guitar is to play lead on the Jazz jam smoothly and confidently.

My goal for ukulele and singing is to play and sing All of Me in a steady rhythm and hitting the high A at the end of the song clearly, strongly with ease and confidence.

My intention is to practice with joy, lightness and compassion.      

Tip #4: Create a plan to reach your goals

Like when we workout, it’s good to start with a warm up to transition us into our music making time. Scales and arpeggios (broken chords) across the the keys or fretboard are a super start! For me, it is a meditation. Then practice applying 1-3 concepts we address in lessons to your repertoire and have fun!    

Tip #5: Practice Gratitude-

This summer, I began to Ask for guidance for how to expand my vision of promote peace, love and joy through music and creativity to the world.  As I was taking a stroll along Henry’s beach one morning with my psychedelic peace uke strapped on my back, the answer came through my heart in full force-GRATITUDE! I plopped down on the nearest rock and began strumming and singing my song “Grateful” that Quinn and I play at a local Alzheimer’s home. 

I am grateful for the children and the trees /I am grateful for the faces I see/ I am grateful for the joy in my heart/I am grateful for the One Song we are 

I am grateful, so grateful, I am grateful so grateful cause love lives in me/ I am grateful, so grateful, I am grateful so grateful for this truth sets me free

I am grateful for this holy life/I am grateful for this sacred flight

I am grateful for the power of peace/I am grateful for this mystery

One of the internal blocks that was creating resistance to my practice years ago was fear. I was terrified of all the deep emotions music was bringing to the surface, and I didn’t feel safe nor know how to express them. When we connect with gratitude, it reminds us of how loved we all truly are in expressing our true selves. 

I encourage you and your children to take a few minutes out of your busy days to breath deeply and practice gratitude. Music reminds us of the incredible gift of our lives. I also invite you to write or choose your own gratitude song for our November 9 Gratitude Gathering at Maravilla at 6 p.m. I am deeply grateful to all of you for opening your home to me, sharing your families, children, dogs, cats, and magical musical moments. I look forward to an inspiring year as we all learn, grow and….JAM together.   Rock On!

In Harmony, Gratitude and Joy-       Emily & Quinn

The future trail in Jackson Hole. Photo given by permission.

The future Skyline trail in Jackson Hole. Photo given by permission from friends of the Skyline trail.

The First Miracle of Music:  Just Show Up

What does it mean to show up for your music? For me, is the first step in building a relationship with your creativity. We show up at the piano to practice the songs we love, show up for our lessons to learn more skills to fill our musical toolbox and grow with our teachers. We show up to play with others to expand our listening and communicating, and to write songs and see where the miracle of music leads us.

I participate and witness miracles daily. Music grows and deepen from within us as the toolbox of skills we possess begins to fill up with new magical tools that help us decode this miraculous language. One of the recent miracles I witnessed happened with an adult student of mine.

Betsy lost the second of her two nephews in an avalanche last year in Jackson Hole. He was killed while working on a trail in honor of his brother who was also killed in a bike race seven years ago. Heartbreaking but even more tragic, they were brothers. Both of them had families of their own left behind. It was a complete shock with no goodbyes.

Syncronicity brought Betsy and I together. After watching one of my students perform, she wanted to join in the fun with “the energy, collaboration and fun that he projected while playing and performing. I wanted to be in that place too!” He gave her my name. For over four years, she he has been on a hero’s journey learning the patterns of music on the fretboard. After taking a few months to grieve her second nephew’s passing, she came back to the guitar but wanted to go deeper, perhaps even learning to compose, so she bought a Yamaha keyboard.

Betsy constantly delves into musical theory but hasn’t expressed confidence sharing her unique song, or essence. I sensed all along that music is a powerful healing vehicle to express aspects of herself that she has been hesitant to show.

One morning she awoke to the sound of a tune coming through her and could hear the voice of her recently departed nephew singing a song. The hook, or repeating phrase, of the song was “Just show up, and I’ll be there.” This was a phrase that her nephew said all the time in an easy light-hearted way. She grabbed my workbook An Odyssey of Song and began writing the notes she was hearing on the musical staff to birth her first song.

I wrote about a similar experience with my father in my book. He showed up for me after he passed on through song and story more than he ever could during his living years. He inspired me to “show up” for my musical dreams regardless of how distant they appeared to be.
As I reflect on my role as a music teacher, It seems one of my responsibilities is to be a voice for the messages the music brings. Whether it is the recently departed David Bowie, Prince or for Grace, beloved family members who leave without goodbyes, we have to be willing to “show up” for where our creativity guides us and be open to the miracles that music brings.

Here are Betsy’s lyrics:
JUST SHOW UP-a song for Luke and Matt
Just show up
’cause we’ll be waiting
Just show up
We’ll all be there

Where the world
Looks like a painting
That is meant
For us to share

Just show up
’cause we remember
It was a dream
That you held dear

Of a place
Above the timber
That’s where we all
Can feel you near

Just show up
Just show up
We’ll show up
Just show up …

If you feel inspired to help out with the Skyline Trail, please visit this link to learn more about it and donate at