When You Don’t Have Time to Practice

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In this episode, you will learn all about how you can keep up your flute practice schedule, even when you don’t have time! You’re going to love these tips and tricks. 

Learn Flute Podcast 126

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Podcast Transcript

Heyho there fellow fluties! Having a busy life for a minute or two and perhaps your regular flute practicing has been extremely difficult to get to lately?

Ah, I get it. Today I’m going to give you a boat load of tips that will help you when you don’t have time to practice. Boom. Let’s go.


Hey, it’s me, Rebecca, your flute instructor and friend in all things music, education, and self-improvement. 

Ahh, it’s a gorgeous fall day right now for me at the time of recording this episode, and I am just enjoying looking out my window, feeling the cooler air, and enjoying the view of the mountains. 

I hope you put yourself in a position where you can just stop and stare at the beautiful scenery once in a while. 

I find that it feeds my creativity and makes me feel as if I’ve had a little escape. 

I’m a complete sucker for a gorgeous view. It’s what my camera roll is full of.

What is your camera roll full of?

When I take a vacation I take hundreds and even sometimes thousands of pictures. 

I was that kid back in the 80’s who had a point-and-shoot camera on me at all times. 

In fact, I used a lot of babysitting money to buy these and get them developed, only to find out that there were only a couple of the thirty-five pictures on there that weren’t fuzzy, off-center, or even just blank. 

You know, goodness, the struggle was real. How many of you remember this? I can’t be the only one.

So, when digital cameras rolled around I was like a kid in a candy store! I couldn’t believe that I could take a picture, look at it, decide if I wanted to keep it and then take another… all before even printing. I haven’t stopped with this. It’s still a wonder to me.

In the past few years I’ve been blessed to have been able to take a few walks around the earth. And you know, it’s a cool place. I like to take pictures of it. 

There are so many amazing people also, and sites to see. I like the new food and the smells. Ahhh, I get a bit sentimental about what I’ve experienced. 

I’ve been all over Africa and into the Middle East as well as through Europe and even South America. 

Anyway, I wanted to also bring this up to demonstrate that there’s no way I could have kept up a practice streak with my flute during all of these travels. 

I also have had a few bouts of incredibly busy family time and of course the occasional illness.

And guess what? I’m human, so I just get to keep on keepin on in the world of music and helping all of you good folks with your journey as well.

So because we humans have these times of life when we can’t possibly stay on a perfect schedule, I’d like to bring this up today to demonstrate that it’s okay. 

We’re going to release the guilt of not staying on our schedule

And we’re going to also learn some strategies with some awesome tips and tricks that help us when you don’t have time to practice. I’m in the same boat, folks!

First, let me preface this with the notion that I not only have done these things we’re going to talk about today, but I still do them today. 

Sometimes whether I’m busy or not!

I first learned to short cut my learning curve decades ago when I was in college and honestly didn’t have the bandwidth or time to stay in the practice room for hours each day to accomplish what I needed to. 

I did these things we’re going to talk about, and it made all the difference for me.

And like I said, I still do these.

Are you ready to dive into my, I would say, hack list for practicing musicians? 

Well that’s what it is. 

Now of course, there’s never a substitute for actually having your hands and face on your instrument, but these things will get us ahead of the game so that when we do have our flute out, we are more organized and prepared for what we’re attempting to do, and we can navigate our busy time of life.

Okeedokee here we go:

Number one on my list today is to Listen to music.s

Listen to your music, yep. It really is as simple as that.

We can listen in several different ways with the first being just as a passive listen as our music is in maybe the background of our life. 

As we’re driving around, or walking around, or cleaning the house- you know, whatever we need to do. 

Now once- listening to something once is nice, twice is okay, three times is slightly better, but honestly three hundred times will actually let what we’re listening to seep into our deeper mind and unconsciousness. 

For almost twenty five years I taught and ran a large Suzuki music studio which means I know all about this skill of passive listening. 

I taught my children this way as well. By the age of six they were able to memorize literally volumes of music without even trying because of what I’m talking about right now.

We have always had music going in our home, and we still do today. Music is just part of us, and putting on music creates a vibe and a feeling in our home. 

I am not really a radio station listener so much, but my husband sure is.. And he has decades of lyrics and songs running around in his mind. 

He can play the radio, he can, and he can sing along with the best of them. You know which songs are the easiest for him to sing every single word to?  Yep, you guessed it. The songs of his earlier years of life – the songs from the seventies and eighties especially.

He sings loud and proud, loud and enthusiastically too with a big grin on his face the whole time. The memories of these songs are very, very tangible to him.

So, I would say, the number one here- number one on our list- is to listen to music and then even more specifically, listen to YOUR music. Over and over. What you’re studying should be on the top of your playlist. 

Okay, now some of you are wondering how you do this from a technical standpoint, where you don’t really have to stand by your device, and skip back, and push play again, over and over and over, right? 

Well, there have been many incredible performances recorded on this earth, and my bet is that you can find various recordings of what you’re currently learning and also – let’s please make sure that you’re using my example recordings from within the modules here at Learn Flute Online. 

I demonstrate and perform every piece for you. 

There are mp3 downloads for you, but like I said if it’s too technical to use those and to keep skipping back, here’s a tip- your audio voice memos recorder on your phone (yeah, on your smartphone!). 

There’s a recording app on there, and you can press play on the computer as your study or your performance piece is being played (like when I’m playing it, or if you have something being played from a different place).

Then you have a quick and easy to listen to version on your phone, by just hitting record and recording it with your voice memos recorder. 

Hm, I actually do this all the time. 

Now, I do have some higher level apps and some different tricks for getting it to replay over and over too, but this will get you started, and know that anything you play within a music app like apple music, or spotify, or google play etc. there’s a replay button. And you can just have it replay over and over and over. 

So get it in your mind that it’s really good to learn to listen, and to relisten. I oftentimes will put a piece on repeat as I have to drive my car somewhere like if I’m going to an appointment, and especially if I’m in a crunch to learn, this is the first thing that I do because getting the music really, really stuck in my mind is key to learning it more quickly.

Take Your Sheet Music to Bed with You

Okay let’s leave that one and go to the next tip which I’ve mentioned before here I think, and that’s to take your sheet music to bed with you. Now, not to sleep with, or use as a blanket, but to use as your bedtime story instead. 

You know that there’s some real science to introducing something to your mind before you rest for the night. 

After seeing something, and processing it for a minute and then sleeping on it, really does something. When you wake up, it’ll kind of still be there – and what you did retain will be in there on a deeper level than what you may have seen during the day. It’s really true. 

You should try it!

Just take a copy of your sheet music to your room and read it like a little short book before you roll over and go to sleep. 

Read it to understand it also. 

Instead of just giving it a quick glance, really spend a little time within each measure. 

Look at it for a few things: the first being of course you’ll notice the notes and think of their names, and the fingerings, but did you first remember to start at the real beginning of the piece, with the key signature, and the time signature?

Yes, focus on these for a minute and ponder on what flats or sharps are in the key, what scale this means it’s a part of, and then move to the time and count out your measures too.

There are tons of things to do without even placed our instrument in our hands. On these busy days we need this especially.

As you progress in your lesson levels, especially here at Learn Flute Online, you’ll have had so many skills and important technicalities pointed out to you, by me, that you’ll know exactly what to look for as you read your sheet music. Wahoo, it’s great!

Another thing I want to point out is that just like when you were in school, you will get some brain fatigue doing this

Cramming for long periods of time on sheet music learning really just doesn’t work so easily. We need time to soak it in, and I like to say it’s good to “let our music marinate”.

Practice Spots

Okay, let’s talk about the next idea I have for you when you don’t have time to practice, and that is to remember that not every single practice session of your life needs to be full and complete. 

Now of course, I’d like it to be that way, but it’s just not realistic sometimes, so like I said before, release the guilt and turn to other modes of keeping up with your studies like I’m mentioning here, today. 

When you have days that are really just too crammed and full, and you find yourself running from thing to thing with only a few minutes or moments edgewise, you can take a page from my book of ‘little practice spots’ work. 

Taking your little practice spots and only working on them (only- JUST the practice spots), is a fantastic way to stay and keep focused on improving and enjoying your music. 

So instead of taking 30 minutes or even a couple of hours to complete everything you had on your practice schedule, simply take your practice spots, extract those places of your music that need extra work, and focus on one of them during those, say, three minutes that you have time to practice. Five minutes, sometimes ten. 

Yah, you won’t really have had time to warm up very well during this time,  so you could have some tone issues or whatever, but its okay- the point of a practice spot is usually a combination of a couple of things: one being the notes and the finger combinations in it, right?  

Our fingers seriously need time and repeated practice to get comfortable with the pattern they’re supposed to be moving in, right? 

Yah, what we need to do is play these parts in small little bites, nice and slowly in a superb way to get it into our muscle memory. 

The other part of this is the rhythm that these combinations and these finger patterns should be played in.

So, we really do need to work out the rhythms and the fingerings. Taking time for just a measure or two as our entire practice time is awesome! Even if it’s only for a few short minutes.

In fact, we’ll move ahead on our success ladder with this particular hint. So I hope you’re taking notes, because this works, folks! I’ve not only done it but I’ve seen it time and time again.


Okay, let’s take a little recap for a second

To remind ourselves of what we’ve just talked about and that would be number one: 

Which was to listen to music in more than one way, both passively and also intently, and not to just listen to music as a type of entertainment media, but also to listen to YOUR music, you know.

What you are currently studying.

Sometimes I have to play it for myself on a recording also, while I’m looking at the music, and then I listen back to it over and over later, not looking at my music.

It helps me memorize, and listen to what’s really happening. Hm, lots of ideas here. 

The next thing we talked about was taking your sheet music to bed with you, and reading it like a short little book. 

It doesn’t take much time, and you can put it into your nightly go to bed ritual alongside brushing your teeth, washing your face, and whatever else you’re used to doing right before bed..

Even on a very busy day you do remember to brush your teeth, right? 

Okay great, the next thing was to extract our little practice spots – you know here at Learn Flute Online I take the skills and pieces you’re working on in each module, and I separate these little practice spot places out for you – and I talk to you about why these spots are important, and how to navigate them easier, and why we’re learning them and what to watch for. 

These little spots still need you to get them to a comfortable and easy stage.

You have to spend time with each one. So focusing on them at a time of day or a time when you do not have your flute in your hands, is just as appropriate of a time as any other, so do not feel like you’re cheating or doing anything bad. 

A busy day might just be what the doctor ordered for some of these places in your music, and you’ll find yourself more accomplished the next time you pull your flute out.

Releasing Your Expectations

Alright let’s move into the next one I have prepped on my list for us today, and that’s to release your expectations. 

You’re probably like “what are you talking about, Rebecca?” 

Well, I’m talking about the fact that you might have made a goal for yourself to practice one or two hours per day..

And then you may have a couple of busy weeks in a row when this didn’t really happen as often as you wanted especially, and so then you start to get all funny in your mind and worry that you weren’t as good as you wanted to be. 

This, right here folks, is something I call destructive or disruptive thinking.

Making ourselves feel guilty over not completing our idea of daily perfection is a problem for any human being. 

You know why? 

Because it’s really not always realistic. 

Unless you are tied inside your home, with absolutely nothing else to do, and oodles of self motivation, you will not be able to keep this type of unrealistic expectation. 

Now, this doesn’t mean that we won’t have spurts of times, or even for a few weeks or months, where we are perfect in everything we do (kudos to those of you who accomplish this). 

But it’s totally okay to readjust weekly and see what we can do to help us keep closer to our practice goals without beating ourselves up for not being perfect when life gets in the way.

I like to remind everyone.. And myself, that our attitude towards ourselves and our music endeavors is what either creates the beginning of the end, or creates a long life of beautiful friendships and fulfillment in music.

So, here’s the tip: release the guilt, it’s okay to take a break. 

In fact, sometimes we need a break. What was in the past is now in the past, and now is now. What can you do about it in this moment?


Aha – what can we do? Well, I have several other podcast episodes that will be all about these subjects so no worries. I’ve got you!

I realize just as well as the next guy that some days are just nutso. 

Every day is different for me, and I go through spurts of a really well-kept schedule, and sometimes not. 

So of course, some people are better at this than others just because of how their life is set up at the moment, and of course their personality comes into play a lot as well. 

Some people just do really well staying on their same structured schedule that they have set for themselves. But, if you’re like me you have other people and other goals in your life as well, so things get a little hairy as far as the perfect schedule sometimes. 

And, it gets crowded out by other fun and adventures sometimes. And this is perfectly okay and great. 

I like to think that developing yourself in a variety of areas in life just makes you a deeper and more well-rounded person who has a positive attitude and correct outlook on life to stay well and motivated to be a lifelong learner in this subject of music, especially! 


Well, like i mentioned before, there are still more things that I can put and talk about for this subject of when we’re too busy to fit in our perfect practice routine, but you know- it really is more about attitude and the willingness to shake it off and continue trying, that is important to our longterm development as a musician.

Keep on keepin on, right?

I can’t even tell you how many times each week someone reaches out to me and says, “I’m just too busy right now – I’ll get back to this quote ‘later‘”. Well, my question is: Does later actually ever really come?

Well that’s another subject for a different day, for sure!

It is best to stay the course, release the guilt, and keep on keepin on. 

I’m so proud of you and everything you’ve been doing lately. You really are awesome people, and just the fact that you have chosen the flute and are on this journey of self improvement and development, is just saying that you really are a standout in a crowd. So way to go!

I’d also like to remind you that we have a ton of fun going on here within the membership walls of Learn Flute Online, and if you haven’t taken the time to come join us lately, you really should because that uh.. Later.. Thing,… later is just a facade. 

Now is the time to jump in with both feet and let me help you swim and navigate the wonderful world of music and enjoyment. 

Okay, I’ll play you out now, as you take some time to ponder on the subject from today where you can realize that there are other bonafide, certified, and teacher approved ways of still getting some flute improvement and development in your busy days. 

So when you don’t have time to practice, you will be able to release the guilt and still move up the improvement ladder.

Until next time, tata for now!

Thank you for Tuning In!

Please consider subscribing and taking a minute to leave a review and rating for the podcast on iTunes.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about what to do when you don’t have time to practice your flute. See you in the next episode! 

Have any questions? Comment below and I will help you out.

Rebecca FullerRebecca Fuller
Get Flutie with us! Learn and enjoy every musical minute.

6 thoughts on “When You Don’t Have Time to Practice”

  1. This podcast really spoke to me. As much as I try to carve out time daily, somehow that time gets eaten up from time to time. You are so helpful in helping us to “feel ok” about missing a day without carrying the guilt of a missedpractice session. Your suggestions are brilliant. Thank you!

    1. Hi Suzanne, yes yes you got it. Guilty feelings lead us to a negative view of ourselves and our musical life – stay on the positive. There’s no rule in life that says we can’t flow along with our life’s waves. 🙂 Glad you’re here. Rebecca

  2. Once I took my alto sax to Kenya. I wanted to play on the plains and have bragging rights when I returned to the US. Well, my King Super 20 (perfect pro horn) got damaged significantly by numerous airline baggage handlers. That perfect horn never played the same afterward.
    Moral to the story, treat your instrument with respect and care. Never let it leave your side when you travel.
    Signed, boo hoo sax blue

    1. Oh Rick this is a sad story. You’re right and learned a good lesson. I always keep the flute in my backpack right on the plane with me. I’ve seen how the luggage guys toss everything around (even when marked fragile). I just don’t think a flute would survive. Like the sax, there’s a lot of super small mechanism that can be damaged with just a slight bump. BUT, I’m happy you had a trip to Kenya. That’s a big deal. I took my (older) flute to Ethiopia. I thought they would just love it there – surprisingly, they preferred my son’s yodeling to anything we performed haha. Enjoy your week. Thanks for the comment. Rebecca

  3. Hi Rebecca. Your timing is spot on. I feel really tired today after a busy morning and wondering how am I going to practice and feeling guilty because of my fatigue. So now I’m going to relax and listen to my recording of “Night on Bald Mountain” Thank you so much.
    Bye for now.

    1. Absolutely Steve, I’m so glad that this podcast was timely and beneficial to you. I know sometimes life can get crazy! But as long as we’re incorporating just a little bit of music each day, it can sure make a world of difference. Have fun, and happy fluting 🙂 – Rebecca

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