Benny Greb




p11 Ironically


Light bulb moment

Recorded practice session


Level 1 - EPM principles/Get ready

Separate playing and practicing

  • Make playing and practicing two separate activities.
  • Remember that playing is equally important, just make sure it doer. d creep into your practice time and create a diversion. Set aside separate time for playing, preferably after the practice session.
  • Record a practice session. The purpose here is not to record an exercise, but to record how you are practicing. Schedule at least an hour for your session, choose one or two things (not more) that youd like to focus on before you start, and then set a timer and work on them exclusively for 20 minutes. Afterwards, just play for as long as you want, having the most fun with the least amount of pressure possible.
  • Experience how it feels to do just what you set out to do, secure in the knowledge that youll still have enough time to do whatever you want to do later on. Did the practicing feel different? If yes, how so? Was the playing more enjoyable?
  • Did you find that you could have outlined more clearly exactly what you wanted to practice?
  • Did you feel a heightened sense of focus and productivity from the awareness that you were being recorded?
  • Listen back to the recording and see how you did. Write down what you find out and save these notes for later.


  • Your environment infuences the likelihood of whether you will practice or not.
  • Visualize your ultimate practice space.
  • Get out a pen and paper and use the brainstorming method: Write down anything and everything that comes to mind, allowing yourself to dream big without criticizing or deleting.
  • Go through your wish list and make as many improvements as possible-maybe choose the 3 things that would make the biggest difference right away.
  • Size up your instrument and the environment around it; try to ix whatever is missing.
  • Think about your process. Can you optimize your commute or any rituals before and after? This could mean something big, like finding a new practice space or replacing a smelly rug, or something small, like simply treating yourself to a coffee after each practice session.
  • Make this space your own. Make it fun and do it now!

Practicing anywhere

  • Consider the three parameters of size, volume, and portability, and how they apply to vour instrument. Recognize how they might pose limitations to your practice time.
  • Research alternatives and brainstorm about ways to change these parameters or even free yourself from these limitations.
  • Review the settings in your daily routine and think about how you could transtorm them into new practice environments. Look at traveling and waiting times, your living space, your workplace, vacation stays, and so on.
  • Set up a satellite or stripped-down practice area in your home, especially if you are used to practicing in a separate rehearsal space. Could you squeeze in some practice time while someone else takes a nap?
  • Develop an appreciation for these alternative practice setups and the advantages they offer. For instance, I made a list of the places and daytimes I can practice with a pad where I couldn’t with a real drum set.
  • Lastly, brainstorm about ways to gain access to a real instrument that you havent thought of before. Some people conclude too easily that they have to live with a stripped-down version all the time. Could you ask a friend, music school, community center, or church about spending time with a real piano or drum set one night a week or once a month? Ask around-you might be surprised to find your efforts rewarded.

Practicing without your instrument

  • Remember that some exercises can help improve your playing and don’t require you to have an instrument in your hands at all.
  • Come up with a list of all the ways you could practice without your instrument. Note this isn’t an “either/or” scenario; some things you’ve practiced exclusively on your instrument so far can show up here as well.
  • Choose one song you are working on and take a few complete passes only in your head. Then play it on your instrument and see if there’s been any improvement.
  • Be resourceful! Download a metronome app like Gap Click by Benny Greb, which will help improve yourability to keep tempo and heighten your awareness of subdivision, whether youre with or without your instrument.

A different look at discipline

  • Realize that self-discipline is your friend that serves you, that works for you.
  • Self-discipline is freedom, because it gets you where you want to be.
  • In order for this friend to help you, you absolutely have to become crystal clear about what you want and why you want it. This is what gives your everyday actions purpose, and helps you remember that the challenge is worth it, even when the journey gets tough.
  • Make the important choice to be loyal to your future, not your past.

As soon as you become clear about what you want and can consistently demonstrate your progress towards this goal, you will find out that you have more discipline than you think. Many musicians think they lack discipline, when all they need is a more disciplined approach.


  • Write down at least things that you once wished, aspired to hoped for, that you achieved and now maybe even take for granted Remember vividly how much you wanted this. Was it being able to play a certain piece of music: Attaining a certain piece of Collaborating with a mentor? Getting together with someone or moving to a new place? Whatever it may be, focus on the things su you wished tor, wanted to come true, and then made happen.
  • For each goal you’ve identified, write down the steps that por vo there, or in other words, what worked? Then draw a line, and also write down what didn’t work, the efforts you considered a waste of time that later proved to have helped, and anything else that comes to mind. Write it all down and analyze.
  • The point here is that youre not starting from scratch; you can learn from your evperiences. You’ve already made things happen, and it’s Yes, we learn from our istakes, as they say-but don’t forget to learn mnottant to understand what worked and repeat those behaviors. from your successes, too.
  • Don’t just get busy for the sake of being busy. Find out what you want and why you want it. What is the reason that makes it worthwhile to put in your time and effort? And does this reason really mean something to you?
  • Choose the process that’s most likely to get you where you want to go. Is this the right exercise for what I want to improve? Is this exactly what I should be focusing on? Since we can’t predict the future, it’s OK that this can only ever be a best guess, but make sure it is directly connected to the reason why you are practicing. Your why should help you determine this.
  • When you don’t feel motivated, find out where the error is. Remember it can be one of two things: 1) Is your why not clear enough? or 2) Are you not confident that the merhod you chose is the right one? Dont nange your goal if it’s merely your approach that needs changings
  • Measure your progress regularly. Don’t rely on your intuition here. Use recordings and journaling to compare where you are now to where you started.


  • Don’t be a perfectionist; strive every day to “do the best you can with what you have right now. If you add in some planning and long-term perspective, I believe this is a grounded approach that will serve you not only when it comes to practicing, but in all aspects from business to family life.
  • Practice like it matters, because it does. This can be as easy as reminding yourself not to fall into the “It doesn’t matter trap” and making a conscious decision to be more mindful. Record yourself often, and enjoy the heightened focus that comes with getting into “performance mode”. Keep in mind that the way you practice definitely shapes the way you will pertorm and, whať’s more, it can even help make your pertormance way more fun.
  • Cultivate gratitude in your life. For example, for the past few years, part of my morning ritual has been to ask, “What are the three things l am grateful for today?” My family started to adopt this as well, so we sit down to breakfast and tell each other. You can also write them down in a journal. What comes to mind? Is it having good health, safety, opportunity, and love in your life? Maybe you can even be gratetul for the challenges you have right now, since you could certainly have different ones.
  • Spread gratitude regularly. Leave a voice message for a good friend or call up a family member just to let them know you’re grateful to have them in your life. It’s so damn simple, yet can have such a massive impact. Cmon - try it right now.
  • Remember that even what may seem like the most stupid and useless tasks can give you beautiful experiences and lessons, not to mention unexpected results, when you do them really well. Great questions to ask vourself here are: How can I do this well? How can I make this fun while still respecting the task? How else can I get the job done? and lastly, How can I do this with greater calm and focus?

I don’t have enough time

  • Set timer/take notes. Decide how and where you want to take notes. It may be most practical to use a smartphone as your timer and a notepad app as your journal, but really, any kind of timer and notebook will do. The critical factor here is this: You absolutely have to have them with you at all times. Trust me, otherwise it wont work. You’ll probably find the most game-changing realizations in situations that seem like, “Oh, I’ll remember this” or “This doesn’t carry much weight.” No you won’t, and Yes it does! Dont trust your memory - write it all down!
  • Dont freak out! Just observe. Set the timer and take notes - this is really all vou have to do. Just do it. Don’t try to make it perfect. No need to beat yourself up. Maybe for the first time in your life you’re gaining some insight as to where your time actually goes, and this is good. You don’t have to change anything just yet, simply be a neutral observer. Use any tool you can to help reconstruct your day as accurately as possible: your calendar, your browser history - heck, these days your phone can tell you exactly how many minutes you spent on a call. Write it all down.
  • Do this for 10 days. Even though after two days you might be thinking “I’ve got it! I know what to do!” and are eager to get started on your new routine, please keep this going for a full 10 days. Why? Because 10 days is more than one week, so you’ll have at least a full week to observe and an identify patterns that may be repeated at the beginning of the second week. Time-logging can help us pinpoint the trivial activities you can stop doing, but more importantly the activity patterns, or in other words, the things you do regularly. The biggest improvements are likely to come from changing patterns, not isolated activities. So do it for 10 days.

How often should I practice

  • If you only do it once in a while, dont be mad if you only see results once in a while.
  • Don’t worry that a bad practice session or a bad day will mess up everything. By the same token, don’t get overexcited if you’re lucky and something comes out right for once. Test the reliability of your output, and get used to making a little bit of progress consistently. This will have a larger impact than a long weekend of killing yourself, especially if it’s a one-off. Consistency is key.
  • Remember the examples of the tuning challenge and the archery lesson. A tiny shift in habit and direction now will make a tremendous impact in the long run.
  • What tiny shift in your daily life could you make? What kind of shift would serve you on your instrument? Whatever comes to mind here, start now and keep it consistent.
  • Consciously leverage the dramatic long-term effects of habits, routines, and rituals, for they will shape your future more than isolated incidents.

When is the best time to practice

  • There are many benefits to having regular practice times. Willpower doesn’t last, but a ritual can last a lifetime.
  • Think about what you can do to incorporate practicing in a such way that it becomes an “of course” thing for you.
  • See if you can attach your practice time to another part of your usual routine, like before rehearsal, after work, or before going to the gym.
  • Experiment to find your sweet spots - find out what type you are. What feels better: to wake up early and practice betore everything else gets going, or are you a night owl? You have the luxury of making your own personal choice here, but don’t get hung up on it. Honor your preference, but don’t use it as an excuse.
  • If you catch yourself overthinking it, remember the down-to-earth wisdom of the fitness trainer and just practice whenever you can Eighty percent of success is just showing up.


  • Make sure you are clear! Remember that in order to stay on track, there has to be one. Do you know specifically what you want to do in this practice session? The more narrowly you define this, the easier it will be to stick to it.
  • Communicate with yourself and others. Take the time to manage expectations and revise commitments to yourself and others. Of course, the more ritualized and consistent your practice time is, the less negotiation will be required and less resistance will crop up.
  • Leave your luggage at the door. Place a little notebook near your instrument or outside the door to your practice room. Make it a ritual to do a brain dump of whatever is on your mind that you don’t want to forget but won’t need while practicing. Write it all down, and then place it in front of the door where you won’t forget it on your way out.
  • Minimize potential input. One of the most eftective ways to deal with interruptions is to prevent them. Switch off the internet, your phone, any notifications and incoming messages of any kind. Can you disable the doorbell? Is there unfinished business in the room that grabs your attention? Get rid of it!

The 3 must have tools for practicing

Timer, recording device, journal. [I the skipped the keypoints]

How to deal with frustration and judgement

  • Be as respectful towards yourself as you would be to a good friend whom you are trying to help. Operate in reality; see your playing for what it is, but also no worse than it is. Next time you listen to a recording of yourself, start by writing down three things you like about it. If you’re struggling, make this an exercise in itself and try rephrasing it this way: “If I had to like any three things about this, what would they be?” Only then are you allowed to move on to writing down three things you’d like to improve.
    Note that language is really important here. Dont seize upon three things that you hate, don’t like, or always suck. Choose three things that you want to improve or could execute better. I do this myself and have suggested this exercise to many students of mine, including kids who are having difficulty and especially teenagers. Become good at being kind to yourself and taking a more objective view of your output.

  • Measure your own progress - don’t compare your journey to what you assume to be true about anyone else. Make recordings of your practice sessions and compare them to each other. Acknowledge not just the completion of a major project or challenging thing you are working on, but also the smallest of incremental changes and take a moment to celebrate them consciously.

  • Use the “interesting” and “relax, refocus” mantras. At your next practice session, pay particular attention to your self-talk and how you react when frustration or impatience comes up. Try saying the “Interesting” mantra out loud and, if you want, add a smile. Problems hate it when you talke a moment to breathe and then smile at them.

The checklist cycle


  • Can I sit more upright?
  • Are my shoulders back and down?
  • Are my elbows out? Can I let them hang loosely while I’m doing what I’m doing?
  • Is there any unnecessary tension in my face, neck, shoulders, arms back, legs, or hands?


  • How much more relaxed can I play this?
  • Can I use less motion? Or as I like to think of it: Can I use a smaller gear? This means, am I using my whole arm for this motion when I can manage it with my just forearm, wrist, or fingers? For my feet, can I rest my foot on the ground when iť’s not in use?


  • Am I playing too loud?
  • Are the notes that should be at the same volume level sounding tne same?
  • Can it be more even?
  • Are the accents distinguishable from the nonaccented notes


  • Can I sing/feel the quarter-note pulse over what I’m playing?
  • Is the subdivision even? Does it flow?
  • Can I sing a half-time groove over this?

How to use this list?

  • Start with my checklist and apply it to whatever you’re working on at the moment. Write it down or make a copy, and then position it where you can take a peek without having to stop playing. One student shared that he uses a timer to prompt himself to move on to the next item; whatever works for you. I’m confident you will start to see ultraquick improvements in your practicing.
  • As soon as you’ve gotten the hang of it, don’t stop there. Please modify and customize the checklist to fit your needs, whether this means adding something that feels missing or crossing something out. Make it yours and use it.

How to tackle big things by making them small

  • Try out both variations on the whale method, salami slice and sandwich, and use these next bullet points as your quick guide.
  • Take a challenging phrase you want to work on, set its lenght as the loop, start a metronome, and get a feel for the form.
  • Focus only on the first note and try to get it right; after that, relax until its your turn again.
  • Whatever you’ve built up must feel good before you’re allowed to add the next note.
  • Dont get impatient. Only add one new note at a time.
  • Whenever you get overwhelmed and have trouble adding the next note, go back to the version before, which you can handle without sacrificing tempo, form, sound quality, and relaxation.
  • Whatever happens, keep the form.

What to practice?

  • First of all, relax and realize that not everything is equally important and urgent. In fact, most things dont really matter, or at least don’t matter right now. lt’s OK to not give them your energy in the form of your thoughts and attention. When you do this, you’ll be blown away by how much energy you have left for the things that do matter.
  • Get comfortable with the fact that in order to progress in one area, you will probably end up neglecting another. That’s OK. That’s what a decision means. The word decision comes from the Latin word decidere, “to cut off.”
  • When we set up your personal EPM system, we will find out exactly where you want to go in relation to where you are right now. And this will give us a very clear understanding about what the next step is - or for our purposes, what to practice - using the same reasoning process that helps you decide what to have for breakfast, and allows you to advise a pedestrian on the street which direction to take once you know the destination.