If you are like me, you probably started playing your instrument very excited and then realized it was going to take more time and effort than you thought! Or maybe you attempted to play your instrument in the past and now would like to give it another try!
For either scenario, there is always a time along the way when we get discouraged and find it hard to make consistent progress. Sometimes practicing just gets stale or perhaps you don’t know what to focus on next. Or maybe you just need some inspiration.
Today I will share a few tricks I have learned over the years that may help you stay motivated to learn your instrument!
1. Create the right atmosphere
Nothing will motivate you in your musical practice like the right environment. You might be one of those people who prefer a quiet room. Others need a little bit of stimulation. Whatever setting you like, try to be consistent so as to enter the right mindset when you start practicing.
Find your songs and find your tools before you start. If you will need water, snacks, picks, pencils, manuscript paper, and sharpeners etc. have them with you. If you use apps, download them in advance. By making it efficient you will be able to stay focussed and achieve your goals.
2. Have your instrument “At the Ready”
Out of sight is often out of mind! Don’t put your instrument in the closet or under your bed. Keep it in plain sight and ideally in the room your occupy. When safe, keeping your instrument out of case and ready to play works best!
3. Set goals
Setting goals is vital to getting real results and a great way of focussing your attention on what is important to you. Practicing is not synonymous with just playing through your music. You need to have the end in mind at the start of each practice session. With a prior goal for each practice session, you will find yourself progressing more quickly and effectively. Only that each goal needs to be broken down into smaller and focused objectives. Every time you complete a goal should help you feel more accomplished.
Not sure what goals to set? Here are some tips:
Stretch goals – these are the things that are well and truly out of reach right now. It will require concerted effort over a long period of time to achieve. They can be high level and should really spell out where you want to be as a player.
Short and mid-term goals – these are vital to keeping you motivated and should be refreshed regularly to give you focus in your practice. These goals should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time bound.
For example: “I’m going to increase my speed from 100bpm to 163bpm in 3 weeks by increasing the speed by 3bpm a day”
Remember – the key to achieving your goals is to take action (any action, big or small) every day. While the many famous musicians of the world actually do practice 10 hours a day, that’s not possible for the most of us. The main thing is to pick up your instrument for at least a few minutes every day and focus on what it is you want to achieve. By doing so, you’ll quickly find out that you never want to put the instrument down and before you know it you will achieve what you set out to achieve.
Not sure what goals to focus on? Record yourself playing and listen. Critique yourself (are you rushing? Are you too slow? Are you too much “inside” the scale?”) or ask somebody you trust, who knows music very well, for feedback and suggestions on what to focus on.
Don’t ignore any areas you might find problematic. Learn to identify where you are using the wrong fingering or stumbling out of time. Decide why it’s going wrong and make up your mind how you will fix it. Obviously, different problems require different techniques.
4. Warm up
Musical instrument practice is much like a physical workout. To get yourself in the mood, ensure you do a warm up every time before you start. That way, you will be able to prepare your mind and body before the actual practice. It doesn’t have to be 15 minutes of fiddling with scales but can be something like sight reading or playing a familiar song if you like. Also, get into the right mindset by considering the keys of the pieces you are rehearsing.
5. Be realistic
Many people – including your teachers – have told you to “get a lot done now”. Of course, it’s not realistic for you to do all your practice in one go. It gets even worse when you have a tough part to practice. The best way to go about this is to practice a little but more often. That way, you can go through a long-drawn process bit-by-bit. Think more about quality and not the quantity of your practice. Practice smarter and not necessarily longer if you want to have the willpower to keep going. Small and realistic goals should help you overcome areas that looked tricky and accept any missteps you might have made. Learn a song note-for-note! You will be amazed at how learning a song note-for-note will teach you new concepts and fresh approaches to things that you already know.
6. Find all possible ways to perform
For the semi-professional musicians out there, one of the best ways to make yourself practice is to perform for a concert, recital, exam or simply a family event. You will be amazed at what you can achieve when you need to learn material because your gig depends on it!
This can be daunting and even too scary for some, but it can also be just what you need to get you focussed and devoting the time and energy to your instrument that you need.
Also, playing for others means that you can assess your own skills in the context of the real world – with the pressure of your an audience and a crowd watching.
A Final Thought
Motivation is one of the most important factors in the transformation of any dream into reality. When learning to play an instrument it is important to find the right mix of effort and fun to eep you motivated and moving in the right direction toward your goals.
Begin by defining your musical goals that will allow you to create a plan for an organized and realistic practice regime.
Create your own “sanctum” that creates distraction-free and relaxed environment. Be creative during your practice sessions so they don’t become tedious. Don’t set strict time limits that can create stress and anxiety.
Avoid developing band habits by slowing down your progress when necessary and seek help from others when the situation calls for it!
Finally but not less important – listen to music, especially related to your instrument! Join communities of musicians and music students on social media so you can find others that share your same interests and that might also inspire you!
Tell me what you think?
What are some things you do to stay motivated?
Have you ever stopped playing your instrument due to lack of motivation and interest? What brought you back?
How do you keep your practice time organized and focus?