How to Keep Yourself Motivated with Your Musical Instrument
Everyone who has become proficient at playing music understands the importance of regular practice. If you are a beginner, the excitement of learning may be enough to keep you going early on. But life happens. Sometimes you need to set your instrument aside for a time.
Or, maybe you’ve been frustrated at your lack of progress and are finding it hard to motivate yourself to practice. You were learning at a good pace, and then you ran into something difficult – say, a hard-to-play piano passage or a challenging chord change on your guitar – and you walked away.
One thing is for certain; just like running, it’s harder to get the momentum started again than it is to simply keep going. It’s crucial to maintain a regular practicing schedule whenever possible.
Today, we are going to discuss the importance of regular practice, numerous methods for keeping practice fun, and motivating yourself during the rough times to practice, practice, practice.
Why, Why, WHY?
You’ve hit that rough spot. You have tried over and over again, and you are simply not getting it right. You walk away from your instrument for a bit, maybe to get a snack, check your email, to make a phone call…ANYTHING to defuse the frustration. Everyone who has ever seriously played an instrument has been through this more than once during their training, and most people usually find themselves able to get back in the saddle after a short break.
If this happens too often in a short period of time, however, you may get frustrated and ask yourself, ‘Why should I put myself through this?’
Acquiring discipline through regular practice is not just going to help you break through to your next level as a player. It can help in other aspects of your life that require discipline as well. Getting projects accomplished at work, keeping your home and vehicle clean, or simply developing a reputation as a dependable person all stem from self-discipline.
Another thing to consider: Once you have broken through and mastered that which was frustrating you, it will motivate you to progress with even more resolve.
Fun, Fun, FUN!
Practicing your instrument does not have to be boring. While it is very important to learn and practice your scales and progressions, you do yourself a disservice if that is all you do. Here is a suggestion: Find songs you like that fit in with what you are practicing. You will find it much easier to practice playing if you are enthusiastic about what you are playing and can relate it to what you are practicing.
If you are training yourself, go to your music store or library and find sheet music that reflects what you are trying to learn. You may also find what you are looking for on YouTube or other websites. If you are taking lessons, get assistance from your instructor; he or she may be able to find that perfect piece of music (if they aren’t already integrating songs with your lessons). This is one of many advantages instructor training has over self-training.
Another great key to having fun while practicing is creative visualization. While you are playing, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and picture yourself playing in front of an audience. It could be in a small bar, a café, a historic place like The Ed Sullivan Theatre or The Cavern (The Liverpool club where The Beatles were discovered), an amphitheater, a symphony hall, a stadium, you name it. You can also picture yourself playing in the studio or onstage with one of your musical idols, winning that Grammy, CMA, or AMA…whatever makes you smile. You are limited only by the bounds of your imagination. This kind of thinking keeps many people motivated to continue.
Rough, Rough, ROUGH!!
If you are going through one of those rough spots and are getting frustrated, take heart. Everyone who learns something new and takes it beyond the most rudimentary steps is going to have those moments from time to time. If, however, you are having too many of those moments lately and are considering cutting down on your practice, or giving it up altogether, think long and hard. Do you really want to let a temporary setback get the best of you? What if you had given up trying to drive? Or read? Or walk?
Not to get too repetitive here, but by and large these setbacks are temporary. As a solution, take the creative visualization process one step further. Picture yourself breaking through and moving on to your next triumph. If you keep at it long enough, and don’t give up on yourself, what you visualize will become reality sooner than you think.
Play, Play, PLAY!
If you are simply trying to prevent boredom or frustration while practicing, here are a few hints:
If you are relatively new, break up what you are trying to learn. For example, if you are practicing scales and progressions at the same time, switch from scales to chord progressions (or vice versa) at the first hint of boredom, and then back to what you were doing before. (Be mindful that you do not neglect something you are trying to learn completely if you take this route; self-discipline is the key.)
If you’ve had more than a few lessons under your belt, try this: Go back to an earlier lesson you mastered, particularly if it’s one you initially had difficulty with, and run it again. This serves two purposes: it reinforces something you’ve already learned and it serves to remind you that you’ve been through this before and made it, so there’s no reason you can’t do it again.
Keeping all these things in mind, try to set aside time for practice every day, even if it’s just 30 minutes or an hour.
All great musicians have stumbled while learning their instrument-it goes with the territory. By staying the course and practicing regularly, you can master your instrument in surprisingly quick time.