If you’re just joining, be sure and read the first part of this post on Finding Motivation to Practice.
How you accomplish shifting your own perspective toward practice will look different depending on your personality. Here are some tools to get you started on the path to uncovering and harnessing your innate musical motivation.
Self-Inquiry: We’ve talked about this before. Ask yourself a loaded question that puts you into the present moment. You don’t even need to answer yourself. Here are some ideas.
- How do I relate to this music?
- How do these difficulties that I’m having show up in other places?
- Are these difficulties specific to this music or my music in general?
- How can I simplify?
- What’s one part of me that wants to express itself musically?
Big Picture Now: Play the material you’re practicing slow enough to be fairly accurate, but fast enough to recognize the bigger musical statement. Take time to enjoy the broader gesture, even if the specifics get mildly obscured with minor mistakes.
In other words, enjoy the music. Moving into more specific work after a period of relative permissiveness helps to bring perspective and direction to an activity that can often feel micromanaged.
No negative self-talk: None. This is huge. We’ll return to this again and again.
Do you ever notice your internal judgments? They can show up in varying degrees of severity and the target may be the music itself, your execution of the music, or even yourself.
“This tune/song/scale/piece is stupid.”
“That was terrible.”
All of these statements are damaging to our musical motivation and our musicianship as a whole. Don’t even get me started on the glorification of the tortured artist stereotype. We’ve got no room for such distractions if we want to grow!
Be very aware of the tendency to approach your practice and any of its’ components with negativity. Anytime (be vigilant) you notice this, do not brush it off.
First, acknowledge the thought. Simply sweeping negative thoughts under the rug is a recipe for a motivational crash. Even worse is the sudden comedown that comes as a result off inflating yourself with disingenuous positivity in the face of an undercurrent of negative thought and emotion.
In short, ignoring the dark side of your inner environment never works in the integrated game of music.
What then, is to be done?
Rather than allowing the energy and criticism you are directing inwardly to stagnate, use it to act outwardly. Spin it in a way that allows you to use it.
“I’ll get that next time.” Say it out loud.
Be specific. Stating your mistakes plainly removes the inner critic’s power to cause further damage and future anxiety.
“I missed that Bb in the fifth measure, but I’ll grab it next time.”
“I played the G7 instead of G minor at the top of the bridge. Because I know, I can fix it.”
Then immediately make another attempt. You’ll surprise yourself.
By learning to move through mistakes this way, we are literally leaving the space in the music for them to be polished. Mistakes are placeholders for further refinement.
Have you developed a personal toolkit that helps you remain motivated and moving forward in your practice? Do you have a personal spin on one of the tools above? Let us know in the comments section below!
Practice on, my friends!