If you are someone who doesn’t suffer from tiredness, boredom, frustration, tension, anxiousness or lack of direction in your music practice then good luck to you. For luck is what you certainly have. The rest of us mere mortals all have days when we are a bit tired or lethargic or don’t know what to do. Lack of motivation to practice can manifest itself in many ways but it need not put an end to your musical progress. Here are 10 ways in which you can improve your motivation and get more out of your practice.
1. Famous Pieces
Your motivation may be suffering because of the pieces you are playing. Instead of your usual music think of a tune or piece that you really, really love. Try and find the sheet music, failing that you could try to learn it by ear. It doesn’t matter how easy or hard the piece is have a go. If it is difficult you’ll enjoy the challenge. If you chose a simpler piece of music just enjoy the sound you are making and try to make it the best it can be.
2. Practice Free Days
There is no rule that says you have to practice every day. However if you simply take a day off you will more than likely feel guilty about the fact that you did no practice yesterday. You can avoid this by making sure you do your practice up front. For the day or two before your practice free day do a bit extra – this way you will still achieve what you need to despite taking a day off. (See Take a Holiday )
3. Short Sessions
If you are someone that doesn’t like to do lots of practice don’t worry. The good news is that you can still improve really quickly and only do small amounts of practice. The key here is little and often. Leave your instrument out, setup and ready to play. Each time you walk past it pick it up and play a few notes. Then put it down and carry on with whatever you are doing. If you feel like playing for longer that’s fine just make sure you play a few notes each time you walk past it. These very short sessions will soon add up to an awful lot of practice. (See Moments Notice or 600 seconds)
There is nothing that focuses the mind more keenly than an upcoming concert. If you don’t have any concerts coming up ask your teacher where you might play or perhaps organise your own. The prospect of playing in front of others will sharpen your focus and give direction to your practice.
5. Practice Competition
Arrange a practice competition with your friends. Take a trip to a local music shop and buy a new piece of music. Then arrange with your teacher for them to hear you and your friend play the piece at your next lesson. The person that plays the piece best is the winner. The trick here is to do the most effective practice, not necessarily the most amount of practice.
6. Teacher Swap
Your current teacher may be the best you have ever had but that does not mean they know everything. Discuss with them the possibility of having a lesson with another teacher. You will want to impress when you go for a lesson with a new teacher and this will help focus your practice. You will also benefit from some new ideas and approaches the other teacher may have. Be sure to discuss this with your teacher – most will be very open to this idea.
Add an element of surprise to your practice by randomizing what you are going to do. There are several ways you could do this. You could write the things you need to practice on a pack of playing cards, shuffle them and deal a few to yourself. Alternatively you write them on pieces of paper, put them in a hat or bag and draw a few out (this works well for scales too!). Another option is to assign your practice tasks a number, roll a dice and then practice the task that matches the number you rolled. The possibilities for randomizing are endless, try and think of some of your own. (See Roll up, Roll up, Bag Full of Scales or Play Your Cards Right)
Practising with friends, even if they don’t play the same instrument as you, can be a lot of fun. Before you begin your practice sessions talk to your friend about what it is you are trying to improve and get them to listen as you try to improve it. You can then take a turn listening to them. Have fun memorizing things and end your sessions by playing a duet or two! (See Two’s company)
9. Publish your aims
One of the best ways to make sure you keep going at something is to tell another person what you are doing. The reason this works is that you don’t want to have to go back to them later and tell them you didn’t manage to do what you said. The internet is a great place for this. This site has places you can enter your goals or you could post them to one of the many forums available. Either way someone is sure to ask if you achieved what you wanted.
10. Clear Goals
Perhaps the best way to ensure that your motivation doesn’t fade is to ensure you have very clearly defined goals. Many musicians have goals but they lack the clarity needed to assist with motivation. You need to make sure that you include measures and timescales with your goals so that you can know when you achieve them. Also make sure you have some smaller steps as well as major goals. It is a fantastic feeling when you are able to tick of the steps on the way to your goal. (See Master Plan)
Do you have any other ideas that you use to improve motivation? If so we’d love to hear them. Share them with us by leaving a comment below.