What lies at the root of our actions? What is our "Why"?
In regards to music, playing, practicing and improving; motivation is key.
Recently a parent of a student came to me and said his son was practicing 15 minutes a day, like I suggested in the beginning, but that his practice routine hadn't grown… in 2 years. And as a result, his playing hasn't really grown as much as he'd like.
It got me thinking about what drives us. What motivates us. What's within us.
A wise man once told me "There are no officials in life who are going to blow a whistle on us if we don't practice. It's something that you either do, or you don't do."
Further, yes, you can practice regularly and maybe not really improve. If that's the case, then you have to ask yourself WHY you're practicing, what your goals are and most of all, is it enjoyable for you or is it a drag and a chore?
A teacher can shine a light on the path, but the student must walk the path themselves.
I can't tell you what to like about music and playing.
What motivates you to play will motivate you to practice. And what motivates you to practice is your desire to attain, to understand, to master, to move to the next thing, to build on what you've gained already.
When a student comes to me with a desire, a goal, then my duty is done for me, almost.
On the flip side, when I have to practically beg a student to bring in a song they love and really want to be able to play, or beg them to go out to a jam session and sit in, or practically plead with them to get the Charles Wilcoxon book, then the chore is mine.
Some young aspiring players, you can't keep the instrument away from them, as soon as they come home from school they head straight for their horn, the piano, the drums, the guitar. And they play it out of sheer joy. They've made a connection to it, to music, and they are drawn to it.
Some musicians practice out of love for the music, so they can honor the music that they hold in high regard, to be able to play it right. They practice to be able to enhance the music and the musicians they are playing with. They practice because they want to improve, constantly. The best musicians practice constantly in their minds, they are always thinking about music, art, expression. They are literally obsessed with music, not just their instrument, but music as a whole.
Some musicians practice out of fear of not being good. Their motivation is suspect, are they really in it for the right reasons? They may thrive on competition, not necessarily musical expression or understanding. And to be very honest here, if you have to be begged to practice, or if you feel it's a drag, then maybe you need to try something else.
Playing music is something that maybe good in theory, might sound like a good idea, but have you defined your "Why"? Do you know why you're doing it? Most say, because it's fun, because I enjoy it. If that's the case, then use that for motivation.
Some players truly enjoy improving. They live to wake up and play and to experience improvement every week. In fact, they expect to get better and they do whatever they have to do to make improvements. Some go to quite extreme lengths, moving to another city, practicing for many hours a day.
Some watch the clock as they practice, some sit down with something in mind and will not stop until they attain it.
If you have hit a wall in your practice, in your musical life. Here are some keys to working through the wall and getting to the other side:
Find what motivates you. This could be a tough question, but it is absolutely necessary.
Define your "Why"
Tap your curiosity.
Ask what it is you love about music.
Ask what your goals are. Short term and long term.
Go beyond what your teacher asks you to do. And remember your teacher is only pointing you in the right direction, you must walk the path.
Find something you absolutely want to learn to do and pursue it relentlessly until you get it. Not because your teacher asks you to do it.
Never stop, even the best players have periods in which they have to ask these questions and re-define what their goals are.
I also think it's important to identify what practice is. That's what we'll deal with in the next post.
Thanks for reading, now let's define that "Why"