by MICHAEL ARAGONES
“I don’t feel motivated to practice…”
The way everyone thinks about motivation can be counterproductive sometimes, particularly when it comes to music. Common thinking says we need motivation to just get started. Some folks won’t even walk over to their piano, or assemble their instrument, or go down the basement stairs to their drums until they “feel” motivated. YUCK!
Instead of the goal being to “practice and improve as a musician,” which can feel lofty and exhausting at times, let’s make it smaller. If you’re struggling to get motivated, start by assembling or going to your instrument and just looping one measure that always gives you trouble. Your teacher can help you identify where that is. Then, try a whole phrase or two.
From this point, once you have started playing something, you should be asking yourself one question (beyond the obvious “Was that correct?”), and I really stress that you be HONEST with yourself about the answer. The question you should be asking yourself is NOT “Why am I doing this?” or “Is this too difficult for me?” or even “How much longer do I have to do this?” The only question you should ask yourself is…“Is that MY best?”
THIS is the spark for personal motivation—but it can come only after you get started, not before. By the way, the answer to this question should almost always be “no,” unless your music teacher agrees with you that you are indeed playing YOUR best.
Other acceptable variations of this question include “Can this measure/phrase/section get the tiniest bit better by playing it again?” or “Did I enjoy the way that sounded?” or “Does my sound have feeling and emotion (expressed through dynamics and articulation)?”
This type of curiosity into our potential is beneficial because it helps us push what we can expect from ourselves. Inevitably, with each repetition the music will get cleaner, and that should be enough to keep you going.
The moral here is: DO NOT WAIT TO FEEL MOTIVATED just to get started; trust that it will come later because you’re a musician. For now, all you have to do is START!