Sure, it’s easy to be motivated to practice in the beginning stages of learning a new instrument or piece of music. The freshness of the new frontier has enough intrigue to keep you engaged – for a while.
Then, motivation tends to dry up because it can be harder than you expected and, therefore, progress is slower than you anticipated. When the sobering reality sets in of just how much time and effort it will take to achieve results, it’s easy to get discouraged and lose motivation. This is why it’s important to find ways to stay motivated while learning something new.
Listen, Listen, Listen!
When your motivation drops, step away from the instrument and instead immerse yourself in the music!Go to live concerts, watch YouTube videos of your favorite artist, and even listen to different musicians performing the same piece of music, if possible.
It’s just as important to listen to music as it is to practice music. Hearing a variety of styles and interpretations will help you internalize the music and inspire creativity in a way that can’t always be accomplished when only practicing.
Learn an Easy, Fun Piece
Sometimes it’s easy to get so focused on learning the pieces and techniques that our teacher so ambitiously puts in front of us that we forget to also have fun along the way!
Yes – practice the technique and difficult music, but also – give yourself a break! Find fun and easy music to learn that will be like your “dessert.” Something that you will enjoy and that will give you confidence; a kind of reminder of how far you’ve come.
Throw a Chamber Music Party
Another reason it can be easy to lose motivation when practicing is that it can be very isolating. All those hours spent by yourself can be a quick way to lose interest.
The best way to combat the isolation of practicing is to throw a chamber music party with your friends! Even if you just have one friend who plays an instrument, invite them over and play duets together! Pick music that is relatively easy so you both feel accomplished from the experience.
Not only will it be good practice for sight-reading, it will also be a huge confidence booster after feeling discouraged or unmotivated in the practice room. It will also inspire you of things that you can improve in your playing while also allowing you to apply what you’ve learned. Don’t forget to include snacks with your party!
Set up a Performance
Have you ever been unmotivated to study, only to find yourself suddenly motivated to hit the books when your teacher announces that there is a test in one week? The same happens for music. It’s too easy to sit back and coast on your usual practice routines without having much motivation to deepen your practice.
So – set up a performance, even if it’s a small one for your family and friends, or the local retirement home. Knowing that you have a performance coming up is a surefire way to reignite the motivation to practice and grow.
Document Your Progress
Have you ever seen “before and after” photos of someone who has lost a lot of weight?
The growth is incredible and very motivating! It is important to have a sense of your own “before and after” growth to keep yourself motivated. Taking video and audio recordings of yourself will be a great way to look back and see your progress. It is also a great way to objectively evaluate your own playing. Often, you’ll see mistakes or points for improvement that you didn’t even notice before.
Have Clear Goals
Another reason motivation fades is because there may be a lack of clear goals, or, the goals are unrealistic.
Take some time to map out your goals for the next year, six months, one month, and week. For example:
- Finish songs 1-8 of Book 1 of the Suzuki series
- Perform 1 piece for the annual studio recital
- Perform Song of the Wind and Go Tell Aunt Rhody for the local retirement home
- Learn 4 new scales with bowing patterns
- Learn different bowing patterns for the G major scale
- Finish learning Song of the Wind
- Learn the fingering for the G major scale
- Learn the first 8 measures of Song of the Wind
Knowing your long-term goals will give you clarity on the necessary steps to achieve them. Keep your goals realistic. It’s always better to surpass your own expectations rather than set the bar so high that you never even stood a chance.
Stay Focused and Stay Motivated!
Keep working hard and stay focused on your goals – but don’t forget to enjoy yourself along the way! Staying motivated when learning something new is crucial – stay connected with other musicians and keep music alive in your life outside of the practice room. If you’re feeling frustrated or uninspired, step away from the instrument and remind yourself of why you love music and decided to learn an instrument.
I find one of the best ways to track my progress is to record myself playing. I did this once a week for a few months and comparing the first video to the most recent, I could see how much I have improved. Prior to watching it, I was feeling discouraged. It is easy to overlook progress with more complex instruments.