- ‘I should really join/start a band’
- ‘I hate practicing’ (honestly, who doesn’t?)
- ‘I really would like to improve my *insert instrument name here* playing’
- ‘I would really like to get over my performance anxiety’
Number one: Commit to working with an experienced instructor, teacher, or mentor who is knowledgeable with your particular instrument(s) of interest. This can be arranged in a set schedule with an end date in sight, or more flexible terms as needed. This person represents an accountability piece for keeping up your end of the bargain. A trained teacher or mentor will give you homework (that beloved practicing or assignments) to complete in the interim between your lessons, as well as to create a pathway to help you achieve your musical goals. One of the main benefits of engaging in this type of relationship is that they can also represent a source of encouragement and re-direction when any roadblocks to your success are encountered, and ways to work towards achieving your musical goals.
Number two: Try the Lego practicing incentive (or suggested adaptation for adults) to find motivation to practice! I have found great success with this method in my own teaching studio, particularly in working with children.
For the adults reading this piece: imagine receiving a paystub from your place of employment with a lump sum on it and no explanation of your earnings, and now a large pile of Lego. Now envision the explanation and detail of those earnings, or one piece of Lego for every hour worked at the job. How does this help a young student become motivated to practice? One piece of Lego = one attempt of a particular piece or exercise as part of their on-going practices. My students are typically expected to practice 5 times each week at roughly 20-30 minutes (depending on their age or level). By the end of the week, they should have quite a large pile representative of all of the hard work they have accomplished that they can visualize clearly. At the end of the week they use their creativity and imagination to construct a ‘Lego practice monster’ indicative of all they have musically accomplished with their practices that week. One of the highlights of my week is judging the Lego competition in my studio, and choosing the winner to be shared with the studio at large.
Lego incentive adapted for the adult learners and musicians reading this piece: keep a container near your practice area at home, and reward yourself every time you practice (choose a dollar amount for every 30 mins of practice for example, to ‘pay’ yourself forward). At the end of the week, you will have a container full of rewards for your hard work – now it is time to treat yourself!
Number three: Join a band or start your own! The advent of the internet has made it easier than ever before to be able to connect with people who share your own musical interests or abilities through an endless supply of online communities. Take advantage of this and stop procrastinating if this is something that you have always wanted to do. This is another source of accountability, as bands will typically practice/jam on a weekly or monthly basis (depending on the kind of band). It gives you an incentive to do your own part in the interim, in the interest of contributing to the common good of the group. If you happen to belong to the 50 plus age group, I strongly recommend that you look into joining the New Horizons Band, started by a former Long & McQuade employee Dan Kapp.
Number four: Arrange a public performance. It could be something as small or as informal as a small gathering of friends in your apartment or living room, or something as ambitious as playing at Carnegie Hall (we can all dream, can’t we?) Most (all) musicians that I know experience performance anxiety in varying degrees of intensity. The bad news is that the only way to get over this is to get ‘thrown into the lions den’. The good news is that this is yet another incentive to start practicing, to hone those chops to put on the best performance you can. You have an end result in sight, a goal to work towards, and a timeline to help you achieve that goal. As the saying goes, ‘the show must go on’!
To recap, the four tangible suggestions to help get you motivated to pursue your best musical self are: commit to working with an experienced teacher, instructor, or mentor, the Lego practicing incentive (adapted for adults), join a band or start your own, or arrange a public performance. What are you waiting for – just do it!
Mrs. Michelle Fedorowich