Practice Motivation and Excuses

Sometimes I have no motivation to practice. I can offer a lot of excuses.

  • I’ll do it after this.
  • I just don’t feel like it.
  • I’m feeling frustrated.
  • I’m feeling discouraged.
  • I’m tired.
  • My body aches.
  • I’m too busy.
  • I have other things to do.
  • I can’t get to it.
  • I just can’t seem to get organized.
  • Add another excuse here: __________________

Any of these sound familiar?

We all know only way to progress, improve and get better is to practice. No ifs, ands, or buts! But at times, we just don’t practice.

Now, hopefully, this doesn’t happen often or for long periods of time. It happens to me from time to time, and I’ve even had a few stretches during the summer when I didn’t practice for multiple days. Right now, I’m in a good space, practicing every day, so I thought I would take a look at what may be happening when I don’t practice for one reason or another.

Some days I am just plain lazy. I am prone to wasting hours on the computer, whether it is working on non-essential things on one of my two websites, checking all my favorite sites (over and over), or chatting with others. Or, maybe I’ll catch up on that TV show I missed last night. How about doing a little yard work that can wait until tomorrow? I love working outside. You get the picture, don’t you?

Some days I put off practice because practice is work. Some days practice is not fun. It can be frustrating or discouraging. On days I feel like this, I need to ask myself do I really want to do this, learn how to play the fiddle? The answer is yes. So, what can I do to make practice seem less like work, feel better about it, and make it more like fun? Some days I will just have to bite the bullet and work, but so many other times I can really make my practice fun and encouraging if try. How? Here are just a few tips:

  • Practicing scales? Scales can be real boring, but I can change things around using a lot of different rhythms, patterns and variations, so my scale practice is different everyday. Even something as simple as practicing my scales with drones adds interest.
  • I can play some of the tunes I have already learned and play fairly well now. At one point each of these was a challenge. I’ve gotten better! That encourages me to do the work at hand, the next challenge, whatever I may be avoiding. I know I can do this!
  • Sometimes I’ll even make up words to a tune I’m trying to learn. Even if it already has lyrics, I’ll ignore them and make up my own. For me, this seems to make my task easier.
  • I tend to slide over to pessimism at times. You know, the glass is half empty, not half full. I have been working on this in my fiddle practice. At the end of each practice, I write down at least one thing I accomplished or did well -more if I can- and I leave it in my practice room where I can see it. I also hang motivational pictures, even funny ones, to help me. Here are a few I have posted right now in my practice room. I look at them often.

And, some days, I feel like I just don’t have time. Hey, I’m an adult; I have responsibilities. Responsibilities come first. What I tend to forget on these days is my happiness and well being are my responsibility, too! If I don’t take care of myself, I won’t take care of anything. I’ll burn out. My learning to play the fiddle is an important part of my happiness and well being; it is a responsibility to myself, and it is just as important. Realizing that has helped me miss less days of practice. And, if those other responsibilities are looming heavy on me, must be accomplished before the end of the day, even a shortened practice on a given day is better than no practice at all when it comes to my mental health.

So, what keeps you from practicing? It’s your turn. Leave a comment below. I’ll stop here. I need to practice my fiddle now. Have a good day.

  11 comments for “Practice Motivation and Excuses

  1. December 5, 2019 at 6:13 am

    Well, I practice/play five different instruments daily, with the only real exception being when I’m traveling, at which time I usually still play at least two instruments cuz I can’t always carry everything with me 🙁

    • MoonShadows
      December 5, 2019 at 6:40 am

      @gunnarsalyer

      You are one talented young man, Gunnar. I have enjoyed your contributions on the Bluegrass Daddy Forum, and now your new blog, The Off-Grid Musician.

      Aside…Folks, check out Gunnar’s new blog and his YouTube site at Gunnar Salyer. Well worth the visits. Gunnar is a 17 year old young man who lives with his family in Mozambique east Africa. His parents are missionaries.

  2. December 4, 2019 at 8:49 pm

    I almost answered “Nothing keeps me from practicing.” But there WAS an exception, and it’s the only time since I first got my fiddle that I have not practiced every day. So, the truth is, I have practiced happily every day since May 4, 2018 – except for two months, from September 6 to November 6th, 2018, when I was recovering from brain surgery. I’ve been a musician all my life, and I can honestly say that the violin is the first instrument I have not had to force myself to practice. So, I hear you, everyone who is looking for ways to get motivated. I can’t tell you why I love it so much – it’s certainly not because I sound “so good” on it. (Believe me, I don’t.) I just love learning everything I can about how to make the sound I am making turn into the sound that I long to make. I don’t have any advice, other than to just “Keep pluggin’,” as Bluetick says.

    • December 5, 2019 at 4:35 am

      Susan, I would say brain surgery was a legitimate excuse not to practice. 😯  Now, that my business has slowed down for the season, I am practicing every day, when I physically can. The last few days this trigger finger has been getting in the way.

      • old cowboy
        December 5, 2019 at 6:04 am

        @moonshadowsI had a bout with “Trigger Finger” this past summer. Thankfully it only lasted a few days and then cured itself.

        • MoonShadows
          December 5, 2019 at 6:28 am

          @old-cowboy

          I’m certainly hoping this one cures itself, too. I’m not too wild about a cortisone shot or surgery. In the meantime, practice is not easy.

  3. old cowboy
    December 4, 2019 at 3:57 pm

    mostly what keeps me from practice is feeling discouraged. Right now I am trying double stops. I am making some progress but I feel so discouraged when I just can’t seem to get it right. These past few days I decided to go back and just play the songs I know fairly well without any of the “fancy” stuff. I was amazed at how good some of it actually sounded! Now, maybe I can go back to the double stops, knowing that someday they will sound good also!

    • MoonShadows
      December 5, 2019 at 4:27 am

      @old cowboy

      I think when discouragement sets in one of the best things to do is “take a break” by playing some tunes we know well. It’s a real morale booster, and I find it gives me encouragement to go back to the tougher stuff I’m currently trying to learn. Sometimes we can forget that we are actually getting better, bit by bit.

      The other day I felt that way when I couldn’t get the 4th part of a tune down even though I had been working on it for a few days. I took a break playing some of my old tunes. I think that actually helped me to relax too, because that day, I finally got that 4th part down.

  4. Bluetick
    December 4, 2019 at 12:21 pm

    Right now, my biggest obstacle to sitting down and practicing is two fold.1) Out of habit, I get up very early every morning, usually about 4:00 am.  By time I get home in the afternoon at 4:30 pm, I like to spend some time with my wife, seeing how her day went and catching up on the family news.  Then eat supper and watch a little of the news or something else with her.  By this time it is nearing 7:00 pm and I’m starting to leak down.  By 8:00 pm, I’m out like a light.  Same thing on the weekends.  Though I’m not working my regular job, I’m up at 4 am, going hunting or working on my land, and want to crash early.  So, I have to force myself to take the time for practice.2) For years I convinced myself that I sounded absolutely terrible on the fiddle.  Now that I have a real fiddle teacher, I’ve discovered that I’m actually supposed to sound terrible, and that my scratchy bowing and off-noting are to be expected. They are aspects of a journey in fiddle playing that improve with practice.  I also discovered, after listening to various mp3 files uploaded by other fiddle players on other forums, that I’m not nearly as terrible as I originally thought.Even though I’ll never play as well as Chubby Wise, Allison Krause, Mark O’Connor, or Vassar Clements, I’m steadily improving and I’m already 10 times better than I was 40 years ago when I put the fiddle down.  Keep pluggin’, y’all.

    • MoonShadows
      December 5, 2019 at 4:20 am

      @bluetick

      You’re like me. I am up at 3:00am every day and usually snoozing in the chair around 7pm or so. I usually practice in the morning before the day gets away from me, but being semi-retired, I have more opportunities to fit in practice during the day.

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