Kick-start Motivation in Practice by Lisa Nelsen
When we’re feeling drained of inspiration or want a reason to practise, what kinds of options can we put in place to jump-start our routine again? Often in our careers as music students and professional players, we hit the wall of what we’d label as boredom or lethargy in practice. There are so many reasons that we know should get us off our sofas to do our hour or 4 hours…or even 10 minutes of one to one contact with our instruments, but the draw and motivation escapes us.
Let’s start with that. There has to be a reason to play: whether it’s to stay in shape, prepare for a lesson or concert, or to learn a new technique or piece for the future. If these reasons look daunting and are just too much to cope with, work with simple and short bursts of practice first. The idea of a whole hour or 4 may instill absolute dread…and it’s actually the idea of the enormity of the task that can stop you from even approaching it.
For now, today, at this point in your day, start with something simple and short. Give yourself one thing to do. Only one thing. And my only instruction about this one thing is to repeat it between 5 and 10 times. It may be simply playing two notes one after the other legato, or starting the first note of a phrase with clarity, or a crazy finger or position combination that you find ridiculously hard. Make a note of whether you play it successfully or if you need to improve it… and what needs the improvement.
Or cheat and record it. Best way to actually give yourself a lesson is to listen to yourself and make decisions on what you hear rather than what you felt was good or bad. If you’re like me, however, it’ll take a lot of persuasion to actually turn the voice memo on. I’ve had to get over the reluctance to use it, because it helps! And I’ve improved in small ways because of this.
After you’ve done this practice, just stop. No fixing, no going back or redoing stuff. You’re just done. And there you have it…a practice session complete. There is no right or wrong way to do this....only doing it until you believe it works or not.
Lisa Nelsen is internationally recognised for her versatility as a flute soloist and for her work as a chamber and orchestral musician. In addition to this she is a highly regarded educator and mentor in performance practices. Lisa plays a Yamaha YFL-967BH, a 900 Series handmade gold flute.