Is It Easy For You To Drift Away From Practice?

January 23, 2018, 11:49 AM · I'm curious how some of you maintain rigid practice routines when you have no demands placed on you.

Can you tell me how you managed to get back into the flow of it again?

I did very well until recently when I had a few large life changing events happen.Also I have been busy with fulfilling goals I made for myself.

Before I knew it I was a day out from my next weekly lesson.

I feel like I need to rekindle something. I don't like that feeling.

What are some ways you overcome this?

Replies (19)

Edited: January 23, 2018, 12:53 PM · To answer your question specifically, it depends on your mentality. I always remember to do warm-ups first. My practice time varies depending on my workload and time available.
Edited: January 23, 2018, 1:10 PM · Hello,

Here are some ideas that help me.
1. I have a yearly practice goal which I divide into hours of practice per week. Right now my goal is 500 - 800 hours of focused practice per year. This works out to 9.5 to 15 hours per week or about a minimum of about 1.5 hours 6 days per week.

This is a doable goal that keeps me accountable. It allows for one day off per week in case something comes up and I can't practice.

2. If I come home after a 10 -11 hour work day and am so tired. I commit to 30 minutes and start with some fun tunes to play. Usually once I start I will practice for at least an hour.

By striving for goal #1 and implementing goal #2 I am getting in at least 9 hours a week and usually more like 12 hours a week.

Also, by basing my goals on focused practice time rather than on something like be at x level in this workbook or have memorized y number of bluegrass standards, or have mastered z concerto; I have complete control over accomplishing both my yearly goal and each weeks mini-goal. They are defined targets that are totally up to me rather than based on externalities such as underestimating the difficulty of a piece, or instructions from your teacher that take you in a different direction.

3. Lastly, My teacher give me some assignment, something to have prepared for her each lesson. Boy oh boy there is nothing like knowing you are accountable to someone else to help light a fire under you.

Hope this helps.

January 23, 2018, 1:07 PM · I would agree with Ella. A lot goes into each person's own mentality. I haven't been learning violin very long, but in general, when learning for me - I always set a goal with each practice session. I'm always focused on what I want to accomplish by the time I'm through. If I don't manage to achieve those goals, I'll roll them over into the next day until I master that particular item I missed out on etc...and then continue moving forward.

At least, for me - this is how I view learning in general. I put up a target and go for it. And since I'm new, they aren't large goals, just small things for each practice session that I plan on having lead up to a larger accomplishment/goal down the road.

Not sure that helps at all. But just my two cents! Take with a grain of salt! :)

January 23, 2018, 1:53 PM · Man, everyone's so different -- this is a hard question to answer accurately. I have an abundance of adult students and I have tried so many different things to get them to consistently practice and play the instrument.

At the end of the day, here's what I've noticed: people who want to play, play. And those who don't, don't. And to be completely frank, all the grey areas I've tried to find between those two realities just don't exist.


If you're struggling to motivate yourself to play, then this probably isn't the right time for you to be playing. Take a break. I think you'll quickly find that you either yearn to get back into it, or you find yourself relieved that you don't have to work so hard. If you yearn for it, you can get back into it with a sense of renewal. Or, if you realize that you don't yearn for it, you can spend your time on something more worthwhile for you. All of our times on Earth are limited (some more so than others), so we need to find things that satisfy us intrinsically, rather than things that we think we need to do.

Don't get into a mindset of being obligated to play. Take a break and see how it feels. I think this is especially true after a life-changing event.

January 23, 2018, 2:09 PM · I don't entirely agree with Eric.

I am a procrastinator. And what's more, I don't like practicing.

Now, not liking to practice is a complex thing. Sometimes, I really enjoy a practice session -- I'm in the zone, I'm being productive, I'm making solid progress, I'm enjoying what I'm doing even if it's hard. But other times, it's just a chore that I'm grinding through, and it feels that way even if I'm making good progress.

Practice is often something that I do in order to support the music-making that I most enjoy doing. Or to play a piece that I love, I have to put in the hours to overcome the technical difficulties to the point where it's enjoyable to play it.

Practicing is work. After a long day of my job and family, it's oftentimes something that I simply feel too tired to do well.

To some degree, I keep up an active schedule of music activities specifically because it forces me to practice. Once I get started, I often enjoy practicing, but it can be hard to get started.

So try to pick up the violin for 5 minutes every day when you have physical and mental energy. Make that a habit.

January 23, 2018, 2:23 PM · I'm with Lydia here: I love playing, I hate practicing.

I hate the repetition, the grind of working to overcome those difficulties is mind-numbing and frustrating at times. (I'm in one of those moments with tricky fingering passages - why are there a handful of measures in each piece that require the most work?! I assume that that handful will become multiple handfuls as the repertoire that I am working on increases in difficulty - ugh!)

My strategy is to warm up with something I like to play that is easy on the hands (only when I really don't want to practice, otherwise), scales, then bowing exercises, fingering exercises, etudes, then rep. Depending on where I am at mentally by the time I get to the rep, I may not spend a lot of time on those tricky bits. Sometimes I get in a mood and hammer it out, other times I can't get into the groove and instead focus on intonation or bowing, or something else.

Now, if I cannot seem to get past the first phase of playing something easy that I like, I will sometimes move on to sight-reading something new, or futzing with repertoire that is not being covered in my lessons. I try to allow for at least one day of futzing/simply playing a week. If I want to do that more than one day a week, I've learned to suspect that my current practice-load is too heavy, or the technical hurdles too high, and I may need to have a chat with my teacher. I don't have outside musical activities beyond my lessons, so I need to keep my motivation up in other ways.

Also, I take lessons with a great teacher, that keeps me motivated because I don't want to waste their time (and my money - lessons ain't cheap!) with a poorly prepared-for lesson.

January 23, 2018, 2:39 PM · I think it depends a lot on wheter ypu must practice or not. I dont make a living out of music, so practicing is a relaxing activity for me. Probably would be different if i had to practice to actually perform.
Edited: January 24, 2018, 12:19 PM · I like practice because I like problem-solving. I don't do a tons repetitions in one sesession, just enough to feel I've nailed each issue *for the time being* and move on. I keep my practice sessions short, somewhere between 15 minutes to 30 minutes per session. Most importantly, I don't think setting goals alone is enough to keep me going. I believe each one needs to have an unique system that can keep one locked in so one can't easily slack off or back out of it when things get tough. Deadlines are not fun but are very useful for getting things done.
January 24, 2018, 1:43 AM · Lydia, you still fit into my statement, I'm afraid.

You want to play, so you do. Yes, of course practice is hard and most people don't want to do it. But at the end of the day, some do and some don't. And the ones that do are also the ones that come up with little tricks to help themselves practice more often or more effectively. They tend not to ask others to motivate them.

I'm not badmouthing the OP whatsoever, but rather saying that the people who tend to ask for ways to motivate themselves to practice/play are also generally the ones that aren't going to play even if they're given tricks or tips. And the ones that figure it out for themselves are going to be the ones that also use the tricks and tips when they end up practicing, rather than simply pondering the idea of practicing.

I'm just speaking from experience with plenty of my own adult students; there is a direct correlation between how much good practice advice I give them (e.g. leave your case open so it's easier to start) and how LITTLE they end up practicing.


If you're faltering in your motivation after only having played for a year or less, then the core problem may simply be that you don't love the instrument that much. I still think taking a short break is the fastest way to discovering whether this is true or not. I think it will also give you some good free time to internalize whatever else is going on in your life.

Everyone here is apt to warn you about how they took a break once upon a time and then they lost years of potential progress and now regret having taken that break, but I call BS. The reason is that they're only focusing on what they lost during that period, and not what they gained. Yes, you lost "practice time" but maybe without the break you would have never come back to the instrument with a refreshed love for it. I'd rather have a couple years of lost progress vs playing in a consistently exhausted musical state for my whole life without stopping. Given enough time/distance, the runner who takes breaks will win the race, and he'll discover more about himself in the process (in my opinion).

January 24, 2018, 2:35 AM · I agree with Erik.
Job, duties, promises, responsibilities... They must be fulfilled. They are not conditional or negotiable, especially not conditional on the mood or the energy. You do something or you don't. It is a matter of personal discipline that extends beyond the violin practice and it is not a magic or a given treat. It needs to be exercised and be strenghtened daily by fighting any urge to give up, to postpone or to "give yourself a rest".
January 24, 2018, 3:33 AM · Ever since I was a child, I wanted to play the violin. I had to wait until I finished university to fullfill my dream. Daily practice is part of this dream and commitment. I love the violin and I love my violin and I want to play it every day.
2016 was a particularly bad year for me, but I found that even "grinding work" like scales and etudes helped me through the worst. After all, I was playing the violin, which is what I always wanted to do! There are times when progress is slow and I'm feeling like I'm stuck with the same etudes and pieces for ever. I don't wait for motivation to come, I just practise.
Pianist James Rhodes once said: "Discipline is reliable, motivation is fleeting. The question isn't how to keep yourself motivated, it's how to train yourself to work without it." - Regarding myself, I think he's right.
January 24, 2018, 4:28 PM · It's far easier to be disciplined about something you love than to be disciplined about something you want to love.

Either way it requires discipline, but the practice will actually happen in the scenario where that activity is desired and loved, where in the scenario where we ~want~ to love it, we'll spend our time thinking about how to motivate ourselves, rather than actually doing the task.

Edited: January 24, 2018, 6:43 PM · Sometimes I like practicing and sometimes I don't. Sometimes life's other challenges and obligations take me away from practicing for a few days at a time. When I come back, the hard part is just the first half hour because I know that's really going to be awful. I just have to convince myself that I'll get through that bottleneck and regain my momentum, which actually is ordinarily quite slow. I'm improving, though, however glacially.

Violin practice is a complex, multifaceted job. There are going to be aspects you like and aspects you don't. That holds for your professional career, too, I'd bet (assuming your professional work is not violin playing). Just gotta schedule in the hard/unpleasant stuff. It's not going away.

January 24, 2018, 9:46 PM · OP definitely love violin, or he wouldn't be starting this discussion thread. In fact, all of us here because we love violin. So I hope that we can all agree that love is a given for most if not all of us v.commers.

We can probably also agree that to be a decent violinist, we need to treat it as a discipline. Like any discipline, which requires proper mindset, grit, and certain structure and incentives.

Incidentally, passion or love helps, but I would argue that it is not necessary for succeeding in a particular discipline. Love of what we do can be cultivated. As we say the devil is in the details -- if you devote yourselves in the nitty-gritty of anything, chances are you'll become more and more interested in it. People coming from old traditional cultural backgrounds have to devote themselves to the work/trade they were told to ended up loving it just as much as something which was chosen out of love. This may sound hard to believe for most of the people in the developed countries, but in the Communist China where I grew up, it was very common to see that highly successful professionals who initially wanted to be doing something entirely else ended up loving what they were assigned to do by the government.

January 27, 2018, 3:51 PM · "Is It Easy For You To Drift Away From Practice?"

Yes, and no. Yes, of course, just by occupying yourself with other things. No, with the weekly lesson reminding you / setting a reason and deadline. No, due to the lingering desire which keeps us at it or coming back after years of doing other things.

"I feel like I need to rekindle something. I don't like that feeling.

What are some ways you overcome this?"

There is nothing to overcome. If you're really over the desire to play violin, great, get out when you can and do something else you might want to accomplish instead with more generally beneficial results. If not, it's best to recognize that ongoing desire, and do whatever you can to express it, even if it means just struggling on for a period while the challenges you're facing seem intractable.

January 27, 2018, 5:31 PM · Sometime I have to take an extended break because I'm just not feeling the muse, or life happened. For me, getting back on the horse after a break is about playing a little bit every day, even if it's just 15 min (which inevitably becomes longer). There is a big difference for me when I tell myself I need to play at least a little bit every day - that way I'm more likely to be in a routine and when I'm not out of shape, it's easier to deal with not. These days I try to practice a little bit every day even when I'm on a playing break, if that makes any sense. Beyond that I try to have some outside inspiration about the practice process all the time - so that I'm approaching the violin in a new way. Those new ideas keep it fresh and keep away the boredom. I think boredom means we are not challenging ourselves enough creatively, but rather just putting in time, or "end-gaming". Youtube has a lot of tutorials that I find fun to go to (see my blog post from Jan 2nd about it). Small advertisement for my tutorials , if I may...it's called Practice Blitz, which is about short bursts of new ways of practicing old things:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCR4pA_d2dYObAZKBLyL4ArA

Here are a bunch of books from a book list I have that are wonderful sources of inspiration and how to's. A few pages a day of almost anything give me something new to think about. These are in no particular order

Gerle, Robert.(1983). The Art of Practicing the Violin.
Gerle, Robert (1991). The Art of Bowing Practice.
Havas, Kato (1961). A New Approach To Violin Playing. London:Bosworth & Co.
Havas, Kato (1968). The Violin and I.
Havas, Kato (1964). The twelve lesson course in A New Approach to Violin Playing, with exercises relating to the fundamental balances.
Simon Fischer (any of his books!)
Menuhin, Yehudi (1986). The complete violinist: thoughts, exercises, reflections of an itinerant violinist.
Watkins, Cornelia: Rosindust: Teaching, Learning, and Life from the Cellist’s Perspective
Ricci, Ruggiero. Ricci on Glissandi: The Shortcut to Violin Playing.
Yampolsky. Principles of Violin Fingering
Sand, Barbara. Teaching Genius: Dorothy Delay and the Making of a Musician
William Westney: The Perfect Wrong Note: Learning to Trust Your Musical Self
Coyle, Daniel: The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How.
Barry Green: The Inner Game of Music
Gary Klickstein: The Musicians’ Way

Good luck - it will come, sometimes it just takes a little longer than others.

Edited: January 27, 2018, 11:15 PM · A bit late to the thread, but this year I decided to try my own version of the popular Instagram/social media challenge- the 100 days of practice (made quite popular by Hilary Hahn?)where one has to upload a video or snip of their practice. I made a private instagram account just for this challenge with no one else following it so only I can see it. Although most people would already practice everyday (I do the majority of the time but often find myself wondering if I could get away with a break), by giving myself a goal, it makes practicing a lot more habitual for me. It helps me practice consistently as if I were to miss a day I would feel horrible. It also helps me keep track of my progress and I can look back and see what I can improve on. If for some reason I can't record a video, I write a sort of practice entry on stuff I worked on, and what I need to improve on. This is my own way of making it harder for myself to drift from practicing- obviously I will continue to practice past day 100 but I find that it makes practice a non negotiable thing- if I stop then I have to go back to square one again! I hope that maybe, after this challenge, I will have a stricter mindset when it comes to practicing! Hope this helps :)
Edited: January 28, 2018, 5:37 AM · I am even too busy to come back and check this thread until now :)

I continue to be amazed by the fine people we have here on violinist.com so willing to offer support and I thank all of you for your comments along with educational video and book links. I might sound gushy online but THANK YOU.

I can see both sides of this issue here in deciding to continue with the violin.It seems we are constantly pulled in different directions as husbands, wives, workers, students and so on.

I think there are those who are either given a violin or buy one on a whim all the while looking at the endeavor as a test.

Others buy a violin with the dedicated view to never quit it. To pursue it until they get it down.I am in this category. I think for me there is a passing correlation with marriage. I am now past the honeymoon stage of the violin. This is where we do things that sometimes aren't fun to make something work because we value the relationship.We know that the good far outweighs the bad.

I think the way I really know I have the interest is I'm looking for ways to perpetuate my practice. I have realized that the violin takes much effort and a constant maintaining to assure a static position much less advancement.

I'll say this but I'll try to keep it impersonal and brief.My life has been the perfect storm lately against me having as much time to practice. I see this getting better in the near future and I have began to really dig into practice once again. For the last few months I have had two and three day lulls between practices.

Some of this has been very good. I received a promotion at my job which involved a lot of changes. Moving to a new office, aligning new responsibilities.I only had time for a 10 minute lunch on Friday.

There have been medical issues that had made my days much longer. Thankfully this is now over and I feel good.This all happened around the holidays. Enough said there.

I lead a worship band and I am initiating new technologies into our setup. This gets very involved. Learning new software, pouring over lots of music in lots of different keys and trying to pick put out our repertoire and then integrating it into the new technology.

In spite of this my violin teacher told me " You've got this". I just need to work out the details according to her. I tend to be a leader. I don't easily follow others plans for me. Emphasis being on "for me". This isn't by choice. I'm continually re working things by my inner directives because I seem to have some kind of innate direction that molds itself using others plans. IOW the plans are useful but they usually end up becoming guidelines.

I think some of my apprehension about the violin is more along the lines of, when will this become useful? How will I use this? So far it's only been in playing Irish jigs, reels and polkas. This is fine to a point, but I had bigger visions for all of my time invested than sitting in a small group of people huddled in a corner of a small loud bar. At some point I want to take this further. I'm not sure how.I need to maximize my investment.

January 29, 2018, 4:27 AM · Treat scales as rainbows: not compositions but a beautiful array of colours.
Pieces likewise, on those days when inpiration is absent.
Enjoy each sound, and each gesture for itself.
And do - not - "grind" !


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