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The Weekend Vote weekend vote: What motivates you to practice?

March 4, 2013 at 2:41 AM

We know what makes us into good musicians: Practice! But where do you get your motivation to practice?

After teaching for 20+ years, I'm convinced that motivation to practice is the single most important factor in a student's success. And for a professional, staying motivated and inspired is key to staying a musician!

I think that a person can be motivated to practice by a number of different things, and that those things likely change throughout life. Your motivation as a young child be in the hands of your parents -- your are motivated by Mom's nagging, or some kind of reward from your parents. Or, you might be motivated by playing a particular piece or concerto: the next piece in the book, or the Tchaikovsky Concerto.

You could be the kind of person who has cultivated a daily practice and is motivated by the daily devotion of keeping up that practice. Or, maybe you are madly in love with someone who inspires you to practice, or even maybe you have a "professional crush" on another musician you admire and want to be like. Maybe your teacher or mentor inspires you. I'm very motivated by having a performance -- somehow, I'm a person who needs a deadline! I'd like to get myself into that devotional practicer mode, though, as it's a bit more consistent.

You are probably motivated by a combination of things, but I'm interested in what motivates you most, currently, to practice, when you practice!

From Satria Perkasa
Posted on March 4, 2013 at 3:51 AM
I learn violin because I want to. And my parents is kindly give me money to buy a violin.
Then I learn.
Now, I practice violin because I want to be better. I play in an orchestra, and in some church. I just don't want to mess up their performance.
From steven su
Posted on March 4, 2013 at 7:51 AM
My reason is actually my unusually high standards so I always feel I need to practice more. Plus, I like to experiment :) it drives less dedicated musicians nuts though :P
From Ellie Withnall
Posted on March 4, 2013 at 11:34 AM
I practice because for me that IS playing.
I'm never going to give concerts or recitals and rarely have people to jam with, so fooling around in my music room is what I actually do. And I love it so there's no extra motivation required at all, you might as well ask what motivates me to eat dessert!
From Krista Moyer
Posted on March 4, 2013 at 11:57 AM
I practice every day because of two things: 1) not wanting to disappoint my teacher; and 2) pocketbook pressure.

As an adult beginner, I feel like I need to take advantage of the opportunity to learn because otherwise the money is just being wasted. And since I'm taking up a valuable learning slot, it needs to be worthwhile to my teacher too. I can imagine it must be terribly frustrating to have a student who doesn't put in the requisite effort.

From Kevin Keating
Posted on March 4, 2013 at 12:08 PM
Practice is that annoying thing that drives everyone else in house crazy, they can't stand listening to it. You know, that stop-start, over an over repetitive, stuck in one measure, screeching scratching trying to get the bow stroke right. All that, however, adds up to the final product which is the performance, whether that performance is a recital, concert, jam, family get together, church. Whether there's an audience to hear it or not. I practice to get it right, not half-assed. The piece I'm currently working on (Vivaldi Concerto in Dm RV248) is taking a long time, but after each practice session something is always better than it was before I started. Practice is the work that puts people like Joshua Bell and Ann Akiko Myers on the world stage. It's what makes you better than just good enough.
From marjory lange
Posted on March 4, 2013 at 12:47 PM
I practice because for me it's a privilege and a joy to take the time from everything else I "have to do" to work on this activity I love so much.
From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on March 4, 2013 at 2:43 PM
I chose to do this activity and it's not society who forced it on me... what a motivation in itself haha

Except the obvious as to not waste my time and money (even more when it's my parents that still help until I graduate in something...) my love of music and my natural perfectionist behaviour.

My principal sources of motivation are these two:

Recitals and performances(but I just do some when I have plenty of time to prepare it)

In everyday life: my lessons (teacher) and my idols. I have a deep admiration for the great players and my top 7-8 idols all have printed pictures of them in my practice studio. Even though I'm not at all in their context, talent range or even era, I feel less alien since there are no musicians and even less good ones around me (thus no one to look up to). I recently had the luck to have the best present ever: an autograph vinyl of my "most" favorite idol. Even though I never would have asked and expect such a gift. I must tell that it's a pretty motivational item and a heck of a lucky charm!

And I forgot the most important... my beloved violin that is very tempermental but has my dream sound. You just can't work everyday with a partner you hate :)

From Royce Faina
Posted on March 4, 2013 at 3:27 PM
More like all of the above for me. However music is a healthy escape for me weather it is practice or performance. Even if it is an etude I still can just get lost in playing! No surfing chanels or the net, rest my eyes from reading and study; Just play and play some more.
Brought to you by the letter, "Vvvvvvvvv, and the number 4....."
From Matthew Dakoutros
Posted on March 4, 2013 at 4:38 PM
I can't vote. It's a combination of all the answers, except parents. In addition, I told my father not to tell me to study more, when I was preparing for my diploma, cause when he was telling me, I didn't want to study.
From Terez Mertes
Posted on March 4, 2013 at 6:44 PM
I love that there's a "devotion" option. I always feel vaguely guilty over my lack of desire to seek out other musicians and play together. I thought that motivated 98% of the people here. Nice to see others chose "devotion" as well.

From Paul Deck
Posted on March 4, 2013 at 9:47 PM
I said "devotion" but my answer would have been different 35 years ago. Then it would have been my teacher and my parents and the feeling that I would be disappointing them if I didn't practice.
From Trevor Jennings
Posted on March 5, 2013 at 12:36 AM
Had it been possible I would have ticked 4 out of the 5 boxes.
From Zlata Brouwer
Posted on March 5, 2013 at 9:36 AM
For me it is a bigger challenge NOT to practice than to practice... If I don't play for a day I become depressed. Also my violin detunes terribly when I don't play for a day... it is as if my violin needs lots of attention, like a pet!

I feel so blessed that I started playing violin at a early age and that I have been able to make a living out of it. Otherwise I would go mad :D.

From J Ray
Posted on March 5, 2013 at 12:27 PM
The list of options given omits two important factors (which have been expressed by others in this thread) -- personal drive, not necessarily as a habit of daily practice, but as a wish for building a greater ability to express beauty in music, and the pleasure of playing in itself.
From Anne Horvath
Posted on March 5, 2013 at 4:09 PM
Many reasons to list, in no particular order of importance:

1. Habit.

Established as a child. Daily time duly spent(on the piano, actually) because if one was in lessons, one practiced. (Arguing was saved for other subjects in the early teen years. :-)

2. Fear.

I'd like to keep the current modicum of ability, let alone grow a bit.

3. Pride. See "Fear".

4. It works.

I heard Stern live in the 80's. 'Nuff said.

5. What a great way to spend your time.

Speaking of...

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on March 5, 2013 at 5:25 PM
I'm kind of like you in that it helps me to have an orchestra concert or other performance to be preparing for.

In that case it is really because I enjoy giving the performances the most when I am well prepared, not so much because I fear judgement or am concerned about the outcome, per se. I find the most joy in orchestral playing when I am cruising along on my part, playing well, not getting distracted or frustrated, listening to the other parts when appropriate, responding to the conductor, getting caught up in the music rather than the notes. When I am experiencing "flow."

I am not that great a sight-reader and I am not good at faking, either, so the only way I can get to that point of bliss is to practice.

I am also motivated to avoid the contrasting experience, of sitting there in the middle of the orchestra, lost, while the whole thing goes on around me and I stare at the music trying to figure out where the heck we are. (I've been there, too, and I have no desire to go back.) The only reliable way out of that thicket for me is, again, to practice and know my part well.

I used to feel guilty about not being a daily or devotional practicer, but I've decided to let that go. If I have to do something every day that is more complicated than brushing my teeth, I will come to resent it and likely quit. While I would probably make more and faster progress if I practiced every day, I make some--enough--by practicing most days and more when I have a concert coming up. Whereas if I got resentful and quit, I wouldn't make any progress at all.

From Jayanthi Joseph
Posted on March 6, 2013 at 7:10 AM
It is extremely difficult not to practice! One of the choices should have been: Requirement for Sanity. If I don't practice pieces get stuck in my head even more than usual and I start humming stuff...

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