getting motiivated to practice

May 7, 2007 at 08:25 PM · Hi!

I'm 15 years old and starting to realize the potential of my musical capabilities. With this realization comes the desire to improve those capabilities. When I consider what options I have to improve my level of playing, few ideas come to mind. I am already in a very good community youth orchestra, and community adult orch.

So, what does come to mind are these things: the New York Youth Symphony, and the Juilliard Pre-college division.

but then I remember what already happened with the NYYS this year. I heard about mid-season auditions (two spots had opened up) so I decided to audition. I lost, by a long shot. And their were only two other people.

Then I think about Juilliard, and I am brought to the main point of this article. currently I do't even practice six days a week, usually just five. And I don't practice for even an hour each time that I practice.

So, now that I've shared with you my woes, have a question:

How do you get yourself motivated enough to practice well and for a large number of hours a day? Like, now, I only practice about forty-five minutes, and about half of that is "bad" practice. How, do you keep yourself focused enough to practice for long periods of time, like an hour, and then go back in ten minutes to practice another hour(seeing as I'll need to do about 3 hours of practice a day as a minimum, to get into Juilliard)?

Replies (35)

May 7, 2007 at 11:51 PM · I'm no expert, but I find I practice more when I break it up throughout the day. Wake up a little earlier and get in 30-60 minutes and you've already accomplished quite a lot---another 30-60 minutes after school, then a little after dinner---you'll find you won't feel the pressure to practice longer because you're still getting in the time, and you won't feel guilty if you only feel like playing 15 minutes. It's also easier to concentrate for shorter periods. The best part for me, though, is that morning practice warms me up for the rest of the day and I play better in the evening.

May 8, 2007 at 01:06 AM · Isn't that motivation enough? Knowing your not good enough? :)

May 8, 2007 at 01:56 AM · how about spending less time on the computer for one? :)

practicing 45 mins/day, not even everyday, and aspiring to get into julliard precollege, is pathetic. you do not need carrot here, you need a big stick.

you know what is required, what to do, simply cannot bring yourself to do it. why? simple: you do not want it bad enough.

there is no passion, no urgency. why aim for a A when B is alright and getting a A takes so much more work?

extrinsic factors cannot help ignite a flame inside. certainly not for long.

if you have a goal, make a stand. either get serious, get real and get going. or, find something else that you can put your heart and soul into.

the other thing to consider, if possible, is to befriend those who practice violin very seriously. you may feel some positive peer pressure to get your act together.

May 8, 2007 at 02:17 AM · Design a program of basics and stick with it. My warm ups last an hour and fifteen minutes just hitting my basic points. Next, approach each element in your basics seriously. Next, work on the musical part of your practice--the songs you are working on, setting goals to always add new material.

When you say half your practice is bad, it's really not saying much about what exactly you 'are' doing. When one is your age, many times they have good intentions but really do not know about how to go about it. Get your teacher to help you design your first program.

May 8, 2007 at 02:25 AM · Now that I think about it again, I guess I really do know how to practice. But I think Al hit the nail right on the head, WHY aren't I practicing that way/much?

I never really thought about THAT aspect of it. Maybe it is just outside sources, although I'm never really pushed to practice, its just sort of an unspoken command between my parents and me.

The external factors especially come to mind when I think about experiences that I have had with other people after I perform. Several times I have had Julliard alumni come up to me after performances telling me how I should audition for Julliard, or get more serious... Maybe that's because I really don't want to, deeeeeeeeep down.

Then again, maybe I should just give it a try, work my but off for one year, see if I can, see how it works out. At least then I will know without a doubt both what I am capable of and how far I want to progress.

After all, I have been known to make violent changes for the better, in terms of school-work, so I know that I CAN put forth more effort, for instance, last year, I nearly failed eigth grade, and yet this year I have straight A's. The ability was always there, just never used. So I know that I can put forth an enormous amount of effort.

Sorry, I'm just totally rambling now...

May 8, 2007 at 02:52 AM · if you do decide to take it seriously for a change, or for once, you have got one half of the pie in place. the other part is to find a mentor who knows you well, whom you trust and pair up and go for it as a team.

that person does not even have to be a music person, just someone who will hold you up to the promises you have made, the "contracts" you have signed with yourself. someone who will be there with you.

we all have weaknesses and weak moments. the temptation to quit is just so overwhelming if you are not a geek or nerd. we need those special people in our lives to lift us up when we are down, to calm us down when we are out of control. think of you as Rockie and the mentor as the short old man in the gym.

if you decide to go forward, you need to find that special someone. of course, a victoria secret supermodel may do :)

May 8, 2007 at 10:53 AM · It can the teacher in some cases. When lessons and practices are micromanaged, it can turn the interest off for older kids. My daughter's lessons used to be closely supervised and she practiced diligently but halfheartedly. We changed teachers a couple of years ago. The new teacher had a handsoff approach. As far as I can tell, there was not much verbal exchange but she knew what was expected. Not much detailed instruction was given to achieve it. She had to experiment, and in the process she got very engaged in playing. Now she puts in a few hours of daily practice on her own. That's after a couple of hour homework and a full day at school.


May 8, 2007 at 11:24 AM · Hi,

My own two cents on this as a teacher on the matter at this early hour of the morning...

I see this with my students - the failure to practice enough or practice well. Often, people just procrastinate for no good reason, or it is often due to a lack of organization. This issue can be solved by understanding two basics. First, motivation comes from work. Work does not come from motivation. Secondly, being organized helps to create a spirit conducive to work - i.e. you set goals, tasks and a start time. Usually motivation builds as you start working.

Failure to practice well comes from a couple of things. A problem in generational which my generation did not deal with. With the advancements of technology many young people are used to having things instantly with the belief that it should be rapid and fairly easy. Unfortunately the violin doesn't come that way. Failure to practice well may come also from a psychological belief that is boring, or not fun neither of which have anything to do with it. Also, one may not necessarily be convinced inwardly of its capacity to work.

Although people often use the excuse for not practicing that deep down they don't have a real "passion" for the violin, I find that this is more of a scape-goat from the problem listed above of the lack of organization and discipline both of which can be more easily solved. Though it is possible but I am personally not convinced.

All that said, solutions I use for my students.

- Organize yourself and a practice schedule. Know what you have to practice. Set a start time for your practice and do it no matter what. I recommend the 50 minute hour (50 minutes practice 10 minutes break) suggested by Zukerman as a good system.

- Practice somewhere free of disctrations.

- Set goals, especially small goals for your practicing. Know what you need to work and and how.

- Be analytical in your practice. Know the source of the problem and its solution.

- Devote time to your technique (scales, études, exercises - with goals in mind) and your repertoire. Set aside a "performance" time for repertoire at the end of your practice day for running through a piece - not to be neglected.

- We have the added advantage of a concert series and juries at the Conservatoire where I teach, but having targets to aim for is quite a motivator for most people. As a pro for example, I find that the time crunch for learning music quickly on top of a large teaching schedule encourages me to practice and be effecient in my practice.

- One important goal to have in mind... PRACTICE FOR IMPROVEMENT NOT PERFECTION. Perfection is an illusionary goal that can be a source of discouragement for many since it really impossible to acheive.

Hope this helps and best of luck!


May 8, 2007 at 12:27 PM · Christian - What you said agrees completely with what I observe in my daughter. Interesting point you made that motivation comes from work which is very true in my daughter's case, too.


May 8, 2007 at 01:29 PM · motivation does not come from work, not in the context of the poster's situation.

motivation comes from the answer to the simple question: what is the point of pairing up low motivation with high expectation? it is called daydreaming on a lazy sunday afternoon.

oh, i would like to have a chiseled body, but i am not sure if i want to sweat for it...

oh, i would like to lose weight, but i am not sure if i can discipline myself...

all the work you need to do is done in your head, ahead of time.

simply getting into a routine will not create motivation, not the level that will get you into one of the most competitive music programs.

a burning desire to be somebody, somewhere, some level, some shape may.

until this issue is clearly addressed and acknowledged, you simply go through the motion. garbage in, garbage out. low standard, low performance. it is a simple issue that everyone knows without having to learn it. it is just that most of us cannot bring ourselves to give it a go.

one of the most obvious things turns out to be most elusive thing to handle.

May 8, 2007 at 01:53 PM · You mentioned that most of your practice was "bad practice" what do you mean by that? I've personally found that at times when I don't feel particularily motivated to practice that I just need to set a goal of practicing for say 3 hrs. every day and then just do it. I don't worry too much if I don't feel like the pracicing is "good" sometimes at the end of an hour of "bad" pracicing I'll discover something useful about how to fix/work on a certain passage and therefor that hour was not "bad" pracicing afterall because it brought me to the discovery of something useful. I think that in music teaching these days there is almost too much emphasis on quality over quanitity in practicing and so sometimes we forget that some things just need time and repetition to learn. It may not feel as though you are getting good "quality" results playing through a difficult passage several times at a slow tempo, but even sometimes just seemingly "mindless" repetition is necessary provided you are playing the notes correctly in time and in tune, because it helps your fingers and/bow to learn the patterns comfortably helping you to build confidence and speed. Not everything you do while practicing can or should show immediate results and you will discover over time what shows results eventually and what doesn't.

May 8, 2007 at 02:09 PM · It could be your teacher or his/her style. If the teacher doesn't push you to practice or have high standards for you then you most likely will not practice.

On the site they have a great way to motivate to practice called virtous moments where they make you set your goals and accomplish them through practicing.

There is nothing wrong with practicing 45 minutes, just do that about 3 to 4 times a day.

You have to set specific goals for yourself or your teacher does. If you have people coming up to you saying you need to apply to this college etc.. then you have the potential.

May 8, 2007 at 02:51 PM · i am not a very advanced violinist(still a student fighting very basic problems) so i cannot give technical advice, but here is mine: are you a morning person or an evening person? :P this may sound silly, but is true. i could never practice more than an hour, i would easily come to the point of throwing my violin against the wall and give it all up.

one day i got up very early because of the noise next door and i had nothing to do so i started practicing. i did not realize now the time passed but i practiced non stop for two hours.

turns out that i am a morning person, and now i do most of my practicing very early in the mornings when my energy is really high. my housemate, however, always practices late at night. but luckily we have thick walls!

sometimes factors other than you and your violin may also contribute to your exercises.

and good luck with your studies, lots of success!

May 8, 2007 at 07:27 PM · Al, you make some good points, but I think you're being a little too 'drill-sergeant' on the poster!

I may be wrong, but it seems to me that Ty is just becoming aware of everything out there in the music world - looking outside the fishbowl for the first time, so to speak. That, to me, seems to be the first step in getting better. The 'if you want it, do it and stop complaining' approach is certainly helpful - but it does ignore the whole question of 'how do I approach this?'.

Ty, how do you practice? What are you playing? What do you do with your hour a day? Why didn't you win the audition? Do you know what you have to do to improve (intonation, bow technique, sound quality, tension, setup, speed)? (Answering 'everything' here, although it might be true, is unhelpful) Learning to break up a big problem into lots of smaller, more manageable problems is one important key to solving it - and it gets you over that stumbling block of 'I can't'. What are your strengths and weaknesses? What would you like to improve?

Once you have an idea (for you), start asking. Your teacher can definitely be helpful - saying 'I want to practice more but I don't know what to do' might even be a good starting point. If you've got some things you know you want to improve, you can certainly post here - some people give fantastic practicing/technical advice. Listen to recordings - but always ask yourself what's so wonderful about them, and how the players are doing it. And go to concerts - compare, contrast, open your ears.

By asking what you've asked, I think you're actually on the right track - if you can implement it. Set little goals and stick to them (instead of saying 'I'm going to practice 4 hours a day from now on', failing on the first day, and giving up right away).

(And listen to Christian - there are a lot of thoughtful, useful ideas in that post)

May 8, 2007 at 08:12 PM · megan, i also think you have made some good points, but the points you have made are more technical in nature, mostly about violin.

i speculate to say, the issue here with the poster is not about violin in terms how to practice, what to practice, or what have you. the issue here is his view about violin from a distance.

he plays violin alright, but he remains an outsider, going through the motion. so far he has no intention to "own" the violin. not bad, but not terribly good according to him. he knows that if he tries harder, there is enough in his faculty to propel him to another level.

thus, my assessment: telling him to follow a regimen is useless. it is like i tell him to go to the supermarket to buy some fish, and he goes, huh? what and why?

we do not understand the poster, what goes through his mind when he practices, what he prefers to do when he is not playing violin. we do not see the big picture. to a large extent neither does he imo. he has acknowledged his ambiguous feelings toward violin playing last night. for whom is he playing? is the sacrifice to get better justified?

no violin teachers in the world can answer that and that was really his question. further, he did not ask how to play better or his best. he asked how to play at a julliard level. what do you tell a couch potato if he shares with you his interest to get into westpoint?

he is 15, at a very crucial juncture of his life where many important milestones are fast approaching. his attitude in everything he does will help determine where he will go and how far he may go. his rationalization about what to do with violin imo will also shape his future to some extent. same brain, same thought process.

he sounds like a smart, thoughtful kid. he does not need my hugs and kisses. you guys are very good with that. my obligation is to tell him to wake up and make up his mind.

where to go? how to do it? it is totally his responsibility. he knows what to do. he just need to find reasons powerful enough to commit to do it well.


May 9, 2007 at 12:03 AM · wow, thanks for that Al, I don't even think I could of said what I'm thinking that well.

To everyone else who has offered their help, thank you and I appreciate it very much.

-Ty out

May 9, 2007 at 12:41 AM · Sometimes you just have to force yourself to do the time. If you practice on a regular basis for more than an hour a day, you're going to have to accept that your practicing won't be great 100% of the time. It's better to push through that than to give up entirely, because as someone else mentioned, quantity is probably about the same importance as quality. You just can't expect to get really good on less than an hour a day of practicing.

May 17, 2007 at 05:30 PM · I just wrote a long reply to this thread and then read Al Ku's, which said everything I wanted to say but more concisely...thanks, you got right to the heart of it! I will spare you my long post, but here is the gist of it:

One of my teachers made a comment (while I was preparing to audition for Juilliard) that I needed to get out of the "as-if" mode…I was playing "as if" I were serious, but without really doing what I needed to do in order to improve my technique. (Note: In my case, it was only after I became a full-time conservatory student that I really understood what she had meant!)

I think really this was about me being in 'passive' rather than 'active' mode at that age, and that is typical of some (not all) young people with little experience. In our teens, we (some of us, anyway) have spent most of our lives being passive recipients of information, from our parents, school teachers and to some extent our music teachers. Part of the transition to 'active (adult) mode' is learning how to identify the weaknesses in our own playing and correct them…i.e., learning to 'teach yourself' rather than just trying to do what the teacher says. Like most important changes, this has to be driven 'from within' and can't be explained readily in words. When you are successfully able to put yourself in the mind-set of someone actually practicing to perform (rather than 'as-if'), you will become more perceptive about the weaknesses in your playing, and more determined to correct them. Recording your practicing may also help...but nothing will really work until you move from passive into active mode!

May 30, 2007 at 11:57 PM · Al Ku – I too thought you were a drill sergeant at the start of this thread, but what you say, especially as you put in your last post, certainly hits home for me, as I’m sure it does for many other readers. I disagree with your comment about “owning” the violin, though, as I see it more as a symbiotic relationship. It is not simply dominance by the player, but a case of mutual respect and intimacy.

I came on here wanting to start a post about getting more motivated, but in reading this one I realised that motivation is not my problem. Rather, I need help with realising my motivation into action, not dissimilar from this poster’s problem. I think about the violin and my playing a lot when I am away from the instrument every day. For example, this involves identifying my weakest points, structuring my practice programme so that when it comes to it less time is wasted, and looking out for exercises to improve where I need to most.

I practice around an hour per day. At the moment this works well, with around five minutes warm up, thirty minutes “technical” (i.e. scales, arpeggios, shifting, vibrato etc.), twenty minutes or so on the pieces I am currently working on, trying to focus on the BITS THAT NEED IMPROVING, then just the last five or ten minutes on actually playing them, “for fun” so to speak.

My question then, seen as I have the motivation and determination to get better, but don’t have any specific goals (I’m not taking grades, and don’t have any major auditions planned), is how to start on my journey towards being “very good” (whatever that might mean). I accept that I’m never going reach the paragon of violin playing, but I do strongly believe I can get a lot better than I am (I only picked it up again just over three years ago after ten years or so off, and already my progress has been encouraging). Perhaps more importantly, I WANT IT, and badly. Let’s say, hypothetically!, that my long term objective is to play the d minor partita, how can I gear my approach now towards getting there?

May 31, 2007 at 12:38 AM · hello russ, i have 2 sides, one is softie/pushover:) and the other, sticking to my principles:(. in general, i do not take myself very seriously, but i take what i do pretty seriously.

since i am not a musician, whatever i say consider it as bla or may be the big pic.

with ty, i think he is capable of being more and may the force be with him soon:)

you, imo, are different. you need to formulate a concrete plan with some long term, mid term, short term goals. in other words, you need to find a good mentor... to put your desire into action with direction.

by "owning" it, i mean more like committing to it with 110% effort (only we ourselves know if we are 90% or 110%). it is really you, the one who wants to succeed, against you, the other who has doubts, who may find excuses to quit. but i think you are beyond that point.

good luck,,,soldier!:)

May 31, 2007 at 02:22 AM · Russ, very few things in the world get things done faster than deadlines. We’ve got a lot of long-term goals but, really, what are they other than dreams? Only very short term goals, and only the goals that have bite that get us moving. There are many ways to set deadlines for oneself so that one is compelled, not just want to, meet. Public performance is one, regular lessons is another. I sometimes also try to the promise someone you love thing. I would promise my husband that by such and such a date, I will play a such and such piece for him. His Berkeley trained composer ears always make me regret soon after such promises are made, as they are always very ambitious. Why would you make blah promises if the promise is worth making, right? But in the end I always glad that I did that.

If your long term goal is Bach d minor, what stop you working on it now by starting with the Allemanda, for instance right away? How about set a goal to memorize the Allemanda in two weeks? As Szigeti puts it, Bach should be the core of violinists’ life, I would think it’s never too early for us to start working on it so we’ll have the rest of our life to play it right.

May 31, 2007 at 03:07 AM · Not long ago a teacher posted a blog where she created a "daily practise sheet", listing exactly how much time to practice and what is the goal of the practice session (e.g. practice at half tempo for a specific piece, listen to intonation would be 1 goal). I think that is a good idea, but will take some dicipline and time to plan.

I think when you practice, you have to be patient. Start with warm up before jumping into the difficult things (this is what I lack). Break it into 30 to 40 minute for each practice and stop. During this break time, I'd watch a DVD or listen to my favourite violinist for 10 to 15 minutes... it always make me want to pick up the violin again straight away!

June 3, 2007 at 04:49 PM · Al – I agree that I need a concrete plan with long, medium and short term goals. It surprises me that you are not a musician! Giving out this harsh and righteous advice, I assumed you were…

William – this daily practice sheet sounds like a good idea too, quite similar to the “virtuous moments” propounded by Sassmannshaus over at I don’t yet use the sheets for this, whereby ticks off the various areas as one goes along, but I do adopt this general approach, where I spend 3-5 minutes on one thing and then move on.

Yixi – what you say is spot on. After all, what are you doing, minute after minute, hour after hour, days…weeks etc, with your practicing if there is no clear objective to be met. We can all pick up the fiddle and play a piece over and over, getting a little better each time, but what it really takes is to concentrate on only the weakest aspects. I like the cooking analogy, where one has several pots on the boil at once, and gives most attention to the ones which are just coming to the boil, whilst simmering everything else. I think I’m getting better at this focus on the worst aspects, but it could definitely be improved.

The suggestion to start right away is also very interesting. Incidentally, I have had the music for the d minor for some time, but when I first got it it was clearly too early and I was put off. Some time has passed in the meantime, and it might be that I could approach the Allemande with a little more confidence.

Thought about learning new and challenging pieces seams to be somewhat polarised between those who favour attempting them as soon as you can read the music, and others who favour a more structured, conservative approach (i.e. only learning pieces that are appropriate to your level). I used to belong to the former school, mainly because I had tried to make a start on (e.g.) Bach concertos but found progress painfully slow – if in fact there was ANY progress! Hence I am a little wary about approaching a piece that is so obviously way above my current capabilities. After all I am still “mapping the territory”, as my teacher has it, not to mention attempting to master the fundamental techniques. Sassmannshaus also has an analogy of building a house, which I think is very good. It stresses two things (for me at least):

1. The importance of paying attention to all “systems” – so within the house, the structure (walls), heating, electricity, water, insulation etc.

2. The ORDER in which it needs to be built. It needs a solid foundation, then walls, than a roof. During its erection all the “building” activities are fully integrated.

In this scheme of things, I don’t want to attempt to put the roof on before the walls are finished! Alternatively, I don’t want to decorate inside and out, before the place is weatherproof etc…

Sorry for the long post…thanks again for the advice.

June 3, 2007 at 06:38 PM · “I am a little wary about approaching a piece that is so obviously way above my current capabilities.”

Russ, I’ve been struggling the two approaches you mentioned in recent past and came to the conclusion that often there’s no definitive answer as to whether a piece is at one’s level or not, as it really depends on the teacher and his/her overall approach and your goal and effort.

As a student, we can easily say to a piece is too hard when the technical challenges show up too often, and too easy when we don’t really have a clear idea what to work on other than putting the notes together and playing in tune and in tempo. When I first started Kreisler’s P&A early this year, I protested against it and told my teacher that it was way above my level, which she kind of agreed. But then I thought, why not just give it a shot. You know what? After three months of hard work, I managed to chop it through and performed in a local conservatory with great fun. Of course it was far from flawless, and I received mixed responses from the teachers who heard my playing this. One said it was not the right repertoire for me but a couple of others disagree and encouraged me to move on even harder pieces such as Bruch concerto in g minor.

The point is, a great piece or an etude can never be said too easy because you can always work hard to bring more out of it. Neither it can be said too hard to approach, not if you know what you are looking for and what you want to get out of it at a particular stage. If you are committed, have a good teacher, have specific goals and are very patient, then, pieces such as Bach solo, are totally approachable for intermediary to advanced student, IMHO. If you do a few lines of it each week while carefully separate the issues (shift, intonation, vibrato, rhythm, breathing, posture, tone, bow change, bow speed and division, musicality, etc) and work on each of them separately each day and each week, before too long, you can play the piece and will have learned tons. It’s kind of like learning on the job vs learning in school to prepare for the job…

June 3, 2007 at 09:59 PM · Ty,

There are three solutions here. One is want it more then you've ever wanted something in your life, and practice will follow. The second, make it habitual. Finally, the third solution is, to simply, get motivated, neither by habit or by desire but simply because, you know as a musician, you need practice.


You MUST practice WELL above all else. Time is not as important as efficiency. I know virtuosos who [claim] they practice only for ten minutes a week, and nothing more. This is because they effectively mastered the techniques of the violin and, simply, need refreshers every now and then. That is the product of upping the quality of your practice. Although length is important too, it's still, only a small factor.

Everything stated here is pretty much good advice. Practice in increments, make it a habit, if you are working on a song make sure it is one you can tolerate. Music you do not like (solo music, at least) is music you will, guess what?, never perform as a soloist! (We can assume, at least). As for symphonic arrangements, "bad" orchestra music is usually negligible. In any case, with your teacher, only play songs you enjoy to some level. Don't sit through crap music just because. It isn't worth it.

I also recommend keeping your violin out. Sometimes, there is a massive mental block just from knowing you need to go through the process of opening the case and doing your thing. The other thing I recommend is changing the scenery... consider even finding a studio or school where they will let you practice.

I, also must say I do NOT agree with Al. We live in an age where internet bloggers suddenly have fame thrust upon them for a stupid three minute video. Standards are breaking down. You do NOT need to be a virtuoso or anything close in your youth. You have time, you have college, and more importantly, if it doesn't interest you as much as it should be, why waste a career on it?

Simply put, I'm sorry Al, but he has plenty of time. Masters' programs are always going to be there. Juliard isn't going anyway anytime soon.

Finally, remember there is a level of distinction between violin as entertainment and violin as art. Im guessing you have already breached the first level, most of us here probably have. This means you can get up in front of a crowd of people and play a song and they'll still clap and smile and remark on your talent. Many musicians are like this. The second level is, what if Mr. Pearlman himself was sitting in that audience. Would he be impressed? That level is a ways off, and only with dedication and honest to God sweat can you reach it.

But you can. Good luck. If anything, do it because you DON'T want too. We'll always have hesitance. Why not just reverse the energy?

June 3, 2007 at 11:19 PM · It seems to me that if your teacher gives you challenging repertoire and you have auditions and performances to prepare for you will feel pressure to succeed at your next lesson or audition. It is conceivable that you could have almost an hours worth of music to learn in one week which would necessitate a lot more than an hour of practice a day.

June 4, 2007 at 12:45 PM · kyle, you have made many good points in your post which i find to be very helpful. i can relate.

the problem with ty (hate to put him on the spot since he has tuned out) is that i am not sure if he knows what he really wants. my suggestion is more or less like sticking a mirror in his face and say, take a good, hard look at yourself. for instance, you cannot want to be in julliard and not work for it, pre-college or master program.

often, with some people, especially the younger crowd, the motivation to go to the same direction that we have suggested is not there because they cannot relate with our values.

allow me to share with you a sense how some people may feel using what you have said as an example. imagine for a moment that i try to motivate you into believing that

1. internet blogger videos are not stupid.

2. standards are not lowered.

3. entertainment vs art is not to be separated

4. some do not care what perlman says of their performance

based on my understanding of your feelings, i suspect i will have a hard time inspiring you into thinking any OTHER way. whatever i say will not motivate you, isn't it?

that is the issue here and until it is clearly identified, our own thoughts and feelings may not do the trick.


June 4, 2007 at 05:02 PM · A slightly different view; I may be right or way off base. My college majors were Air Science and Psychology. What we have here, lack of motivation to actually get moving, CAN be a classic symptom of mild clinical depression. A few counselling sessions could make a major difference here IF that is the problem.

Whatever it is, good luck to you.

June 4, 2007 at 07:26 PM · Ray - That is an interesting point. Did they also teach you how to help someone if that's the case? Other than telling them to go see a specialist?


June 4, 2007 at 08:57 PM · Yes they did, but it's been a long time since I studied that part of Clinical Psychology. It's usually "cured" with some easy counselling. What he can do is go online and look up mild depression and see if any of the numerous symptoms match his lifestyle.

It is no shame at all to have depression. Sooner or later we all have bouts of it, but sometimes the symptoms are below our cognizance so we never think of that as a cause of our current behavior. Mild cases are usually successfully treated by a few sessions with a Psychologist, more severe cases MIGHT require an anti-depressant, but they can have their own problems too.

The symptom of wanting something badly, but not willing to put the work into getting it, and wanting to change but not knowing how, is a very classical mild depression symptom. That does not necessarily mean that with this symptom someone has depression at all, but, along with other indicators, it might be suspected. If that is the case than if it were me, I would be very happy as now I knew the possible cause of my behavior and could now get it fixed.

June 4, 2007 at 09:41 PM · It sounds pretty confusing. I googled for mild depression. I did hear about people who couldn't concentrate enough to read a few lines when depressed. I am not sure if this is the same thing. Anyway, thanks for the reply.


June 6, 2007 at 05:42 PM · Hello Ty,

Perhaps your lack of motivation is tied umbilically to a lack of structure in your practise time.

I think Carl Flesch's recommendation (assuming 4 hours of daily practise) is apt for the general student violinist:

1 hour of scales/etudes

1.5 hour of repertoire work

1.5 hour of music-making

Music-making just refers to playing through pieces, which serves to sustain and improve artistic level and to catch any troubles in technically putting together the piece.

Anyhow, do practise well.



June 14, 2007 at 02:53 AM · join like a rock band with some friends... Thats tons of fun, and you get to practise with a team for a easily for-seeable goal

June 14, 2007 at 03:06 AM · Yep, it's fun to play with small groups, but a way I stay motivated is I think of what I can do with the piece. I take occasional breaks about every 45 minutes.

June 14, 2007 at 04:16 AM · There's a lot to try and say about practicing, but I'll put down what comes to mind right now.

Edit: Now that I see there are actually 30 something other replies to the original post, I recommend you take a look at the given advice as well.

I agree, playing in a small group-chamber ensemble or otherwise- will definitely be a way for you to find another perspective toward your playing and practicing. By playing with others, it can be a lot of fun and help to motivate you to stay on top of your game as well as sound your best so that the group will sound its best.

Find ways to cross apply what you're learning in your practices with other music you might enjoy as well- it may not necessarily be classical, but if you're putting what you learn to use, as well as becoming more familiar with your instrument, it should be helpful. Some of the most basic concepts of violin playing may require tremendous amounts of attention-your sound quality, intonation, projection/ bow usage, etc. These basic elements are necessary in any kind of music.

Also, make a mix of goals for yourself that are both short term and long term. Take a look at them a couple weeks later or even a month or so later and see if you have achieved these goals and improved to the extent that you'd like. Try and record what you've been focusing on and practicing-by record I mean jot down some notes about what you did during your practice session, however, if you do have access to some form of recording equipment, it may provide another opportunity for further insight and reflection upon your playing. The same thing goes for your notes, look over them now and then to see if you've successfully applied what you've been trying to learn. Good luck!

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