Issues with practicing

August 4, 2012 at 04:10 AM · im having problems with getting the motivation to practice. i get angry at myself because it sounds horrible ot me. i'm a perfectionist and this has caused me issues in the past but this feels different. its like ive lost the joy in playing.i think ive been depressed in the past but i never saw a doctor and that was a year ago this time and im not sure if i have seasonal depression which is causing me to lose joy in playing. does anybody know how to find joy in playing so im not so angry at myself when i play?

Replies (25)

August 4, 2012 at 12:06 PM · I don't,really, but will offer that sometimes practicing is just plain work. Open your case and put in your time, and don't think about it too much. August is a tough month for many students. The joy of finishing the school year and being free is overshadowed by the upcoming one and the face of the unknown. A few days or weeks of feeling like you do is one thing. If it persists or worsens, then you should think of seeing the doctor and/or counselor. Maybe you should do that, anyway, since the idea has crossed your mind that you might need help. Depressive turns of mind are not uncommon in musicians and artists and they are treatable. Many people can't just get it back together on their own, and should not feel as though they should be able to.

August 4, 2012 at 12:42 PM · Practicing is not always going to give you the wonderful feeling that playing can. Sometimes, as pp says, it's work. Think of physical training; some days it's just boring, unless you focus in tightly on what you are doing, measure your progress, and show patience with yourself.

Have you not started anything new recently? Piece or etude, a new set of notes, interpretive choices, and challenges can spark things. OR, go back to something you haven't played in a while (months, a year) and see how differently you may play it now.

Point is to keep things fresh so that the skills you are perfecting come to you in differing situations every now and then.

August 5, 2012 at 02:48 AM · Talk to your teacher and ask for help choosing things to work on that are challenging but not too hard. Once you've prepared a piece technically, take the extra week and figure out how to make it sound beautiful rather than going on to the next technical problem. Go back and play some of the pieces you learned before, this is a good way to demonstrate to yourself that you're improving while maintaining your repertoire.

August 5, 2012 at 03:00 AM · In a prior post didn't you say you were taking some viola-less trips this summer? If you haven't practiced regularly for some time you can't expect to pick up exactly where you left off. It takes some time, patience, and self-discipline to get back into the practicing groove. You'll soon be back into the habit and moving forward.

August 5, 2012 at 04:49 AM · i guess my next question is how do i be more patient with myself? when i train physically i go till i cant go anymore, but i think that would be counterproductive with music. what is a good way to learn to be patient with myself?

August 5, 2012 at 09:11 AM · Hey Hunter, that's actually a very important question. I'm sure at times all violinists and violists that are passionate about their instrument have, at times, felt like a horse trying to bolt. For little miss perfectionist Me, I have struggled with that question a lot. Many times in my early years I found myself testily practising far longer than planned just to get something right, or doing it badly because I couldn't. In the end I learned that was futile because I would approach the passage all tensed up and annoyed, making things all the more difficult, and when presenting it to my teacher, she would immediately pick up on that same tension perfectly practised into the music. Then I would have to un-learn and re-learn the section. Having learned the hard way, patience will only come when you allow yourself due care. Care for yourself and the way you learn best.

One method I had to employ was making a strict time limit. This isn't for everybody but for me it meant that I had to use the correct method for learning right from the start, no time wasting allowed. It also meant that I would return to the section more eager to continue consolidating, rather than being bored and annoyed with it from trying to overdo things. It paid off in the end, and now it's largely a subconscious thing that I can apply to other parts of my life. Taking due care with yourself means focusing hard on the necessary and the how, and leaving out the what-ifs and the confusion. Sure, leave room for fun, otherwise it's all for nix. But training your mind not to wander into unnecessary avenues will save you a lot of anxiety and time. As for the actual practise time-limit? If you are completely honest with yourself you will know what that is.

Dig deep, good luck.

August 5, 2012 at 09:31 AM · There is also an issue with expectation. It seems to me that if I only expect to improve and not to master a section during a practise I do MUCH better in the long run. Thus, I focus on one part and work on it until it feels improved (not perfect) - then I stop and move onto something else.

What happens next is lik magic because when I come back to the section I don't expect to do it well - and am generally very pleased with far more improvement than I thought I had reached the previous time.

August 5, 2012 at 06:37 PM · Hunter, what Elise said about expectation is exactly right. You said when you take physical training you can go until you're wiped out. But are you running 3-hour marathons? Five-minute miles? Benching 400? Instead of these "objective" measures you're just doing your level best. Well, maybe it's time for you to recalibrate the expectations that you have for yourself on the violin and instead measure whether you've practiced as well as you could for a pre-specified, reasonable interval of time. Set goals that are a little, not a lot, beyond what you've accomplished before. You won't make good progress if you're miserable all the time. What would be the point of that anyway? Exhaustion may be a good thing in your physical training but if your violin practice leaves you exhausted -- physically or mentally -- then you probably need to back off.

August 5, 2012 at 09:06 PM · Hunter wrote:

"i guess my next question is how do i be more patient with myself? when i train physically i go till i cant go anymore,..."

That's usually not the most productive approach for physical training either.

With violin or physical training, train smart, not obsessively.

August 5, 2012 at 10:40 PM · playing the violin is not necessarily joyful, but making music is at least!

August 6, 2012 at 12:13 AM · Well I have gone through this before and sometimes less severe versions of it happen more often but still rarely. If you are new to playing the violin, then I would say there is a phase for a lot of people where they just don't feel like practicing and all the sparkle of even playing the instrument in practice is gone.

Somethig I did was get a goal. My goal was to major in the violin. Knowing that I am not where I need to be, immiediately made me want to practice.

Another thing is I started listening to more orchestral music. this also helped me with my goal of wanting to sound like those professionals on day. Sometimes just listening to pieces of music I really enjoy movitvates me to practice.

The last thing is, I found some inspiration. My inspiration was and is private teacher. She used to be my orchestral director at my high school, so we have known eachother for a while. She always pushed me and made me feel good about my progress. I sometimes also suffer from being a perfectionist. When you have someone else commenting (mainly the positive comments help with this type of situation) on your playing, then I can't explain what it is, but it makes you work harder without beating yourself up as well as making you feel good about yourself and your playing. Anotherthig about the comments is to try and accept them instead of not believing them at all.

I hope this helps and I'll comment if I find anything that helps. I have been through this before so I know how disappointing and frustrating it is so I hope to be able to help!

August 6, 2012 at 02:56 AM · Perfectionism can be a useful quality in a musician so long as it is not crippling...and as long as you understand that even the greatest violinists do not play as well as their musical concept. And that the better you get, the better your musical concept becomes.

Practice, as John Cadd suggests, with quality in mind. If it doesn't sound good, play it slower, or quieter, or play something easier.

August 6, 2012 at 03:31 PM · Hunter, eventually you will have played every note in any given piece perfectly--the way you want to hear it, the way it 'should' sound. Sadly, you will almost certainly never play them all perfectly in any one performance.

That sets most of us up for disappointment; we KNOW what to do, how to do it, we have done it...but we are always going to fall short.

Learning to accept that and find it stimulating rather than depressing is a major element of being a successful (in the sense of fulfilled) musician. One the one hand lies over-critical perfectionism; on the other, frustration and despair. We walk between them, every time we practice or play.

August 7, 2012 at 12:35 AM · Impatience can sometimes be linked to diet. Too much sugar and simple carbs e.g., white bread, white rice, refined sugar, sodas, junk foods and so on. These food can impede the digestion of tryptophan, which is an amino acid that creates a brain chemical that calms the mind. If you feel that your diet is find than you can check with your family Doc. to see if Trytophan deficiency applies to you.

When I was younger I had a real hard time praticing at a slow pace. I only had the ability to really focus and control my speed when I fix the diet issues.

August 7, 2012 at 01:36 AM · thank you all! i revisited some pieces i played before i moved two years ago, and they helped me.just took me home for a little while. thank you all and i will keep posting how im doing with pratice on this discussion until ive reached a more normal schedule for praticing. once again thank you all!

August 7, 2012 at 10:04 AM · Charles Cook: That is so true! The "right" food can make you a different person. It can make you concentrate better, sleep better and last but not least play better. Especially when you get older it becomes more and more important to take care of that part. But when you are young it makes a huge difference too. Thank you very much for the links!

August 7, 2012 at 01:00 PM · Diet is huge. One thing to consider if altering your diet is that your gut bacteria can be dialed into a certain diet. When you change it your gut bacteria need to transition. When there are gut bacteria that aren't getting fed, there is a "dieoff" of certain bacteria in favor of the more beneficial bacteria. So you could end up feeling worse for a couple weeks before you feel better.

August 12, 2012 at 11:04 PM · One way to increase pleasure in playing through getting less angry with oneself is to work on the ability to forgive oneself for mistakes and instead just pause for a moment and then have another go. In this sense, forgiveness is key.

August 13, 2012 at 12:08 AM · When I was younger and practice could really pay rewards in a hurry I would set myself imaginary goals, such as a future performance of something that I would work on. Some of these were real goals, such as, when I was 14, becoming my HS orchestra concertmaster; that happened. And when I was in my early 30s becoming CM of our community orchestra, which also happened.

Other goals in the same time frame, for tougher music, were aimed at imaginary concerts that never happened, such as when I was working on the Mendelssohn and Beethoven concertos.

Eventually, I grew up and practiced things just to improve my ability to do certain things on the instrument and worked on Paganini and lots of Bach. Actually this lead to a couple of performances in front of an orchestra. I worked long and hard for years to improve when I was in my 40s, and improvement came much more slowly.

All along there were short term goals of playing this or that orchestra music and this or that string quartet or piano trio (variously as a violinist, violist , or cellist)

Now in my late 70s improvement doesn't happen any more - except perhaps on a daily basis. That is, I can play better at the end of practice than at the beginning. But even that is a goal and a reward.

I have several goals this week: I'll probably be playing the 2nd viola part in Mozart K407 (Horn Quintet) on Tuesday morning. And maybe 1st violin in Beethoven Op. 18 #4 (or maybe 2nd violin) who knows. And then on Thursday I'll be playing cello in some Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Clara Schumann, and maybe Schubert piano trios.

Plenty of goals to practice for over the enxt 2 days, don't you think?


August 13, 2012 at 09:45 AM · practise with someone, ask your mom or dad to play the violin too.

August 14, 2012 at 04:45 AM ·

August 14, 2012 at 11:38 AM · Try practicing in shorter spells, say 20 minutes at a time, rather than longer ones. That way, you'll be able to maximize your attention capacity.

August 18, 2012 at 03:00 AM · I lost the motivation to practice much for several years, though had practiced a lot in my teens and early twenties (almost 34 now), but have you considered talking to your doctor about possibly being assessed to see if you suffer from depression and or anxiety, and getting treatment? Although since I was treated for both, and seeing a therapist for a few years, I'm playing and performing better than ever, even difficult repertoire.

August 22, 2012 at 07:37 PM · what I usually do is search for violin music on the youtube. I see people playing the violin and usually I get the felling I want to play to. Then I like practicing more.

August 23, 2012 at 11:30 PM · thank you all. ive been prticing more lately, and while im still fustrted with myself, i think im doing better. and i am not going to see a doctor.

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Find a Summer Music Program
Find a Summer Music Program

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases Business Directory Business Directory Guide to Online Learning Guide to Online Learning

Dominant Pro Strings

Antonio Strad Violin

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases


Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Metzler Violin Shop

Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin



Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins

Potter Violins

String Masters

Bein & Company

Annapolis Bows & Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine