Tips for keeping motivated

January 3, 2015 at 03:29 AM · See, I've always wanted to play the violin, ever since I was about twelve. I took it up briefly at school but had to stop when they started charging for lessons (my family couldn't afford it). I finally took it up again myself a couple of years ago and am now at Grade 2.

The problem is, though I love the violin, I struggle with motivation. I'm a born procrastinator. I come away from my lessons and my orchestra rehearsals brimming with enthusiasm, but when it comes to practising at home on my own... my motivation dwindles. Hence why I've been stuck at Grade 2 for more than a year, when my teacher wanted me to do my Grade 3 last Easter...

I think the problem is that I'm practising on my own. I need someone there to play with, who can motivate me and I can enjoy playing with in turn. But there's no one near me who plays. None of my friends are into music, and my closest friend at the orchestra lives out of town.

So I'm stuck in a rut. I really want to master this instrument, but I can't unless I get motivated and practice. But how can I motivate myself to practice alone? How does everyone else do it?

Replies (20)

January 3, 2015 at 05:17 AM · I have health problems that keep me from practicing as much as I would like. Were I healthy, I would probably be in your shoes, as I struggle with motivation as well.

I have two suggestions: skype buddy - you may not necessarily be able to play at the same time, but you have somebody right next to you. Virtually, of course. Second suggestion is similar: A "support friend". Ask about practice, create a practice chart and then compare with your friend. Encourage each other etc. Or a combination of the two.

You'll get there. Keep at it!

January 3, 2015 at 06:46 AM · When I was young, I enjoyed playing the violin but hated practicing the violin. I liked music, I liked playing with other people, I liked rehearsing... but practicing felt like a grind and I tended to want to do it only as a tedious means to an end (winning competitions and the youth orchestra-seating rat race).

What changed my relationship with practicing was a new teacher who taught me to see practicing not as a tedious chore in which I would dutifully repeat things X times until they were correct, but rather, as a challenging intellectual puzzle in which I would think methodically about what I was doing wrong and then try to devise ways to solve those problems. Suddenly practicing was not only much more efficient, but my brain was fully engaged in the activity.

So I would ask yourself: What is it about the act of practicing that makes it uninspiring? What changes when you are practicing with someone else rather than alone? Do you enjoy other activities that are done alone, or do you generally prefer to do everything in a more social setting?

January 3, 2015 at 01:26 PM · You have to have goals and then you will practise, and not only that, you will make big leaps in improvement, which will inspire you to keep going.

Goals can be - bowing technique - vibrato - intonation - phrasing - sound production - left hand technique - learning a new piece - experimenting with new ideas - improvisation etc., etc.

You just have to use your imagination, which we all have, but some of us don't use it very often.

January 3, 2015 at 02:33 PM · Just to add my 2 cents to Peter's message: like you, I have a desire to play with other people. Preferably people that are any good musically. That's a goal, and it means I have to become good too, which is a constant motivation to practice, since I am still far away from that particular goal. Also: make sure you have fun, every time you practice. I tend to get too serious sometimes with my practice. All work and no play make Zina a dull girl. So as often as I remember to, I end my practice session with just some fun. Playing through some piece I have more or less mastered with a 'canned' accompanist is my favorite.


January 3, 2015 at 02:51 PM · Try the pomodoro technique.

January 3, 2015 at 03:43 PM · Throwing tomatoes? I only do that for politicians, and they have to be mouldy tomatoes ...

January 3, 2015 at 05:26 PM · My only motivation for playing the violin is that 'I want to play the violin'. It is as simple as that. I do not want to be in an orchestra or a string quartet. I do not want to play with a pianist. I just want to be able to play the violin and make it sound like a violin should sound. I do not care if nobody but myself ever hears me play ; I can hear it and I want it to be good.

Nobody else I know likes classical music either !

January 3, 2015 at 06:36 PM · When I first started a big problem I had was that many of the exercises were simply not musical.

Look for scales that play a tune and add some dynamics.

Arpeggios can be classic chord progressions and ending cadences with tempo changes.

Search the forum for posts on etudes and you will find suggestions that are more musical than mechanical.

Practice now becomes playing music.

January 3, 2015 at 06:57 PM · I also have always struggled with practice motivation. My two pieces of advice are to 1. get a String Swing, which allows you to hang your violin on the wall, thus making it much easier to take down here and there (just be sure you don't put it on an outside wall) and 2. force yourself to simply pick up the instrument and start playing. Once you do that, "practicing" becomes easier, although it's still difficult to muster up the necessary mental discipline.

January 3, 2015 at 08:07 PM · Amanda,

Let us borrow a technique from Behavioural therapy:

1. find a political party or just any organization (religious or other) you really dislike or even hate

2. Make a wish for an item your would really love to have, or any service such as a SPA which gives you pleasure.

For every day you DO NOT practice, put a fixed amount of money in a piggy bank #1, say a few pounds

For every day you DO practice, put the same amount of money into a piggy bank # 2

Put this into writing and have a friend as a witness of your signature. (I dare you to issue a statement of commitment here)

At the end of a month, pay yourself or send a cheque to the organization you dislike.

Come back and tell us how it felt.

January 4, 2015 at 08:58 PM · One other tip which may be overlooked: LISTENING!!!

Listen to lots of music. Listen while driving, doing chores, every place possible. Listening keeps the music in your blood. Due to my health, I often have very limited practice time. It would be very easy to get discouraged, but the music helps keep me motivated. And it keeps the music fresh in my mind so my practices are more productive. :-)

January 5, 2015 at 03:14 PM · Brian Kelly

I really admire your attitude because it is rare that anyone agrees with me.

If I were stranded on a desert island for life, I would still want to have a violin.

January 5, 2015 at 04:37 PM · I've actually got to that point in life where I'm seriously thinking "why do I want to play the violin when I could just give it all up and enjoy life?"

It is very rewarding to walk in the countryside with my dog and forget there ever was such a thing as a violin and music. My wife thinks I'm obsessed with it because I can't get as good as Heifetz and a few others, even if she does think I play well.

The problem with musicians is that they can't let it go and get a life. Well, maybe that's just my problem anyway. So here's to wine, women and dog walking ...

EDIT - I'm probably just feeling sorry for myself at the moment so a few days off might be the answer. At my age it's all irrelevant anyway!

January 6, 2015 at 02:12 AM ·

January 7, 2015 at 05:33 PM · You don't need motivation, all you need is commitment. You think it's fun to be in a profession where I will have to practice every day for the rest of my life? No way, I hate practicing. Even now as a pro. I dread it every day but I schedule it in to my appointment book and I keep all my appointments! I'm passionate about keeping up with my schedule lol. It's funny but as much as I dread once I start practicing I get in the groove and don't want to stop. But everyday I do dread it, so if I relied on motivation I would be... well I wouldn't be a violinist.

Perhaps an incentive chart could help?

January 7, 2015 at 05:58 PM · "The problem with musicians is that they can't let it go and get a life. "

For a flip-side perspective, I attribute life being as wonderful as it is to music.

January 7, 2015 at 06:10 PM · One way to remind yourself how fun it is to play the violin is to play the violin! Take a little of your practice time, and use it to review one or two of your older pieces that you enjoyed working on. The review is healthy, you'll notice your own progress, and it'll sound good. Triple threat!

Then think, in a year's time, the stuff you're working on now will be in that "older, easier pieces" category, and won't that be nice?

January 7, 2015 at 08:54 PM · I believe that you have to love the sound of the violin to want to play it to the best of your ability. If you want to play it you will practice.

January 7, 2015 at 10:16 PM · Greetings,

it may not be very helpful, but for me motivation is easy. I read something here, open any book on playing and read a few pages or listen to a violin recording and I am fired up to practice.

But you really need goals. Aimless practice is demotivating. Your golas need to be both long term and short term: what do I hope to achieve on the violin? What am I going to achive this week? How am I going to work towards that weekly goal within today? What do I need to do in the next fifteen minutes?

And listen to yourself!

Listen to yourself!

A lot of violinists don`t. Now that`s boring...



January 8, 2015 at 06:48 PM · Thanks for so many helpful responses! I will give each of them a go.

My sole 'goal' at the moment is to get to Grade 3, since I'm hoping to take the exam this spring term.

I think I will try the reward system, or the piggy bank method. I might try putting a couple of pounds away each time I practice and try to save up enough to reward myself with a trip to the spa if I achieve the goal... and donate the money to a charity if I don't. :)

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