lack of motivation

April 15, 2005 at 04:48 AM · Hi!

I started playing cello just over a three weeks ago and already I'm facing serious motivation problems. I'm feeling terrible when I'm not able to achieve the proper intonation. Although I know that I won't ever achieve the right sound unless I practice... I haven't been able to even open my cello case in three days.

I've played violin and piano before that so I know what a hard work it is to practice - and usually I love practicing and find it challenging in a positive way. I don't know why I'm feeling like this... It's like I'm too intimitated to play because I have just a respect for the instrument. It feels like mockery when I'm playing.

I just adore the sound of cello, and in general I feel that it's the right instrument for me, but I need some advice to restore my will to practice.

Replies (7)

April 15, 2005 at 05:45 AM · Watch videos of professional violinists and get insprired! better yet, go see a live concert!

April 15, 2005 at 01:59 PM · Maybe try to work in small 'doable' practice sessions. Don't overload. And try and keep it simple enough that you finish each session feeling good about what you accomplished.

This will encourage you to keep practicing and hopefully help you over that 'hump' that you're now in...then when you feel the desire to practice returning, you can go at it harder...

April 15, 2005 at 05:51 PM · "Watch videos of professional violinists and get insprired! better yet, go see a live concert! "

It's ALWAYS worked for me. Seeing anybody much better than me will always make me go home and practice 10 times as hard.

April 15, 2005 at 07:15 PM · Shonagh, do you think you could push through and practice just mechanically if you must for a while to see if you can get over this impasse?

Also, you are identifying that it is your respect for the instrument and the contrast between how it should ideally sound and how you are making it sound that is holding you back - yet when you played the other instruments you probably didn't sound fantastic in the beginning either. So it seems that your very respect is stopping you from being able to practice. Can you find a way to address that? I don't know, silly as I am I might confront the issue by having a little "talk" and bow to the humungous creature that a cello is and say "I apologize in advance for what I'm about to make you sound like." and imagine it answering me back, "S'alright. Saw away! We'll sound good eventually." I'm not making light of the situation, but I think I've had a bit of that once in a while. Playing a really good violin tended to make me shrink inside and I would sound relatively more mouse-like. If you've identified the cause then you can go about finding a cure that works for you. But I would get in there and play, because when you give in to an impasse like that, each day you hold off it can become harder to start up again. Break the ice. And enjoy yourself! Or reward yourself.

April 15, 2005 at 08:12 PM · Inge gave you good advice. Also socialize your situation with family, friends, and other cellists or musicians. You must talk yourself through this and find support.

April 15, 2005 at 09:20 PM · Ride the wave! Your first impulse and love for the instrument must be fed by discipline in order for it to grow. All the things I've kept up with in my life, I've found times when it was difficult to find the motivation to do it. This is to be expected, and you will never be free from those times. It is possible to talk yourself through it, though. It helps to focus on something that you actually enjoy about the cello. Also, think of something you can look forward to, something more concrete than learning some lofty concerto some day, and remind yourself of the reward for undertaking the cello. I don't know about your current ability, but it could be something tiny, like learning a new scale or picking out a tune by ear.

With my running hobby, I use food as my reward--which isn't so bad because I'm running, but probably isn't as good for practicing. If you have a little money, splurge on a cello-related item. That in itself can give you a surge of inspiration. Attending classical concerts is also a good motivation.

Find some like-mided friends. These would be folks who you can eventually play with, or are beginning an instrument just like you are. You can bounce ideas off each other and make plans. Sometimes, just having a friend to talk to can help a lot.

Another mind trick that really works is telling yourself that you are only going to practice for five minutes. Just pick up your instrument and be completely unconstructive. Pick out some notes, or bow quietly on an open string. Whatever, just play. Sometimes, the hardest part about practicing is starting, so fool yourself into starting. Don't make it seem so overwhelming in your mind. Any effort you make is a battle won. Once you've settled into playing, talk yourself into one constructive act, and then quit. You could try this several times a day and actually accomplish way more in three ten-minute segments than you would in an hour of practice time filled with negative talk and half-effort noodling.

Finally, if you're a coffee drinker, take some with you to the practice room. I have found that any task is enjoyable when I have coffee.

April 15, 2005 at 09:40 PM · One of the things a good teacher can (and, arguably, should) do is inspire you. Not necessarily with explicit encouragement, there are different methods, but a teacher who is gifted, and is herself still enthusiastic about playing and teaching, can influence you and inspire enthusiasm in various more or less subtle ways.

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