Staying motivated In These Times

November 6, 2020, 10:29 AM · What’s keeping you motivated to practice these days? I’m a student, at a point where advancing is going to require a step up in level of effort and time devoted to developing technique. Orchestra and ensembles are canceled for the moment, lessons are by Zoom. It’s becoming harder to keep a positive attitude. How do you do it? Teachers, what’s working for your students?

Replies (13)

November 6, 2020, 10:58 AM · Setting goals helps me a lot "I'll learn another Bach piece" or "I've been meaning to tackle a new etude/technique/scale" etc. Do you have friends or family members for whom you might perform?
November 6, 2020, 11:21 AM · This is a boat many people are in, you are certainly not alone. Setting little goals like Karl suggested is a good idea.
I am currently just exploring viola repertoire that I like the sound of and learning for fun. Find some joy in your playing, or perhaps learn something completely different. Have you ever tried traditional Irish or American fiddle music?
Edited: November 14, 2020, 7:44 PM · Aging is taking a toll on my playing abilities and with the pandemic having erased my weekly chamber orchestra rehearsals and twice monthly string "serenade" sessions I try to stay motivated by playing through a few old favorites* every day and finding some new ones to read through and by looking up every new thing I hear or hear about on IMSLP and printing those that appeal to me eyes and giving them a try.

* I'm no longer up for any violin concertos beyond Mozart.

This week I've decided to try to go beyond my Classical roots and bought the book "A Festival of Violin & Fiddle styles for Violin" by Julie Lyonn Lieberman that I saw revied in the October STRAD magazine. The book introduces two dozen different "world music" styles.

Another possibly interesting collection I just saw reviewed in the November STRAD mag. is "Joy of Music: Discoveries from the Schott Archives" Edited by Wolfgang Birtel ****. I tried to find the three pieces named in the review article were by Hubay, Wieniawski and Leonard in IMSLP but since they are not there I ordered the book. The review says the technical level "is probably ABRSM Grade 6 upwards" - we shall see. "Joy of Music" is also sold in a piano version on Amazon so don't be misled by that - Amazon does not have the violin version (yet).

I also doodle (or is it meddle) on viola and cello some days! I can still manage some Bach Suites and the Baroque viola concertos are nice.

****EDIT: The book "Joy of Music: Discoveries from the Schott Archives" Edited by Wolfgang Birtel arrived yesterday and there is probably good reason I cannot find the 18 pieces therein elsewhere. I read through to page 35 yesterday. Life took over today but I hope to look at the last 3 or 4 peices tomorrow. Save your money

November 6, 2020, 2:39 PM · My musical motivation increased greatly today. It's like a dark cloud is lifting and the sunshine is peeking through.
Edited: November 6, 2020, 3:30 PM · I'm motivated -- VERY motivated -- precisely by the fact that I have so much LESS time for it. Also I am keen to explore home music production -- playing the violin with my own piano accompaniments, for example.
November 6, 2020, 3:37 PM · "My musical motivation increased greatly today. It's like a dark cloud is lifting and the sunshine is peeking through."

I enjoyed reading that.

November 7, 2020, 4:03 PM · "These times" of Covid-19, limited social contact, actually increase my energy - that is because I am an introvert. I no longer have to make excuses to stay home! My wife is also an introvert so we both have tons of energy right now.

All that energy gives me the ability to do more with music.

As music librarians we spend a lot of time working on the over 60 years of music the LYSO accumulated. Cataloging, organizing,..

As I teacher of a few students I've started using daily 15 minute sessions where we concentrate on a single skill or part of a piece. They are making great progress.

As an artritis limited musician I'm just pulling out music that I like to play and having a grand time playing for myself (and Linda and the Cats). I'm dusting off stuff I haven't played in a long time and often seeing the notes from my teacher who died over a decade ago.

I do miss seeing the young musicians in the orchestra develop week-to-week along with the excitement of the seasonal concerts but they will eventually return.

Still, it is so much easier to maintain the daily routine.

November 8, 2020, 5:27 AM · When my students get discouraged, I suggest that they keep in mind that one goal would be that when ensembles are able to start up again in person, everybody would be impressed with how much they have improved during the pandemic.

Another goal to keep in mind is that this pandemic will end at some point, you will eventually go to college and be able to play in ensembles at that college, so you want to keep building your skill set and your repertoire towards that end. You don't say how young or old you are, but during this lockdown would be a good time to start considering colleges you might want to attend. Whether you will be a music major or not, you should be able to play in the college orchestra. What sort of audition material will that require? If you do think you want to be a music major investigate what the entrance audition requirements are for any schools you might want to attend, and start working towards those requirements.

To keep yourself playing more, find fun music that's easy for you to play now in addition to your lesson materials and scales. Investigate other styles of music such as old-time, bluegrass, jazz. Read books by famous violinists or teachers of the past (Leopold Auer was a teacher of great violinists and wrote a book about his teaching).

Mostly think about where you will need to be when this pandemic ends -- what level of ability will you need to easily resume playing in whatever ensembles you played in before the pandemic shut them down. Remember that everybody else in those ensembles will have been practicing right along through the pandemic (well, some will be discouraged and won't practice very much, but most will) so you will need to have made progress also to maintain your position relative to your peers.

George's comment about "maintain the daily routine" is an important one -- when life is less scheduled it's often easy to put things off until later in the day only to find that by "later in the day" you're involved in other things or too tired to do any practicing. Create a daily schedule for yourself that has you practicing at the same time, for at least the same amount of time every day (allow yourself the luxury to play for longer if you're inspired).

Edited: November 8, 2020, 10:40 AM · Visio choir rehearsals on Zoom, and viola & piano pieces with my son.
And digging out pieces I always meant to learn, or arranging (deranging?) them for viola.

Our community orchestra is at a standstill, and I am proposing my own Tips & Tricks for the tricky passages, with a score writer, and hopefully on video when I have tidied the house a bit and mastered the teknollodjy!

November 26, 2020, 4:17 PM · In another thread on a topic of finding time to practice, I submitted an idea from a brief article I got published decades ago. I think it may apply to this topic. So, enjoy (I hope):
In 1975, I got a brief article published in The Instrumentalist, which I am very proud of because I am not a professional musician. It was written for amateurs like me. But as a psychologist I focused on the idea that you create a "minimum daily chore." Hopefully, of course, you would do much, much more on a daily basis.

The idea here is to make it so extremely brief that it seems ridiculous - 3 minutes. But that 3 minutes is 100% full concentration, playing something technical, but extremely slowly and focusing on getting it perfect. No distractions allowed. You can change the focus and the routine each day, but that's the daily chore.

After your 3 minutes, you do your regular practice routine, or whatever else you may want or need to do. The advantage is that for at least 3 minutes it removes the psychological burden of thinking about that hour of hard work ahead of you. It helps you focus 100% on this moment right now. It's also a good method for learning other things that you might otherwise consider a daily burden.

There is something about paying this kind of attention on a daily basis (even for 3 minutes) that within a week or two does something very positive for your attention and your motivation. You create a habit of focusing 100% on this moment right now. And you can do 3 minutes on your busiest and most difficult day. Who can't afford 3 minutes of concentration on even their toughest day?

Hope that helps.

December 2, 2020, 1:02 AM · I also find it hard to focus during these times and feel sometimes as though I'm wasting the time I now have! Something that helps is external structure, such as lessons or setting performances online. Because of this, I'm directing a festival in January called the Online Solo Strings Intensive that can help inspire and motivate you! Check out for program info. :) Hope that helps!
December 2, 2020, 4:02 AM · Welcome aboard Miss Tong! Hope that you have good luck with your new online strings program.
Edited: December 2, 2020, 3:13 PM · Yes, I have to admit that after a couple of months of keeping the faith and practising - specifically for a string quartet concert I was organising at the local church; in September, then November, then postponed to 2021 sometime, I decided to give my body a rest. (The usual age related aches and pains)

Australia is basically COVID free now - but Melbourne had one of the world’s strictest and longest lockdowns to achieve this. (Plus the benefit of geography)

So, things are starting to pick up a little. They’re trialling open air concerts early in the new year. And I’m keen to reschedule the string quartet concert, but just wrestling with the thought of getting my form back. I have 4 weeks leave, so I’ll do some fun playing and see how I go. (It was a killer program, so I’m feeling that I have to do it or I’ll regret it. Dvorak op.51, Koehne Shaker Dances, Bluegrass and Klezmer arrangements I’d done)

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