Keeping practice effective, but more importantly, fun.

Practice is incredibly important for success. Making sure you’re staying motivated to practice is crucial for reaching your goals. In fact, being motivated and enthusiastic actually changes your brain chemistry, enhancing your learning and helping you progress faster. Below we’ll discuss a number of ways you can get your brain back on track so you can enjoy practice again.

First, try this out:

  1. Write down a list of 5–10 musical goals you have. Do you want to be a professional musician? Do you just want to perform? Where do you want to perform? With what sorts of musicians? What songs?
  2. Identify a beloved song or piece of music that relates to those goals.
  3. Unpack your instrument (if it’s not already out) and put on a recording of the song, and dance to it with your instrument!
  4. Make a plan for what you can practice today, and how you can improve.
  5. Think about other goals. Do you want to be a better student? Athlete? Family or community member? Entrepreneur? Friend? Music relates to all of those. Think about how your music practice will benefit your entire life, and the lives of those around you.

Tracking Progress

Keeping track of progress is a really great way for staying motivated to practice. I used to keep a practice journal with the songs I was working on, and notes, tests, goals, practice session dates, etc. Now I use Modacity to track my musical progress. However you decide to do it, I highly recommend tracking progress to help you with staying motivated to practice. It’s so easy to get stuck in the weeds and not notice how far you’ve come.

When you don’t feel like you’re making the progress you should be – regardless of if you actually are or not – it’s easy to get discouraged. But don’t! Sometimes you’re just being too hard on yourself. Looking back can really help you get some perspective – in a good way!

Other times, it may be because you’ve hit a plateau in your training. But that’s ok too! Everyone – yes everyone – hits plateaus, and I’m not only talking about music. That’s just how learning works. Sometimes learning music can be hard, and other times it can be easy. The good news is, if you stick with it and keep pushing, you’ll break through and start making those gains again. It just takes a little patience. 🙂

Other useful tips for staying motivated to practice:

  • Listen to a recording from a previous practice session.

    Often times that will motivate you to want to improve! I use Modacity to manage practice recordings but you can use whatever you like. It’s often easy to lose sight of the progress you’ve been making and get discouraged – that’s why keeping recordings is so handy. It’s such a fantastic motivator to go back and listen to older recordings. You can compare them and see how far you’ve come. Suddenly you realize “hey I actually have made some pretty good gains on this! Let’s see if I can take it a little further!”

  • Singing a favorite song and trying to transfer it to your instrument.

    Need a little inspiration to kick you into gear? Maybe you’re just not feeling that practice groove? Take the pressure off practice but keep it on music. Start singing – or listening – to some music you might like to play. See if that itch to play starts to come back. Once your mind gets into practice mode, you can switch back over to your routine. Sometimes just taking the first step (picking up your instrument) is all it takes.

  • Struggling with a particular song? Listen to other renditions.

    Sometimes listening to what other people are doing with a particular song can help inspire you. Maybe you’ve been listening to the same recording from the same artist over and over – or maybe you haven’t listened to anything at all. Change it up and start listening to what else is out there! You may hear something in someone else’s rendition that inspires you to get back to it and try something out yourself.

  • Check in with musician friends – have a relationship that keeps you accountable.

    I have a buddy who sometimes I’ll tell “I’ll PayPal you $100 if I don’t practice X by 4:30pm!” That’s certainly one method for staying motivated to practice. You definitely don’t need to use money as your motivation – but you get the idea. Maybe just hit them up for a jam session. Break the typical practice mold and start making music feel fresh again.

  • Have clear ideas of the improvements you can make.

    You can improve every practice session. Setting specific practice goals and actively pursuing them during you session is one of the best ways to learn music. If you’re keeping in mind exactly what you want to improve, you’ll not only notice the improvements, but you’ll likely improve even faster. And those improvements will in turn motivate and encourage you to keep going! How much you improve is based on a number of factors, but setting specific, actionable goals so you’re staying motivated to practice is a huge step in the right direction.

  • Playing something you don’t like? Get back that loving feeling.

    Learning music should be fun – it should be something you enjoy! Sure sometimes you gotta work on stuff you don’t particularly care for. But if that’s causing you to avoid practice, then pick up your instrument with the intention of playing something you do like. Once your mind is back in practice mode, it’ll be a much easier transition to return to that piece you’ve been dreading. And hey, if you’re still not feeling it, that’s ok too. Take a day off from playing whatever it is you’re avoiding and just work on some music you enjoy.

Practice should be fun!

Ultimately, people who lose practice motivation, lose it because practicing stops being fun & effective. Most people these days are smarter and faster thinkers than yesteryear, so those old practice approaches of the 19th and 20th century just don’t work as well anymore. We created Modacity to bring music practice into the 21st century. Staying motivated to practice is incredibly important in reaching your goals. We want to help musicians learn faster, practice better, and stay motivated – keeping it fun while encouraging you along the way.

Whatever you decide to do, just remember, practice should be fun! Don’t let it become a chore – that’s the fastest way to giving up. If you find yourself dreading practice, try the tips above until you find something that works for you. When you finally get through that rough patch, you’ll be glad you stuck with it.

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Mars Gelfo

Mars Gelfo

Mars has been practicing music for 30+ years. After applying cognitive science & computer science to French horn, Mars became an internationally touring symphony musician. His experience includes teaching and performing with thousands of musicians around the world, including the San Francisco Symphony.