Breaking the Practice Doldrums
Playing a musical instrument often becomes a passionate and consuming part of a musician's life. The myriad hours of practice that are necessary to perform well can invade waking thoughts and early morning dreams while marching into everyday activities like driving, brushing your teeth, and cleaning the house. Every musician has caught themselves fingering notes on their toothbrush, pounding out an upbeat rhythm on the tabletop, or performing some rather spectacular air guitar with the household broom and smiling when they finally get that difficult bar just right.
Playing a musical instrument is a sport in its own right, even if you don't perform with a marching band. Muscle memory is essential to nailing those fast-paced, note-filled, crowd-pleasing sections that seem to defy natural laws at first glance. A musician spends hours repeating the same sequences of notes to train the body to reproduce those sequences almost automatically later on during an adrenaline laced performance. All that repetition can become tedious and frustrating at times.
A great way to kill the monotony is to practice frequently throughout the day, but only for short periods. This is where fingering notes on your toothbrush actually becomes helpful instead of a sign of impending insanity. This playful practice helps imbed the musical score deeper into your subconscious where it will hopefully emerge triumphant on performance night.
Playing with a metronome is not only for beginners. It can be very useful in learning pieces with complicated rhythms and up-beats. The steady beating of the metronome will reveal problem areas that may have gone unnoticed previously when keeping time mentally.
Recording practice sessions and listening to the playback is a good way to find off key notes and timing issues in a song. By taking on the role of observer rather than performer, the senses will perceive a selection differently.
Take a break. Sometimes walking away from a difficult practice session is the best way to reset a stressed mind. Taking the dog for a walk, playing a game, reading a book or calling a friend can serve as the needed distraction as well as many other non-musical activities.
Listening to any great musician master their instrument can provide an instant refreshment of inspiration. This concept works in the same way as the advertising and entertainment industry. Remember watching "Top Gun" for the first time and deciding to join the Air Force during the rolling of the credits? Good performances give us a realistic taste of an experience and leave us wanting more. This desire can propel musicians to greater heights than would be possible without inspiration.
Postponing practice sessions because of a sense of boredom is a common occurrence. A change in location or practicing with friends may be the solution. Sometimes all that is necessary is a sense of change. Getting out the polish or changing out guitar strings may provide a fresh wind in a stagnant rehearsal.
Keeping the passion in the music and the wind in the musical sails will shine through in any performance. Calming the inner beast and reviving the awesome love for music and performing can be challenging at times but the sweet music of success is well worth the effort.
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