V.com weekend vote: What motivates you to practice?

August 20, 2023, 4:35 PM · This weekend I was counting stickers with a very young student, who had presented a practice chart fully loaded with them.

Practice chart

"I'm very proud, you practiced every day," I said. "I can't wait to see seven more stickers next week!"

And then I thought to myself: If only that sticker thing kept working, after early childhood! Once we grow beyond the stickers, what exactly are the things that motivate us to practice?

After all, now is the time of year for getting back to school, back from vacation, and back into the regular routine of things. It's a good time to find some motivation to make regular practice a part of that routine.

When practice is going well for you, what generally motivates you to practice? Of course it may be a combination of things, but what is the most compelling one? And if you are a teacher or parent, how do you motivate your student or child to practice? Has your motivation changed over time? How do you get out of a rut of not practicing and back on the program? Please participate in the vote, and then share your thoughts about practice motivation in the comments.

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August 21, 2023 at 12:08 AM · I voted for "Wanting to play a particular piece." I'm in a string quartet group and I have to prepare my parts. I'm also trying to just generally improve still.

August 21, 2023 at 12:26 AM · The desire to play a familiar piece of music better. I love hearing myself play.

August 21, 2023 at 12:55 AM · I'm trying to relearn how to play and trying to catch up with my 16 year old granddaughter who has become a top notch player.

August 21, 2023 at 01:06 AM · “Wanting to play a particular piece.” This ties in with “Wanting to accomplish a particular technique.” Most pieces I feel really motivated to play contain some technical challenges that nerve me to dig in and improve my mastery of them. There’s always something to reach for. Things that were initially tough become manageable over time. Then I can polish them. I will never be satisfied; but consistent practice pays off, and it’s fun to note some progress each time it happens.

August 21, 2023 at 02:51 AM · Just get a little better

August 21, 2023 at 08:01 AM · For me it's just the love of the process. It is pretty similar to how I train for competitive sports. If I don't love the process and the lifestyle, why am I even playing the violin?

August 21, 2023 at 08:48 AM · Usually just when I want to make some music, and hope it sounds better than the last time.

August 21, 2023 at 09:02 AM · Motivation? Who knows?

If you have to play, you will; if you don't, you won't.

August 21, 2023 at 10:20 AM · Always more prepared than the principals.

August 21, 2023 at 11:05 AM · I chose "wanting to play a particular piece", but in reality, it is a mix of nearly everything.

I love playing my violin. That counts as "something else". Then, occasonally, I perform in public, and I want to be prepared for that. Next, a particularly beautiful or difficult piece also makes me want to practice. I have just returned from a music summer course, and in the orchestra we were required to play very soft and very fast; I struggled. So, wanting to accomplish a particular technique (playing soft and fast) is another motivation. And of course I want to impress my teacher, and I very much want to meet her expectations. Finally, I try to play every day, if only a little, and that is a reward in itself.

August 21, 2023 at 12:07 PM · I voted for Being prepared for upcoming performances, but it was a toss up between that and Wanting to play a particular piece. Particularly during Covid, learning more Bach Unaccompanied was one of the few open doors I had (and yesterday I was chuffed to be able to give my church picnic a rendering of BWV 1005 1st two movements and be appreciated). On the other hand, when I was asked to play at a wedding some 15 years ago and the organist was hardly capable of doing the hymns, let alone accompanying me on the piano, I had to play Unaccompanied (E major Gavotte and Gigue and 4 movements from the E-flat Major Cello Suite, which were almost all I still knew) - When I had started working up these pieces one or two weeks before, I was shocked by how far my playing had deteriorated. Pseudoboy, did I practise (but only something like an hour a day, hence the "Pseudo")!

When I started on the E-flat Major Sarabande, it was strangely familiar - because it's arranged for organ in Henderson's Introduction to Bach!

I have yet to tackle anything from 1001-1003.

August 21, 2023 at 01:51 PM · For me there were two to choose from, gigs were one of them, but "fear of not meeting expectations" and letting the other musicians down is the Biggy! I have been told throughout my life that I am rather hard on myself, however many musicians I've met in my life were also the same way. Now a days I try to set realistic goals, accept what I cannot do and relish in that I CAN do.

August 21, 2023 at 03:54 PM · Lately I've been more motivated, and practicing more, than ever. I don't know why it took me this long to be ready, but finally I felt it was within reach for me to memorize a short piece, which I could never do before. Yesterday I spent 3 hours on it and learned 2 pieces by memory! Today before work ( where I'm on lunch now) I got up early and put almost another hour into reinforcing my new memory. My teacher emphasized careful and repeated listening first, so my memory already hears the target and guides me after I've turned away from the sheet music.

August 21, 2023 at 07:20 PM · Bravo, Will! That's an inspirational post!

August 22, 2023 at 04:23 AM · I had to go for 'something else' as the simplest option 'I love to practice' was not listed. I would do it whether or not there was a goal.

Is this so unusual? Do people only play the violin for some other object than, well, playing the violin?

August 23, 2023 at 02:00 PM · to show that one doesn't care about a burning city, for instance?

August 23, 2023 at 07:50 PM · I just do it.

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