Category Archives for Staying Motivated to Practice

When (and How) to be Negative During Your Violin Practice

It’s fairly clear that we humans all share a bit of a negativity bias. When presented with a situation that could go two ways, we’re prone to predict it will go badly more often then not.

That’s a great quality if you’re a caveman worried about being eaten by a saber tooth tiger.

When it comes to violin practice, we often generalize in the same way, though it’s not quite as useful.

Recently, in the middle of a practice session I was thinking “there’s no way I can play this etude properly,” when in reality the situation was a lot more nuanced. Large sections of the music were totally fine.

I had generalized the problem in a way that wasn’t helpful.

Better to just think about the specific challenges in a more granular way. It turns out that problem was isolated to a specific motion on a specific string.

Looking past all the misplaced negativity allowed me to focus my practice much more efficiently. I fixed the problems quickly.

Negativity as an emotion is toxic to practice. Instead, use your “negativity” in more of a left brain context. “This specific problem in this specific spot isn’t what I want.”

Certainly, critical judgment is an important part of practice. It’s a positive way of being negative.

Next time you’re feeling down on your playing, stop and notice the emotion of the moment. What triggered this feeling? Take a break, do some stretching and hit the reset button.

Can you separate the emotion from what’s actually happening on your violin? Can you get clear about the actual problem(s), right now?

Feeling stuck and depressed during practice?

Clearing the negativity cloud will soon create a spacious attitude in your right brain. You become more sensitive, more aware. Creative solutions will appear without effort!

Try it yourself and let me know what happens!


Please Do Not Wait

Please do not wait until you’ve learned your favorite violin piece to celebrate that within your hands is a beautiful, powerful and precious object that was crafted lovingly at great effort.

Do not wait to recognize that your mindful focus during practice itself is a life affirming, positive statement.

Do not wait until your have achieved that elusive goal we call “mastery” to recognize that real mastery is finding joy in your work this very moment.

Turning Passion Inside-Out

Instead of “practicing the violin music you love” perhaps a more useful idea for students of music, beginner or expert, might be “love the music you practice.”

If you can become passionate about etudes, scales, or music chosen for you by others (orchestra, or teacher for example) it’s far more likely that whatever and wherever you play, you will move your journey forward.

How to Practice Music When the Results Really Matter

  1. Resist the urge to ad lib your practice. Instead set the intention that it is a fully planned project with benchmarks and specific, measurable goals.
  2. Realize that the project is your responsibility, that you won’t depend on a teacher, coach or anyone else for results.
  3. Write it all down in a short practice project document. The final goal, the estimated timeline, the benchmarks along the way.
  4. Read your practice document before you begin each practice session. 
  5. While you practice, add simple notes to your document. Specific practice strategies, any helpful notes, and percentage of completion toward benchmarks and final goals.
  6. Build in some slack. Allow more time than you think you need at the beginning, it feels much better to finish early. Falling behind feels like failure.
  7. Be obsessive about defining goals and objectives in great detail. Without this, you’ll never be sure when your project is complete.
  8. When it’s time, move on rather than seeking perfection. But take the time to write down exactly what worked and what didn’t. So next time you’ll be able to move the project further and your playing will get stronger.