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lacking motivation to practice, how can I overcome and continue?

Postby Baldo » Mon Aug 02, 2010 1:35 pm

About 7 years ago I started to learn to play the piano, thanks in part to people on this forum. To cut a long story short I passed my grade IV last year and am working on taking my grade V in 2012. I have a lesson about once per week but lately the lessons have dwindled to once every other week.

The thing is, at the moment I just do not feel like practising. sometimes I can practice on a wonderful Steniway model D, the concert grand and when I do I manage to do about 2 - 3 hours. However, at home on my trusted Technics P50 stage piano I always find an excuse not to practice.

Don't get me wrong, I do not want to give up. This is a journey that I want to continue to the day I die. I also want to learn music theory but just can not bring myself to do it.

Can anyone offer any advice on how I can motivate myself and continue to practice. The only way I will improve and learn is by practising. I know that in my mind and in my heart yet I struggle to get in front of the piano.

Any words of advice or encouragement?

Someone on this forum did say to me that learning to play the piano is like growing a tree in the garden, it will not happen over night.
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Re: lacking motivation to practice, how can I overcome and continue?

Postby agent funk » Mon Aug 02, 2010 2:11 pm

poor you, not having a concert piano in your living room. No wonder you don't want to practice....

listen, Nat King Cole had to paint the keys on his window sill to practice at home, that can't have been much fun - but he did it!

you've done well to get this far but now you don't need a kind word or two, you just need a kick up the arse!

Now get off said arse and practice - a sensible amount of time you can maintain every day.
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Re: lacking motivation to practice, how can I overcome and continue?

Postby hollowsun » Mon Aug 02, 2010 2:56 pm

Baldo wrote:However, at home on my trusted Technics P50 stage piano I always find an excuse not to practice.
Can you not get hold of a proper upright piano?

You don't have to spend a lot - in fact, if you scour your local free ads, you might even find one for free... something someone's inherited through a family bereavement or house move, whatever ... or one bought for the little cherub who gave up after 6 months.

We got a freebie which served our little'un for many years until we bought something better for her when she started getting very good.
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Re: lacking motivation to practice, how can I overcome and continue?

Postby Exalted Wombat » Mon Aug 02, 2010 3:53 pm

Are you an adult beginner? You've lasted longer than most!

But having said that - you're progressing FAR too slowly. Those grade exams are designed to be taken one-a-year by children who have to be forced to practice 30 minutes a day. You, with adult intellect, motivation and problem-solving skills should be progressing even faster! Some of it has to be done by rote, and consolidation takes time. But you're grown-up and can deal with this - you're not going to fade away if you don't get instant gratification, are you?

What you need is a reason to learn, and a reason to be playing. Organize a performance opportunity a week ahead, learn a new piece for it. Then another. And another. Your teacher will suggest suitable material.

Don't make excuses. Do it!

I know someone who wanted to write songs. Trouble is, she'd never finished one. I proposed we meet every available Tuesday evening and record a song. She could arrive with something completely worked out, or with just a snippet of an idea. No matter - the only rule was that when we stopped that evening the song had to be complete. Next week, a new one. I did her an incredibly cheap deal, as long as she kept it up. (Not quite free, or she wouldn't have taken it seriously.)

She (rather surprisingly) persisted. We ended up with a good few dozen songs. A handful were rather good. Her skills developed enormously. It didn't do my recording, playing and arranging skills any harm either :-)

Just do it.
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You don't have to write songs. The world doesn't want you to write songs. It would probably prefer it if you didn't. So write songs if you want to. Otherwise, dont bore us with beefing about it. Go fishing instead.

Re: lacking motivation to practice, how can I overcome and continue?

Postby onesecondglance » Mon Aug 02, 2010 4:18 pm

i'll suggest something a bit different. first off - well done for sticking with it. the fact that you're even posting about this here shows you do care about it.

now, i'm a master procrastinator, but there are a few things that will get me practising no matter what.

first: playing stuff you like. this was always my biggest problem with the ABRSM grades - it's a fairly limited repertoire. do you like listening to and playing the grade material? if not, you're not going to want to practise. you'll get more out of half an hour playing something you love than four hours hacking away at something you've been told to learn. a great teacher knows how to find pieces that will challenge you and make you learn new techniques whilst still being something you like to do. maybe take yourself out of your comfort zone? try to play something in a genre you wouldn't normally go near. it can do wonders for your playing to break out of a stylistic dead end.

second: recording yourself. i'm a total perfectionist, so this works for me, but if you're not it might not have the same impact. anyway, record yourself playing. doesn't matter about the quality, just good enough that you can hear what you're doing. even an iPhone or something like that will be good enough. then play it back. one of two things will happen. one, you'll love what you hear and be re-vitalised into practising. two, you'll hate what you hear and be determined to practise so you don't suck so much ;) like i said, number two works a lot for me because i'm a perfectionist...

third: having something more important to do. classic reverse psychology. if practise is becoming a chore, you need to do some displacement. find something else, like your tax return or mowing the lawn, and make that the chore. then practise will be what you do to put off doing the taxes :tongue:

i would say stop blaming the stage piano. if it's got keys, it should be enough. of course it's nicer to play the grand, but you're just making an excuse. the theory thing is another issue. i'd say that if you can read music to the level of passing grade IV you probably know enough to skip it unless you're determined to go past grade V. in which case, DO NOT GO STRAIGHT INTO GRADE V THEORY. biggest mistake people make. get the excellent Eric Taylor books and work through them from grades 1 up. yes, you will fly through the first couple of grades, but the books are only £2.50 each and if you don't have a thorough understanding of the basics grade V will be much, much harder.

take heart. most people who try to learn at any age over 18 give it up when they realise it's a lifetime of work to be any good. you seem to have realised this and are still at it, so don't give up now when you've come so far.
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Re: lacking motivation to practice, how can I overcome and continue?

Postby Exalted Wombat » Mon Aug 02, 2010 4:56 pm

onesecondglance wrote:first: playing stuff you like. this was always my biggest problem with the ABRSM grades - it's a fairly limited repertoire. do you like listening to and playing the grade material?
I HOPE we can assume that he's not spending two years working at the same grade pieces! If this is the case, give me the teacher's address so I can have a firm word with him! If you're up to standard for a certain piece, how on Earth can it take more than a few weeks to learn it? Even when I was teaching kids, they never got the grade pieces until the term before the exam. If they needed longer, they weren't ready.
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You don't have to write songs. The world doesn't want you to write songs. It would probably prefer it if you didn't. So write songs if you want to. Otherwise, dont bore us with beefing about it. Go fishing instead.

Re: lacking motivation to practice, how can I overcome and continue?

Postby onesecondglance » Mon Aug 02, 2010 6:53 pm

unfortunately, i have known all too many teachers whose idea of "repertoire" was being able to play all the pieces listed for any given grade. it was as if printed music didn't exist outside the system...

then people wondered why i played the guitar so much... cos i played what i wanted to :)
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Re: lacking motivation to practice, how can I overcome and continue?

Postby OD23 » Mon Aug 02, 2010 6:57 pm

I found this article about motivation quite interesting, might help you: http://blogs.hbr.org/bregman/2010/05/how-and-when-to-motivate-yours.html
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Re: lacking motivation to practice, how can I overcome and continue?

Postby Gone To Lunch » Tue Aug 03, 2010 1:31 am

I am a 50something adult learner. I recently bought a Yamaha P155, the action of which is close enough to that of a real piano, for me at least (Grade 6) and makes practicing much more satisfying....
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Re: lacking motivation to practice, how can I overcome and continue?

Postby narcoman » Tue Aug 03, 2010 7:46 am

Hey, here's an idea. Why not play the fekkin thing? Exams ain't the goal, they're a means to an end. The goal is to play. So play.

Stop practising and start playing. I haven't "practised" in 20 years ( apart from working out new sections or phrases/actions). But I "play" for many hours a day.
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Re: lacking motivation to practice, how can I overcome and continue?

Postby Guido3 » Tue Aug 03, 2010 8:24 am

narcoman wrote:Hey, here's an idea. Why not play the fekkin thing? Exams ain't the goal, they're a means to an end. The goal is to play. So play.

Stop practising and start playing. I haven't "practised" in 20 years ( apart from working out new sections or phrases/actions). But I "play" for many hours a day.

Couldn't have put it better myself. I trained for years on the violin. Got to grade 5. I hated practicing. Every minute was a chore for me. I haven't picked up a fiddle since my Music 'O' level back in 1987.

The piano on the other hand is a different beast. I have never had any classical training on one but could happily sit at one for hours. (if my wife would let me :roll:)

Maybe give the exams a break for a bit. And simply play some music you enjoy to get your passion back. I am lucky because I find playing by ear very easy. If you don't, pick up some music you like off the internet.

You've got to enjoy playing your instrument. If you don't enjoy it, there's no point playing it IMHO.
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Re: lacking motivation to practice, how can I overcome and continue?

Postby Mike Saville » Tue Aug 03, 2010 8:43 am

A couple of others have touched on it but you really need to identify the reasons WHY you need to practice. Without really good reasons you might always struggle with motivation.

What is it that you want to achieve on the piano? Are there specific pieces you want to learn? Any venues you'd like to play at? layers you want to emulate? Have a really good think.

This will lead you into the next step. What YOU need to practice. Knowing why will give you some goals and you'll need to practice certain things to get there - it's different for everyone so make sure you practice what you need to not what a book tells you to.

Good luck and most of all, enjoy your practice!
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Re: lacking motivation to practice, how can I overcome and continue?

Postby Mike Saville » Tue Aug 03, 2010 8:48 am

narcoman wrote:Stop practising and start playing. I haven't "practised" in 20 years ( apart from working out new sections or phrases/actions). But I "play" for many hours a day.

Hmmm, not sure I can agree with this. The sentiment may be a good one. Hoever there is for me a definite difference between playing and practising. Playing is what most people do and they confuse this with practice. Practice is something planned and thought through to make your playing better - very few musicians actually do this. Playing is doing stuff you can already do.

Most have a vague idea of what they want to work on, are not quite sure how to do and even if they did do it wouldn't know when they got there.

However you think of it in your own mind it's important not to confuse simply playing with an activity that will actually make you better - i.e. proper practice.
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Re: lacking motivation to practice, how can I overcome and continue?

Postby Exalted Wombat » Tue Aug 03, 2010 9:24 am

Mike Saville wrote:
narcoman wrote:Stop practising and start playing. I haven't "practised" in 20 years ( apart from working out new sections or phrases/actions). But I "play" for many hours a day.

Hmmm, not sure I can agree with this. The sentiment may be a good one. Hoever there is for me a definite difference between playing and practising. Playing is what most people do and they confuse this with practice. Practice is something planned and thought through to make your playing better - very few musicians actually do this. Playing is doing stuff you can already do.

Most have a vague idea of what they want to work on, are not quite sure how to do and even if they did do it wouldn't know when they got there.

However you think of it in your own mind it's important not to confuse simply playing with an activity that will actually make you better - i.e. proper practice.
Of course, life isn't a ladder. (That's just BS we feed kids to keep them in school:-) You're under no obligation to keep striving, keep progressing. Reaching a plateau, just playing at the level you're at, enjoying the view for a bit is just fine! When a challenge arises (or you get bored and fancy creating one for yourself) work out a strategy to achieve it.
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You don't have to write songs. The world doesn't want you to write songs. It would probably prefer it if you didn't. So write songs if you want to. Otherwise, dont bore us with beefing about it. Go fishing instead.

Re: lacking motivation to practice, how can I overcome and continue?

Postby Baldo » Tue Aug 03, 2010 10:23 am

What can I say? There is certainly a lot of valuable advice here. First of all let me begin by thanking everyone for their contribution. They are all encouraging, even the ones that are a kick up the back side!!!

“poor you, not having a concert piano in your living room. No wonder you don't want to practice....”
This did make me laugh Fletcher. What I was getting at was that when I have some nice toys to play with I can play for hours but I am sure you know that. Life is just tough sometimes. I am grateful that at least I get to practice on a wonderful instrument even some of the time.


Can you not get hold of a proper upright piano?

Unfortunately not Hollowsun, space prevents me from doing that at the moment. Maybe in my next place this is a possibility.

Are you an adult beginner? ?
I am, Exalted Wombat. I may have progressed rather slowly but that has been my choice. There are plenty of other deadlines and targets in my life so I do not want to put myself under un-necessary pressure. There is no hurry. If it takes me 20 years to get to grade V it takes me 20 years, so be it. This is not a race or a competition.
That said though, I do want to progress and get better and the only way that will happen is if I practice.

Onesecondglace, a lot of what you said resonates with me.
My piano teacher is great, he lets me choose what I play, within reason of course. If something is too difficult he will tell me and advise against it. I do like some of the grade material.

As far as learning philosophy goes, I believe that I will pass the grades by becoming a good pianist, I will NOT become a good pianist by passing the grades. My teacher agrees with me and he is not trying to rush me through the grades. BTW did I mention that he use to be an Examiner!!!
Recording myself is a great idea, infact I do it with a Zoom HD2 when I practice on the concert grand . I should perhaps listen to myself to see how I sound.

Not sure about doing other chores though, I always end up doing those instead of practising.

We are both spot on with theory, I already have the Eric Taylor books and ABRSM work books for grade 1-5. I do plan on working through them one grade at a time and not dive in to grade V.

Thanks for the link OD23, it is very inspirational.
Gone to Lunch, I wonder if I should get a new stage piano but then I think that is just another excuse. My Technics is fine and in any case I can always use the concert grand, sometimes.

Narcoman, I have to say that I disagree with you. Practising is about learning to play. How can I play if I have not practised? Unless I play really easy pieces that I did years ago but that will not expand my repertoire.

What is it that you want to achieve on the piano?
Mark Saville, Thanks for your advice. My answer is that I want to be able to express musical ideas on a piano / keyboard the way I express myself with words on a computer. Ok this is a big ask but hey I have to have a goal. Perhaps I will never be as articulate as I am with words but I will at least be able to play and read music.

Reaching a plateau, just playing at the level you're at, enjoying the view for a bit is just fine!
I agree Exalted Wombat. My plan is to get to grade VI standard and then start learning Jazz piano, but that is another ladder to climb up just for the fun of it.

Thanks again to everyone for your words and advice. It is encouraging and even drafting this response helps me to articulate in my own mind what I want to do.

Ok, I am now off to practice for an hour.
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