The most common reason students lose interest in or quit an instrument is because they are bored during practice sessions.
In a day of instant gratification and Instagram, it is no surprise that students find it hard to discipline themselves in practicing their instrument. Playing through phrases without improvement just does not offer the same satisfaction as retweets do. Similar to school, we lose focus when doing the same routine in our practice every day. Becoming bored during your musical studies is typically a sign that you are practicing wrong. However, where there is a will, there is a way and with these simple tips you can be rid of that boredom and make some improvement.
Make sure you have goals to work toward. Recitals, auditions, and competitions keep students moving forward and learning more repertoire. Students are less likely to be bored if they are pressured to learn pieces for upcoming events. More repertoire means more technique and learning different skills will keep your practice session packed so that you’re not bored. Preparing a piece for an event can be divided into multiple stages. First, learn the notes and familiarize yourself with the key. Establish good intonation and aim for perfection from the beginning so that it’s not a problem later on. Second, go straight to the most technical parts of the piece and focus your attention toward those areas. After, you can learn the less technical and more melodic measures. Third, develop musicality and draw inspiration from professional performers. Shape phrases within the piece and learn where they are supposed to go. Watch videos of your favorited performances and try playing with some recordings. Fourth, polish the piece. Use this time to memorize and become confident with the piece by performing in front of family or in recitals.
Get inspired by artists and friends. Consistently surround yourself with other players to find out where you are at in your learning. Instead of watching movie trailers on YouTube, surf videos of student ensembles at music camps and renowned violinists with symphonies instead. This way you can get inspired and learn the musicality of a piece along the way. Play in ensembles with other students in order to learn how to collaborate with other artists and become motivated by their music endeavors. Think of it as positive peer pressure. You are more likely to increase your practice time if everyone else is working hard and playing excerpts of their pieces in front of you. One trend many students at music camps for the summer notice is that their self-discipline and focus during practice improve. They might admit themselves that it is due to hearing other students in the neighboring dorm rooms practicing and hard at work.
Go behind the scenes of the music. Research your repertoire and the period during which it was written for a couple practice sessions throughout the week. This may mix things up and keep your practice interesting. Giving yourself listening and reading assignments will help you learn the style of a piece all the while getting your break in. Researching the background of a composer can help gain a better understanding of the piece and the variety of tones to practice while learning the piece. Musicalics and Classical Music DB are great resources to familiarize yourself with the piece and the story behind how it was written. When determining how you will musically perform a piece, finding out how that piece has been performed over the decades will broaden your sense of the style. Viewing videos of multiple artists and identifying your favorite interpretation will help with polishing the piece and make that transition from learning to performing.
Whether it’s playing a phrase over and over again to break a habit or running through scales during the first part of your practice, all students get bored at some point. But it is our responsibility to keep practice time interesting and to remain self-disciplined or motivated. I hope these tips help and if you have any suggestions, please comment below!