Sensitive topic. I know. But as we say, we like to address issues and not run from them. So let’s tackle this right now and dive into the concept of motivation and how to gain it for practicing music. In this article, we will disclose some of our ideas about this topic for you.
First of all, we need to know the meaning of motivation and its types:
“Motivation is the process that starts and maintains goal-oriented behaviors”
Types of motivation
- Intrinsic motivation is an internal drive that basically makes you move towards your goal. So when play videogames, for instance, it is just because we want to do it. We find satisfaction in doing the activity. Our motivation, in this case, is intrinsic.
- Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, comes from the willingness to get external rewards. Most of our daily activities are extrinsically motivated. For example, going to work under heavy rain might not be pleasant for everyone –do you remember when we actually went to our workplace? Beautiful times, indeed.-, however, we just did it. Because we like getting paid so we can buy videogames to play to. We might like going to work because we are lucky to do what we love, but going under the rain is another story… you get me, right?
Ok, so now that we know what motivation means and the two main types of motivation. Let’s see what we can do.
The motivation we have to practice with our instrument, depending on how we like what we do during the session, might switch from intrinsic to extrinsic. In general, we like to just play music, that’s the fun part, the intrinsic motivating part!
But to get there, first, we need to learn how to do so and become comfortable. We need to learn the positions, read notes, scales, chords. We have to practice slow, focusing on the quality of every little movement we do. It is intense. It requires discipline. This is when the motivation to do it and achieve the moment when we can just play music becomes extrinsic.
You see? First we just wanted to play music because it is fun, now we do not want to do it. We need to find some extrinsic motivation.
The first idea that popped in my mind when I did my master thesis about this topic, was that it would be great to find some anchors for us to stay extrinsically motivated. This way we know that we practice because we want the external result of becoming a good musician or just being able to play your favorite song.
However, I found my second idea much more pleasant. I thought that it would be awesome to find intrinsic motivation in those tasks that I did not like so much. But, how?!
I started experimenting with a lot of different things but I will make it easier for you. It would be kind of long to explain everything I experimented with. So I rather get to the point and give you 3 STRATEGIES that you can apply right now!
1. Play music, find an issue, then find the solution: this one comes from my experience in the academic world. Students have to study a lot of topics that are the solution to problems they do not have yet. This creates an incoherence as our brains are designed to focus on the immediate problems we may face. And, with that, demotivation.
On the other hand, from the moment I finished my official studies, I always had great motivation and hunger for knowledge that would make my life easier or better in different ways. Now, let’s apply this to music.
We find ourselves doing technical exercises quite often, but we might not have found any issue that requires working on them yet. Sure it is important to have a certain routine and keep fit in all the aspects of your playing. However, perhaps it is better to play more songs or pieces that you like. You will encounter challenges and issues in your playing, and that will give you the motivation to practice those -previously- boring exercises and focus on getting better at that specific aspect.
2. Find enjoyment in doing a simple task: playing scales and long tones seems quite boring frankly. But it does not need to be like that. Playing a long tone allows you to focus on the quality of your sound and the position of every little muscle involved in your playing. The practice becomes a sort of meditative, the focus is on one single thing, you dive into yourself and your sound while everything else fades out.
3. Visualize the result, but be patient: this one is a bit tricky. It consists of imagining the result we will obtain after practicing. Imagine that you would like to play a solo that goes faster than what you can play at the moment. How nice would be to play it at the right speed, wouldn’t it? Imagine it, feel it! Then go and practice the solo at a speed you are very comfortable with, bring the speed up slowly, and work your way towards the final speed.
However, be patient, because this can take days or weeks and you already want to get there and be able to play the solo as your favorite musician. This can create frustration, so do not let it happen! Just keep imagining the final outcome every day but also keep in mind that it needs time and constant practice.
After all, anything we want to achieve requires work and dedication. Playing music is a complex activity, often compared to rocket science. The silver lining is that playing music is a lot of fun. Especially when we play with others, and that’s a great reward for all of us!
That’s why in Bom-B Music we always try to bring our students together to make music when the circumstances allow for it. Read more about playing with others in our previous blog article Playing music together. The way to become a more sensitive musician.