“Music is a powerful force. It has rallied nations to patriotism, and given hope to individuals in their darkest times. It can be used as therapy for patients with mental and physical illness, or pump up an athlete before their performance. Music can be the reason for the emotional climax in our favorite movies, or it can be the soundtrack to special times in our lives.
It’s easy to realize that music is enormously powerful. This is the reason I wanted to be involved with it to begin with. Why wouldn’t I want to learn how to wield the power I was so strongly drawn to? However, studying music is a lifetime endeavor. There are endless things to learn and explore, and somewhere between playing endless scales and practicing dexterity building exercises for the 100th time it can be easy to lose site of the reason for all of the work.
As a student, I fight not to let the mechanical take over the musical. Even if it is the 100th time I’ve played an exercise, if I can infuse it with the passion I get from reminding myself just what music is, and means to me, I will be able to practice better, and gain the skill to express my own emotions through music more fluently. As a teacher, it’s not only my job to assign the tedious scales and exercises, but to constantly find ways of helping each student be inspired by why music is important to them. Without that inspiration and passion, what would be the point of the exercises? These are some ways I’ve found to keep the inspiration fresh, and give focus and purpose to the monotonous side of practice:
I put the instrument down and spend some time intentionally listening to music that I love. Not just listening specifically to the instrument I’m trying to improve, but taking the music in as a whole and letting it affect me.
- I put the instrument down and spend some time intentionally listening to music that I love. Not just listening specifically to the instrument I’m trying to improve, but taking the music in as a whole and letting it affect me.
- I try to find and explore new music. It’s great to always be broadening your musical perspective. And finding something new and exciting can be exactly what is needed to make practice seem fresh again.
- When I find something new that I like, I try to add that artist’s style or sound to my playing. Learning parts of that artists songs and mimic not just what they play, but how they play and what it sounds like is a great way to do this.
- I play some songs that I know by heart and enjoy playing. Songs or pieces that no longer need intense practice remind me of the light at the end of the tunnel. The enjoyment I get from playing these pieces is a reminder of the goal I have for things I’m still working on.
- It’s important not to shy away from working on things that are difficult. The moment I get stuck practicing something that is too easy for me is the moment it begins to become less captivating.
When the long road of practice and study gets monotonous, I remind myself of what an honor it is to be able to experience and interact with something as powerful as music. This is what gives me the hunger to learn and grow. This is why I play scales.”