A few weeks ago, I wrote posted an article on how to Remember to Practice. Since then I’ve asked students’ parents, students, and Republic of Song followers to leave comments at the bottom of the post with their own experiences on motivating practice. There are so many good ideas out there, and my dream is that these posts will become treasure troves of shared knowledge! (So as soon as you get done reading this, go comment on the posts and tell us the good you’ve found!!)
Since writing on how to remember to practice, I have thought quite a few times on what it means to be musically motivated for the long-haul. I’ve journeyed into my own memory, recollecting my own successes and failures in the pursuit of musical excellence. The result of all this reflective ruminating has been a bright nugget of what I believe is the secret to long term genuine success for any musician.
- TRICKS TO REMEMBER PRACTICING ARE TEMPORARY FIXES
Here’s a mind blowing concept: perfect notes don’t equal happy musicians. As important as the bribes and punishments we use to cajole ourselves into daily practice are in the short term, they will only motivate us for a few weeks or months at best. The thrill of technical success is a powerful motivator, but is still limited. Some musicians live their entire musical lives pursuing technical perfection, bouncing from technical plateau to technical plateau. Not to diminish those achievements, but in the end the result is dull and empty (if a student even attains a high level of excellence). I have observed several personal friends who have succeeded in accomplishing significant technical mastery in music only to discard their talents because the process became meaningless drudgery.
- THE SECRET IS IN FINDING YOUR MUSICAL INSPIRATION
Oh, this is simple. Simple is good. This is easy. Easy is good. Find what you enjoy and pursue it. Don’t sing what other people tell you to sing. Sing what you find inspiring! Play what you like! I have found that my students consistently learn faster and better when they have chosen their own songs to play or sing.
Of course, finding what inspires you requires some time spent self-searching and clarifying your likes, dislikes, and goals. (In a later post, I will detail some ideas on how to go about finding your inspiration.) Music is about Life – life is not about music, so finding yourself is crucial to having something to sing about. Be alive! Live! Find that first, and then you will find music.
Finding music then that reflects your alive-ness is all about the lyrics. People have told me that when they listen to music, they never pay attention to the words. That blows my mind. How do you interact with music and leave out all the definitions? Music is like a spear. The sharp tip is like the specific, well-defined meaning of the lyrics. The sound of the music is like the weight of the shaft that provides all the power. Without both definition and power, both a spear and a song are ineffective. Finding lyrics (or sub-text – the suggested storyline – for instrumental musicians) that reflect or add to your alive-ness is the first step to finding that motivation to develop the technical abilities that enable you to produce the power of sound that we call music. (In a later post, I will provide a step-by-step process to find the characters in the story line of a song)
- TECHNICAL DEVELOPMENT IS BEST VIEWED AS THE SUPPORTING CAST
So you should all just throw caution to the wind and shoot from the hip and be blithely and ignorantly inspired, right? NO! Finding inspiration and motivation should fuel the drive to develop your musical abilities. I regularly assign music to my students that I know they will find dull. Their job is to see the technical benefit that will help them perform the pieces they find inspiring. Often music students have to trudge through long, difficult rehearsals before they find the ability to pull off satisfying performances. The key to long-term motivation though is to remember that you are using short term inspiration to develop your skills and be the musician YOU want to be. Batman can deliver all the zingers he wants, but without the supporting cast of Robin and the revolving door of evil villains the pithy one-liners would fall flat. You have to maintain both inspiration and methodical work to find the success that powers long-term motivation.
Be alive! Find your inspiration! Get excited about the message you find in your life! Then work methodically to accomplish the music reading and instrumental ergonomic mastery necessary to sing and play. Inspiration is a burst of sweetness. Work is a methodical process that ends in satisfaction. Combine the two for brilliance.
SHARE Your Success!
Let me know what you think! Have you found inspiration and work to go together in your path to success? Share it below! All success is worth sharing.