What to do when practicing feels like a serious drag like having to get up early in the morning?

What to do when practicing feels like a serious drag like having to get up early in the morning?

Most days I really have to muster up the effort to start practicing vs. just vegetating doing something mindless like watching youtube videos; the latter however I usually feel dirty after if I didn’t do much productive for the day but practicing feels great for the mind once I actually get a decent bit of practice in. It is the same kind of feeling you get when you have to get out of bed when you don’t want to or go on a long run.

After about 20 minutes of practice though I get into it and enjoy it and the time breezes by but getting the initial gusto to start is the hardest.

Some people say just don’t practice if you don’t want to but I probably would only practice about once a week if I only acted on my feelings rather than being disciplined about it. I am a great believer in the ‘do it every day’ rule however it would be nice for it not to feel like a grind less than it does. Sure some days it will probably always feel like that but it feels like that probably 90% of the time.

It isn’t that I ‘hate’ the music or want to quit, as I said I enjoy it once warmed up, it is just getting over the hump of actually picking up the whistle and starting.

Re: What to do when practicing feels like a serious drag like having to get up early in the morning?

I’ve heard people suggest setting the practice bar really low. Commit to playing your instrument for just 5 minutes. More often than not you’ll warm up and play longer.

I’ve also heard taking a break can help. If you’re at a point where you’d only practice one a week if you only acted on your feelings then maybe a 2-4 week break is in order.

However for me personally, if practice starts feeling like a drag it’s because my repertoire is becoming stale. Learning new tunes makes things enjoyable again. Sometimes even digging into different music genres is required.

Re: What to do when practicing feels like a serious drag like having to get up early in the morning?

Sometimes if I’m lazing around and not playing music when I should, I find that listening to a few tunes puts me in the mindset to start playing. Next time you’re on YouTube and you feel like you should be practicing look up a video of a player/group/tune you like and hopefully it’ll amp you up, before you’ve even busted out the whistle.

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Re: What to do when practicing feels like a serious drag like having to get up early in the morning?

I believe that ultimately, only you can fix that problem. That is, if it really is a ‘problem’ and if you think it is one worth fixing. Nobody else can really solve it for you because it’s in your mind and your attitude. Personally, unless I see enough payout for myself or for somebody else, I tend to try not do anything that I don’t enjoy. For instance (using your example), when I get out of bed and don’t want to go for a long run, then I just don’t. And why would I feel guilty about it? Both those options seem fruitless to me so I am happy not to bother myself. And in that same way, if you don’t feel like practicing every day, then why are you adamant about forcing it on yourself? It’s not like you are a paid concert musician with an obligation to anybody is it? When I don’t feel like practicing (or I prefer to just call it ‘playing) I just accept the fact. I just rather happily fill in those time by listening to all my old Irish trad music, relaxed in the knowledge that it will soon inspire me to pick up my fiddle again. The non-playing days never seem to set me back any, in fact I keep improving. Listening and thinking is still practice.

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Re: What to do when practicing feels like a serious drag like having to get up early in the morning?

I’ve never thought of it as ‘practicing’. It’s always been ‘playing’ to me - a thing for fun, education and gaining skills.

I play music professionally, but no matter what instrument I’m learning I always think of it as playing. I play in front of the TV a lot.

If a certain musical phrase is giving me trouble after I work on it for a while I stop and play something that I know well just give myself a break, then go back to work on the troubling phrase.

Sometimes I like to just sit and noodle around for a while playing random notes or figuring out simple tunes by ear in different keys, or finding out what the limits of the instrument I’m playing are (how high can I go, how soft, how loud?).

It’s all play to me, and all rewarding.

It might be helpful to forget practicing and just think of it as playing. It’s something that came naturally to me, but I can see where a change of mindset might be helpful to get yourself playing (not practicing!) every day.

Re: What to do when practicing feels like a serious drag like having to get up early in the morning?

I am total newb here, but it might help to hear someone say they go through the same thing? I try to practice daily, but it’s usually every 2-3 days just because I get distracted/can’t motivate myself, but after a bit (15-30 minutes, like you said), I feel much more enthusiastic and then don’t want to stop for hours and hours because I’m having a great time! I do NOT know what is up with that motivational speed bump there, but at least it’s not just me/you?

Re: What to do when practicing feels like a serious drag like having to get up early in the morning?

To quote Yoda, there is no try. There is only do or do not. You must have your own spark of divine fire. Don’t ask me what moves you. I once had an acting teacher who told me something that has been the watchword of my life. She told me to not become an actor unless I can’t help it. The only real question about an ability you wish to master, if you aren’t going to do it for a living, is to decide how good you want to be. I’ve always been happy with good enough. I’m not competitive at all and not particularly ambitious, but I know clearly the level I seek in any endeavor and my suggestion is that if you need motivation to achieve that, you don’t really want it. The important thing is less about having goals than being honest with yourself about the goals you profess to have.

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Re: What to do when practicing feels like a serious drag like having to get up early in the morning?

@EducatedSavage Indeed, misery loves company 🙂

Re: What to do when practicing feels like a serious drag like having to get up early in the morning?

"She told me to not become an actor unless I can’t help it." .. Ah! I love it… it kind of describes my life.

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Re: What to do when practicing feels like a serious drag like having to get up early in the morning?

I have a whistle on the bedside table and I grab it first thing in the morning to play whatever fecking tune is bouncing around my brain. But if I didn’t want to I wouldn’t. Case in point, I haven’t played my fiddle in a couple of weeks. Experience tells me that when I do come back to it, it will be with a renewed enthusiasm and a breakthrough to the next plateau in a never ending succession of plateaus.

MandolinSnow’s idea of committing to five minutes a day sounds like a good idea to me if it’s disciple that you lack. Play a set of tunes and take it from there.

Re: What to do when practicing feels like a serious drag like having to get up early in the morning?

I can’t remember where I heard it (probably a Youtube video), and Aldon has a similar concept, but something that stuck with me was that there is a difference between practicing and playing. To me, practicing is when I’m trying to learn a new skill/song or going through an excercise (scales, chord changes, basic skills) and playing is when I’m playing something that I know well and don’t have to think about what note is coming next.

Something you could try is to look at your practice routine and how its structured and maybe change it up a bit. Are you dreading having to do a particular excercise or practice a section of a new song? Change it up and play something that you’ve recently finished learning and have down pat to give yourself that sense of accomplishment and get you in the mood. Do you try and commit to practicing for a large block of time? Break it up and play a bit here and there through out the day between other tasks.

These are just some suggestions and, as others have mentioned, another valid option is to just put your instrument down for few weeks and see when the desire to start playing again strikes.

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Re: What to do when practicing feels like a serious drag like having to get up early in the morning?

That’s true Shaun… the thing being that if you don’t feel like practicing, then just play.

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Re: What to do when practicing feels like a serious drag like having to get up early in the morning?

I’m in the "commit to five minutes" camp. Some days this will become a longer bout of playing, and some days it’s a scramble to fit in five minutes, but even just five minutes is worth it.
Also there’s a lot to be said for thinking of it as playing rather than practising, as well as all the other suggestions here: changing things up, taking a break, noodling and having a whistle on the bedside table. Do you have enough instruments that you can scatter them strategically at places where you might be waiting for something (by the kettle?), or on the stairs and you have to play a tune before you can allow yourself to carry on up the stairs (or down). Though that might drive the people you live with nuts. Hopefully one or more of these suggestions will work for you. Maybe for a while, then give another a go.

Re: What to do when practicing feels like a serious drag like having to get up early in the morning?

I try to frame things by saying "I get to" or "I want to" instead of "I have to." If something non-essential like practicing is becoming a "have to" I give it up for a while until it becomes a "want to" again. It is natural to have ebbs and flows in your interests and life priorities.

Re: What to do when practicing feels like a serious drag like having to get up early in the morning?

I guess I would call myself as someone who has reached a high proficiency of guitar playing - at least, it’s been a long time since I’ve heard something and thought "wow I could never play that." I really don’t think I’ve "practiced" in the common sense for at least 25-30 years. The first two or three years of playing, I really got stuck into things like exercises, etudes, warmups etc. And then I just got super bored of them. They never felt entirely musical, and if there’s one thing I hate doing it’s repeating something 100x. Since then, my "practice" has always been just playing. I sit and improvise, doing my best to channel the music within me. I also do a lot of transcribing, mostly music played on other instruments and trying to adapt it for guitar. All of this gives me all of the practice I need, and I don’t feel like I’m practicing. Playing music written for other instruments on your own instrument is fun, and it constantly challenges your fingers because it gets them out of the "ruts" and patterns that you’re prone to. Whenever I’m noodling or transcribing or arranging or whatever, I will frequently come up against something that feels awkward or cumbersome to play. At that point, I will stop and practice it for a few minutes to get it into my muscle memory until I can do it well enough. So the only "practice exercises" I do are actually pieces of music that I want to play, instead of something that’s been specifically designed as an exercise. I’m convinced that this is a far more efficient and effective way to improve your playing skills than playing set exercises. It’s organic, real-world, and you’re concentrating your efforts into things that are actually going to help you play the music YOU want to play. I honestly think that if I’d kept trying to do a daily scheduled practice routine I would have given up years ago

Re: What to do when practicing feels like a serious drag like having to get up early in the morning?

I find just keeping instruments out where I can easily grab them and play anytime really helps in making sure I practice or at least spend some time playing music every day.

There are a couple of whistles on my desk where I work, a B/C box on the floor. Sometimes I’ll just pick it up, play a tune for 5 minutes, go back to whatever I was working on. Other times, I’ll work on a tune or some difficult technique for several hours. Sometimes, I don’t play a note for a week when hitting the pandemic lockdown wall.

I think the key is to just allow yourself to take it all in stride and not stress about it. Most likely, there will always be tomorrow if you don’t feel like playing today.

Re: What to do when practicing feels like a serious drag like having to get up early in the morning?

I don’t know, but it’s a good question. I quit playing during Lockdown 1.0, but I somehow found a renewed psych for it over the summer. Then Lockdown 2.0 happened. Psych keeled over, dead as a doornail. Then it got worse in Lockdown 3.0. I’ve got a horse whose arthritis might have got to a stage where she’s never going to be ridable again, a lockdown that seems endless, travel bans that stop me from getting into the mountains, and I can’t find the energy to drag my ass upstairs to strap myself into the pipes and play. Why bother? That’s my view towards most things right now, especially Irish music.

Re: What to do when practicing feels like a serious drag like having to get up early in the morning?

Yeah, five minutes here and there. It’s better than nothing. This being said, five minutes may not be enough to get most out of the instrument. I’m thinking of warm-up, getting into the right mood (or zone) etc. For many years, it took around 45 minutes before my fiddle playing sounded OK (at that current level). And that feeling stuck for maximum another 45 minutes. A good return of investment? Who knows. I’m sure others have had a similar feeling on other instruments.

Re: What to do when practicing feels like a serious drag like having to get up early in the morning?

An hour a day would get me to the 10,000 hours milestone in about 27 years, or so I had surmised several decades ago. Often it exceeded an hour and on some days, when the wife was occupied with something other than ensuring I not have too much fun and do my part in shouldering the misery that the real world sans music is, it was well beyond several hours.

I like this thread. Several interesting points have been made.

I agree with the playing versus practicing aspect. Of-course, one has to spend time tackling the tougher elements of technique, but I always felt the going easier if that technique lesson is incorporated into a piece of music, a tune in this case, as opposed to say a robotic repetitiveness.

I also firmly believe that it is up to you to find a solution to the problem, if we can even consider it a problem. Several good suggestions have been made, try those out to see if those could work out for you. (Keeping instruments at hand, exploring different genres, forcing yourself to the five minutes, etc etc).

Over the years, I have tried several of these mind games to provide some semblance of structure to my practice, some moderately successful, others outright failures but oh well, one moves on. On to the next idea - I am indiscriminate. I will take it from someone atop the highest mountain (Kevin Burke, say, to take an example of a fiddler) or from the next peddler of motivational fad voodoo from someone who actually produces nothing but this sort of mid(ful/less)ness for a living. (And aren’t we lucky to live in a time when we have access to so much junk). Whatever works.

Sorry to have babbled on and on (what else is there to do if you find yourself up hours before the crack of dawn … wait a minute, I could be practising).

If the music has really infected you, rest assured, you will find a way to practice and progress. Good Luck.

Re: What to do when practicing feels like a serious drag like having to get up early in the morning?

As someone who is not naturally conscientious, I find it almost impossible to use will power to force myself to get into new routines. But in normal times, I practiced every day without fail at multiple points through the day and if I don’t feel like playing, I think there must be something wrong with me.

Recently, I think it’s been difficult as generally my reasons for playing are to play with or to other people. But in our current situation that is illegal, whence motivation drops. I think many people give up music because essentially they don’t have a personal reason for playing other than an abstract goal of ‘being good at X’, like another line on the C.V. Lot’s of great musicians talk about the purpose of music as communication, and I think if you don’t have outlets for connecting to others via fruits of your practice, (even if its recording for example) your unconscious may be thinking ‘whats the point’ - which is fully understandable these days - although only temporary!

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Re: What to do when practicing feels like a serious drag like having to get up early in the morning?

I’ve had spurts of playing over the last year or so and have even learned a new tune or two.
However, I’m certainly less motivated as there have been no festivals, workshops etc. My local fiddle group doesn’t meet either and there are no "rallies" or concerts for which to practise or learn a new repertoire.

Even regular and occasional sessions encourage you to play and practise too. It’s good to have a few newer tunes and, of course, you pick up a few along the way too. If nothing else, they stop you from getting rusty.

It hasn’t helped that I had been quite ill over December with an ear infection which is still causing me to be deaf in my left ear. Hopefully, this is temporary but I will get used to it if necessary. Certainly, I’m feeling a lot better and more in the mood for knocking out a few tunes over the last few days.

Re: What to do when practicing feels like a serious drag like having to get up early in the morning?

I hope you get a substantial breakfast before practising. I recommend porridge or a big round of toast + cheese or jam.

Re: What to do when practicing feels like a serious drag like having to get up early in the morning?

Kippers!

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Re: What to do when practicing feels like a serious drag like having to get up early in the morning?

Firstly, I’d say get a nice practice instrument that you can keep by your favourite chair, not in a case, but ready to pickup anytime
Then you will find you pick it frequently
I have an old, light, open-back banjo right by my pc, and I pick it up every hour or so and play one set, then back to work
I leave the David Boyle in the case except for performances
To practice often you need to have an instrument to hand - not in a case
Then I just work on on tune/set at a time until I have it - surprising how they add up
🎶🪕😎

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Re: What to do when practicing feels like a serious drag like having to get up early in the morning?

Can I add, no matter how odd they seem, do consider joining/setting up a weekly zoom /Skype session.

I still have the practice bug/doesn’t feel like I need to force myself, but I’m sure this is because I play in at least 2 zoom sessions a week and enjoy the achievement of playing a new tune well and sharing with my online friends.
If I didn’t play in them I’m not sure I’d have the motivation to practice.

It’s not the same as a pub, but it’s all we have and it’s still very fun. I think it’s important to give it a go (if no one has) as it’s important for our mental health we keep this musical spark going until the pandemic is over.

Re: What to do when practicing feels like a serious drag like having to get up early in the morning?

Sir SilverSpear you explained very closely what I have been experiencing for a few months.

When I moved house my mind was focused solely on that but before, and now everything has settled down post move the lockdowns seem to suck out the motivation for most things. I have also had less motivation for work.

I wouldnt say I am really down however it is just an added weight to everything making things more of a drag.

However I do not blame that for my practice issues, just a contributing factor.

Hmm yes thinking on it I believe the getting stuck into the rut of playing the same tunes over and over and in the same order is what does it. New tunes really does inject life back into things.

It is a bit of a conundrum though since sometimes it seems I cannot even play one tune through without tripping after a couple of bars so I think I should ‘hammer out the kinks’ of just a few tunes, but that brings on the ennui. Playing tunes where you can’t play them without stumbling is frustrating too and is its own deterrent.

Having said that I stumbled when I went back to some the ones I thought were my most solid tunes the other day as I had been practicing only reels and I went back to my jigs collection.

If stumbling is a given I might as well do it on tunes I am into be it old ones I come back to or fresh ones.

A few weeks ago I thought my playing was coming along really well and getting quite fluent with my best known tunes but I seem to have gone back several steps lately. It was because, I think, I switched from my comfort zone of a few jigs to solely practicing reels for about a month or more.

Re: What to do when practicing feels like a serious drag like having to get up early in the morning?

"SilverSpear" is no gentleman 🙂.

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Re: What to do when practicing feels like a serious drag like having to get up early in the morning?

‘Sir, that is harsh language…’ Or it would be if one were unaware that Dr. SilverSpear is a lady…

Re: What to do when practicing feels like a serious drag like having to get up early in the morning?

A horse riding, mountain climbing, whiskey drinking ‘lady’!

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