Five Strategies to Conquer Internal Resistance
Ah, late January. All that New Year’s motivation is starting to wear off, and your resolution is becoming more difficult to sustain. Obstacles are rearing their ugly heads like monsters ready to attack—you overslept, you have a project due, the news hijacked your brain. You’ve plateaued. You lost your drive. This is all normal. They are part of what Steven Pressfield, in The War of Art, calls The Resistance. We resist doing our best work so that we can protect ourselves from the judgment...

A Simple Way to Build Consistency
We’ve all had that passage that seems to defy taming. The one that fuels never-ending frustration and even, at times, rage. You break it down, slow it down, and repeat it until you can play it twenty times in a row. You work it back up to tempo and nail it another twenty times. You even put it back into context, and practice it to death that way, and everything seems to be in working order. But the next day, it seems to go back to where it was before you started: you crack the note, fumble...

A Return to Love
Bronnie Ware, an Australian Nurse, asked her dying patients about their biggest regrets. Coming in at Number One was “I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” It’s a big problem in the creative arts. I sense that most burnout starts with a disconnection, a feeling that what we used to love has been overwhelmed by tasks and expectations. It starts early, when we want to learn a song and we’re given scales and rhythm exercises instead....

How to Clean Up Your Practice Routine
Detritus. Waste. Debris. Flotsam and Jetsam. If you don’t clean your house, it fills up with junk. It doesn’t appear by magic, though. You brought that stuff into your home because at some point you either wanted it, needed it, or it served you in some way. The same is true of our routines, our style of working, even our musical repertoire. Our parents rejoiced when we finally took Hot Cross Buns out of the rotation. Last week we talked about how to create a rock solid habit in the new...

How to Create a Rock-Solid Habit in the New Year
New Years Resolutions have been around for four thousand years, all the way back to the ancient Babylonians. With all that history behind us, you would think we’d be better at them. Luckily for us, the field of psychology has made major progress into understanding habits over the past two decades, and keeping your new year’s resolution has never been easier. Authors like James Clear, Gretchen Rubin, and Charles Duhigg have all brought useful models of positive habit-formation to the public....

Behind every master musician is a team that supports, challenges, inspires, and coaches them to success. Just like a racecar driver has a pit crew to make sure the car is operating at peak performance, no good musician does it all alone. It’s your job to choose the members of your team that will give you the best possible chance of success. To create a web of support that allows you to move forward, shape and guide your practice, motivate you through rough patches, give you skills and...

In the last practice sessions before a high-stakes audition or recital, we focus and put forth our best work. We improve quickly. After it’s over, we relax. When there’s no performance upcoming, we tend to fritter away our time and get little accomplished. That’s natural, but it’s the definition of inconsistency. On the other hand, the pressure of a high-stakes performance can be anxiety-inducing. Keep the pressure up too long, and it can cause a whole host of emotional and motivational...

It’s been a tough year for musicians. No concerts. No ensemble rehearsals. Lessons, if they’ve happened at all, have been distanced. With no one to perform for, deadlines seem artificial and it’s been difficult to keep our practice consistent. It can feel like haven’t been growing. But we have. In this difficult year, we’ve been developing a different set of skills. Resilience. Self-awareness. Emotional management. These are skills that the best musicians and athletes hone as part of...

Time has no meaning. Days flow amorphously into weeks, which seamlessly melt into months. We’ve paused performances and rehearsals have disappeared indefinitely. With so little to prepare for, it can be difficult to muster the motivation and our practice sessions can begin to feel purposeless. Here are some suggestions to bring a sense of purpose and progress back into the practice room and keep you improving through the lean months. Start a project Is there a song cycle or a set of etudes...

You want the doctor with experience, not the one doing his first brain surgery. Nobody wants a first-time pilot, or skydiving instructor, or tattoo artist. Trust comes from a track record. If you have imposter syndrome or stagefright, it’s either because you don’t have the track record yet, or because you keep forgetting about it. In both cases the solution is the same: build your track record until you can’t ignore it anymore.

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