April 09, 2015
How To Turn Music Practice Frustrations into Progress
Learning to play an instrument is deeply rewarding, but that doesn’t mean players don’t get frustrated from time to time. Music practice frustrations are common. They can happen to musicians of all ages and skill levels, from K-12 students to professionals who have been playing for decades. So what’s the best way to deal with music practice frustrations?
When players feel frustrated, there are several ways to overcome their aggravation and turn music practice frustrations into progress. Although focus and consistency are important for learning an instrument, the most important thing is to avoid frustration by keeping practice time fun and creative. If a practice session feels like a chore, find ways to make it enjoyable again.
Try these strategies for dealing with music practice frustrations:
- Re-evaluate musical goals and expectations
- Set rewards for practice milestones
- Focus on something new
- Get a practice buddy
- Take a break
Re-Evaluate Musical Goals and Expectations
Unrealistic goals are a leading cause of music frustration. Although it’s important for players to challenge themselves, goals can become damaging if they’re too extreme. Players should assess their musical skills and set their goals appropriately.
When taking music lessons, some players can become very competitive. They may strive to learn an instrument in an unrealistically short time and become frustrated when they don’t meet their goals.
If a player sets high expectations and continuously fails to meet them, it’s time to re-evaluate their musical goals. Slow down, relax, and focus on smaller goals that will be easier to accomplish.
Set Rewards for Practice Milestones
Music practice frustrations can also be eased by setting rewards for practice milestones. This can turn practice time into a game. Using positive reinforcement also encourages players to create good practice habits. Rewards can be an especially inspiring force for younger players.
There are many ways to establish milestones. Some music teachers recommend basing these milestones on total accumulated hours. For example, the student earns a reward after practicing for 10 hours, another reward for 20 hours, and so on. Another option is to set rewards based on mastering specific techniques, such as memorizing scales.
Once the rewards system is established, the player, their teacher, or family members can put a poster board in the practice room to log their progress. Consider using colorful markers and stickers to show the player how close they are to receiving their next reward.
Focus on Something New
Burnout is another common source of music practice frustrations. If players are focusing on the same scales, techniques, or songs for long periods of time, practice time will start to feel very repetitive and boring. Even if they haven’t mastered a particular concept, they can always come back to it later.
To avoid this frustration, focus on something new and different. Learning songs in a different genre can be a great way to do this. For example, if the student has been focused exclusively on classical musical, switch to learning some pop songs or vice versa.
A music teacher can provide many suggestions for new areas of focus, or players can find inspiration online or in song books from their local music retail store.
Get a Practice Buddy
Next, consider getting a practice buddy. Just like having a gym buddy helps motivate people to work out more, a practice buddy will help keep players motivated and excited about their music practice. It’s one of the most effective ways to handle music practice frustrations.
Practice buddies could be other students in the player’s music class, who are all learning the same instrument and focused on the same songs. Then, everyone can practice together. Take turns meeting up at each other’s houses, bring snacks, and turn practice time into a fun social event.
However, practice buddies don’t have to be at the same level as the player. They could be more or less advanced, older, younger, or learning an entirely different instrument. In this case, practicing together might not work, but the player’s practice buddy can help them stay accountable. They can send each other daily reminders and encouragement.
Take a Break
Finally, if a student is experiencing music practice frustrations that they truly can’t overcome, just take a break. Skip music practice for a few days, focus on other activities, and come back to it.
Consistent practice is very important to becoming a good musician. Ideally, players should practice every day. However, taking a break when feeling frustrated is much better than burning out and quitting.
Just make sure this break is planned out and not indefinite. For example, limit the break to a weekend. Otherwise, without plans to return to a regular practice schedule, it can be difficult for the player to get back into their routine.
For more tips about turning music practice frustrations into progress, keep an eye on The Vault.