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Motivating teachers and students in the world of music

Prioritize Your Practice Routine, a Music poster for sale by JW Pepper


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Practice Room Motivation for Musicians of All Ages

How to Motivate Music Students to Practice

One of the primary issues I confront when dealing with students’ music motivation is inertia and its alter-ego, procrastination–the inability to physically enter a practice room facility (too tired; too bored; too busy) with the intention of improving their musical skills and the perpetual postponement of practicing.

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Students often have “good intentions,” but frequently have poor follow-through as regards committing to their practicing.  In essence, they may walk past the practice room without actually entering the door.  They become immobilized and unable to make the necessary personal commitment to practicing.  As I often say, “If you want to be great, don’t procrastinate!”

Don't Procrastinate Music Poster for ClassroomsDon’t Procrastinate Music Poster for Classrooms

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What can be done to override this dilemma?

Firstly, the student needs to take ownership of his or her musical development. Teachers can motivate and inspire students to certain degrees, but ultimately the student needs to “buy in” to the philosophy that they are controlling their own destiny based upon how devoted they are or are not to becoming an excellent musician.

If and when the student embraces this concept, then the issues of hard work; discipline and determination become self-motivators.  This philosophy also applies to younger students, too.  With constant reinforcement and guidance by their teachers on a daily or weekly basis, they become indoctrinated to this mindset and will achieve beyond their expectations.

Hard Work Motivational Wall PosterHard Work Motivational Wall Poster

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However, this approach must be reinforced consistently and without excuses or exceptions.  Students will test teachers, but the teacher, much like a parent, must remain resolute and unwavering in their convictions and approach.Secondly, students need to learn how to enjoy the process of making music–be it practicing or performing.  Obviously, practicing is a necessary prerequisite or prelude to a performance.
If you are not properly prepared to perform your musical selections at the highest possible level, then the overall experience is not a positive one.
Practicing is a necessity  and a positive attitude  is of critical importance during the practice regimen.  If it is fun, you will be inclined to want to practice.  Conversely, if you have a poor attitude, practicing will be sheer drudgery.

Attitude is Everything Motivational PosterAttitude is Everything Motivational Poster

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Ultimately, your mindset is up to  each individual, but it helps if your teacher encourages you to enjoy the practice experience.

Tips for Practicing Music

  1. Incorporate music that is shorter in duration and fun to play into your practice routine.  Not every song has to be overly difficult and long.  Build your repertoire (memorized pieces) with a cross-section of selections that vary in degrees of complexity.  Playing music that you are innately attracted to in various styles and idioms will also motivate you to learn that piece and many others like it.
  2. Pick some songs that enable you to improvise (use your creativity to manipulate the songs harmonic, melodic and rhythmic parameters).  This will also enhance your enjoyment of practicing and making music and may rejuvenate you.
  3. Play some duets with another instrumentalist or vocalist.  Practicing with others can be very invigorating.  Remember: music is a communicative art form that is best shared with others.
  4. Audio or video tape yourself practicing.  It’s not only fun to watch and/or listen to yourself practicing, but it’s also an invaluable educational experience.
Pass this onto fellow teachers and if you have some practice tips please leave your idea below.


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When You Memorize Music

When You Memorize Music, You Mesmerize the Audience

Memorizing music enables you to play and interpret music in a more confident, creative and relaxed manner. When you perform, a music stand is no longer a visual barrier between you and your audience. This enables better communication and interaction to occur between the performer and the audience.

Memorize Music, Mesmerize the Audience Poster

This message is not only true of for music students memorizing a piece for a recital or concert but it is essential for any professional musician. Think about it, how often do you ever see a rock concert, or performer with sheet music on the piano or in front of them? Rarely, if not ever. It is part of the mystic and magic of musical performers, just how do they do that? It is how they mesmerize their audience.

Memorizing music for many is not easy, for others it just comes natural, but it does take time. Once you obtain this skill you are one step further in advancing your journey as a musician. Below are some tips to help you memorize music.

Techniques in Memorizing Music

  1. Break the music down into small increments such as one- and two measure segments.  Don’t go on until they are solidified.  Keep progressing in a similar manner.
  2. Visualize the music.  Don’t just memorize with muscle memory as that is an imperfect system by itself.
  3. Memorize the harmonic (chordal) progression as well as the melody.
  4. Simulate performing the music technically without actually playing your instrument.  The music must be secured within the mind above all.
  5. Sing the music to yourself before actually playing it.  Then repeat the process as often as necessary.
  6. Audio-and videotape yourself performing the music.  Then study it and retain it.
  7. Consider memorizing in reverse order.  Work backwards.
  8. Maintain the memorized music by playing it often enough to keep it fresh and current within your repertoire.  Don’t be forced to relearn what you’ve already learned.
  9. Once memorized, don’t allow yourself to ever use a music stand as a “crutch.”  That’s a cop out and it invalidates all your hard memorizing preparation.
  10. Play the memorized music with distractions–TV on; people talking; etc.  It may help you remain focused during problematic moments within a concert.

Do you have any tips that have worked for you? If so please add them below to add to the list.