Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Inspire Yourself to Practice

Inspire Yourself to Practice!

If you are like me, you have days where practicing seems about as much fun as doing the dishes. If you are naturally self disciplined and can simply make yourself practice because you are aware of the short and long term benefits, congratulations. If you are more like the other 99% of the flute population, you need a little help getting in the mood sometimes.

My experience has shown me that doing something because you SHOULD be doing it almost never works in the long run. Ultimately, we spend our lives doing what we want to do. "Should" may work for a while, but a rebellion is probably lurking around the corner. Learn to love practicing and you'll never have to force yourself to do it.

Here are some suggestions for inspiring yourself to practice:

1) Go to the room where you want to practice. Turn on some music that puts you in a wonderful mood. Soft classical, loud hip-hop, Yoga meditations or punk rock - doesn't matter! Whatever makes you feel like the best version of you - turn it on!

2) Dance around, sing along, stretch it out, clean up the room, organize something, open the blinds, light a candle, sharpen pencils - whatever floats your boat. Environment is such a crucial part of practicing. Taking positive steps to wake up your body, mind and even the room can help you reach the right mental state to make beautiful music.

3) If you are a high stress personality, do something that relaxes you. It doesn't have to be flute music related! Play a video game, read a book, watch a TV show, color in a coloring book, make jewelry, paint, knit, sew, bedazzle - do something that relaxes your mind and starts your creative juices flowing.


4) Create positive sensory experiences around your practice. I already mentioned lighting a candle, but perhaps a fresh cup of coffee or aromatic tea could create an intoxicating smell. Have something with cinnamon in it baking in the oven, open a window to smell the fresh breeze, put on some of your favorite perfume or cologne. Smell is such a powerful mood lifter - why not use it to your advantage?

5) If it simply takes you a while to get going, have a variety of warm-ups to choose from so you can pick out one that suits your current mood. Start slow and easy, with no pressure to be perfect. It may take 5 minutes or half an hour, but at some point the "I want to play beautiful music" part of your brain will wake itself up.

6) Be creative - think outside the box! I recently had a student name her metronome. She named it "Boris" and added a moustache and "googly eyes" to it. Her rhythm has improved dramatically since then! My Dr. Beat is named "Helga" (a name used by many flute players in the DFW area) because of the task-master like voice option.

7) Surround yourself with as many practice motivators as possible. Flutists are very lucky because we have a plethora of practice toys available to help us with air direction, breathing capacity, hand strengthening and more! Check out Carolyn Nussbaum's website or Flute World to explore some possibilities.

8) Have "practice boosters" readily available. I often play for about 20 minutes and when I run out of steam, I listen to a few different versions of the piece I am working on with my ipod or youtube, following along with the score and taking notes. I have a book of poetry right beside my practice chair and will flip through it for a break, hoping to spark some emotional energy that I can use to dive back into my practicing.


9) Mix it up! You don't always have to practice at the same time of day in the same location for the same amount of time. My theory is that you can access completely different parts of your brain at 8am with your morning coffee vs. 9pm after watching your favorite TV show. Stand sometimes, sit sometimes, sometimes stand on your tiptoes! The moment you find yourself on "autopilot" it is time to brainstorm some new practice ideas.

Happy practicing!

by Terri Sanchez