Sunday, November 1, 2015

A Musician's Guide for Banishing Blocks, Unlocking Locks & Generally Getting Unstuck

Is your music driving you crazy?

In her lesson last week, a student struck the perfect "This music is driving me crazy!" pose, and I couldn't resist asking if I could take her picture (above) for my blog.  She kindly agreed, and then she and I began a conversation that led to this post!  I assured her that she was not alone and described how common it is for musicians to feel like they are facing insurmountable musical obstacles when, in reality, progress is usually moments away. This post is dedicated to helping YOU figure out how to banish blocks, start unlocking locks, and generally get unstuck from whatever musical challenge you are facing!

1. Complain Specifically.  
Saying or thinking things like, "this passage is ridiculous," "my brain seriously isn't working today," or "this music is killing me," is about as unproductive as it gets!  Instead, complain specifically in ways that identify your block.  Say or think things like "it will take ridiculous amount of muscle memory to play this passage up to tempo," "I am going to need some serious mental clarity to play this," or "this music is full of tricky passages and incredibly long phrases." This way, your complaints can help you choose the kind of practice strategies you will need instead of labeling the situation as hopeless. 

For a more in depth look at complaining specifically, try reading How To Convert Complaints Into Practice Productivity!

2. Turn Up The Beat.  
So often, feeling blocked tends to exist in a world that is either devoid of the metronome or feeling pressured by the metronome.  Instead of playing alone or forcing a tempo, try enjoying your favorite music as an unconventional alternative to the metronome.  It may not be in the perfect key or perfect tempo, but playing along with music you like from a different genre facilitates new perspectives, enhanced momentum, and a surprising relief from the daily musician grind.  

To read more about practicing with music from different genres as your metronome and/or inspiration, try The Best Bad Practice Advice You'll Ever Get!

3. Get Back To Basics. 
Feeling stuck is usually aggravated by an unrefined sound, uninspired breathing, and sluggish technique.  Instead of staring at the same page of music or attempting the same passage over and over again without encouraging results, get a fresh start by returning to your favorite fundamental exercises.  When your sound is singing, your breathing is flowing, and your technique is in the zone, you can return to your musical challenge with a renewed energy, ready to accomplish great things!

If you are a flutist wanting to renew your sound, breathing, and technique, try my Free Epic Warm-up.  I've come to rely on this warm-up to get me feeling and playing my best!

4.  Turn Your Blocks Into Locks. 
Just like writer's block, musician's block can feel like a very real obstacle, capable of threatening the musician's sense of well-being.  Instead of perceiving difficulties as blocks, try turning them into locks!  When you feel blocked, your practice can seem like a painful, uphill battle, but when your music is simply locked, it's time to find the key!  I can't wait for my new book, The Self-Inspired Flutist to be published this spring with my 100 Practice Games for unlocking your music, but until then, just remember this tried and true idea:

Repetition Is The Key That Unlocks The Music! 

When you force repetitions, feeling disheartened every time your attempt "doesn't work," you are simply using the wrong key.  When you realize that every patient, optimistic repetition gets you closer and closer to THE key to your music, you will hang in there and keep searching until you find it!

To learn about a few practice games that help unlock your music, try reading How To Learn New Repertoire: Part 2. 

5. Try Love Instead of Fear. 
Let's face it. If you're truly feeling blocked or stuck, you are swimming in the fear that you're not good enough to tackle the challenges your music is bringing to you.  In music, attitude is not just half the battle, it's 99% of the battle!  Instead of feeling frustrated, angered, or hopeless, try creating an atmosphere of determination, encouragement, and hope instead!  Trying the same passage 10 times in a spirit of defeat yields results that are full of defeat.  Trying a passage 10 times in a spirit of optimism, curiosity, and eagerness yields results that are the complete opposite of feeling stuck.  Try love instead of fear to get your music flowing again!

To read my love letter to practicing, click HERE.    

In summation (and as you've probably already figured out), I don't believe musicians should ever have to feel stuck.  If your music is driving you crazy, take a deep breath, remember why you love music in the first place, and find a way to get unstuck!

Happy Practicing!

Terri S├ínchez