What is it that motivates you to play the guitar, or do anything for that matter. Is it wanting to be like your favourite guitarist? Is it the need to make your own music? Are you doing it to get girls (people do try this, you’ve all seen ‘that guy’ at parties) is it the feel, the sound or the look? Whatever it is that makes you want to play the guitar, the real question is what gets you to REALLY practice the guitar. We all love picking up our instruments and playing, for what ever reason. But when it comes to playing in a deliberate way that will make you a better player, it seems to take a bit more effort and motivation.
Why is this?
There are different reasons for different people I guess. Not enough time, it’s boring. I’m already good enough. These are all poor excuses, even the last one. We all have room to improve, and if we are ‘good enough’ then we need to keep our standards up. Playing the same thing everyday will not keep you sharp, and will not help you develop as a player. The trick to keeping motivated when practicing is to keep your end goal in mind. Put a poster or massive sticky note on you wall, set an alarm with a message of you saying ‘play harder’ or maybe ‘how did that sound’, book yourself in to an open mic night etc, whatever it takes.
Even with this constant reminder you still have to learn how to practice properly to get the most out of every session. Playing scales up and down mindlessly has very little benefit (unless you enjoy doing only scales) and may bore you to tears very quickly. So get out your guitar, and set an intention for that session. Without a clearly defined intention or goal you have nothing to achieve. Then when playing your scales or technique, you have to focus on very small and specific things in your playing that you want to improve. This can be things like how relaxed your hands are. how synchronized they are. trying different sequences (always fun), what is you tone like. are you playing in time with the metronome (you had better be playing with a metronome!!!). Doing this will help identify where things are going wrong quickly and let you fix them.
So you are now paying close attention to what you are playing and you have worked out all the kinks, and have nailed it once. DO IT AGAIN!!! AND AGAIN!!! AND AGIN!! Yep, reputation is key to learning. When I get students to learn the notes in a scale I get them to ‘Say then Play’. First you read the note, then you say the note, then you play the note. This is because the brain has to build up networks in layers. You do it once and it is in your short term memory, you’ll be able to remember and repeat the task or information for a short while. With reputation the brain cements this knowledge into the long term and working memory. This way you ‘Know’ what you have learnt and don’t have to work it out again.
And that is my goal when I practice now. I want to “know” my stuff. I don’t want to have to think for a second while playing. I just want to enjoy the music and have the ability to express the emotions I choose to express, not just string a bunch of stuff together that sounds OK if I’m lucky. Because playing should be fun, not a torment. There’s time for thinking about music and time for playing it. So find what motivates you, immerse yourself in it and use it to focus your practice so that you can be at your best and enjoy your music more.
So what motivates you?