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How Not to Hate the Pieces You Are Practicing: A Guide

Anyone who’s ever played an instrument is familiar with the occasional annoyance of practicing. Endless hours of practicing certain techniques, scales and compositions – for a brief moment feeling like you’ve mastered it and can play anything, everything you worked on comes out perfectly, and in the next you find yourself slamming the keyboard (if you play the piano) and wanting to throw your sheet music through the window alongside your metronome because you made four mistakes in just one bar. 

Yes, we’ve all been there.
It can be quite the emotional rollercoaster.

To be fair, there is no magic formula on how to stop hating the pieces you are practicing, and there’s no magic potion that will suddenly make you eager to practice and adore each piece in front of you. However, there are things you can do to make it a bit easier.  

So, if and when you feel like this:

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Take a step back  

When you drift off and lose track of what you’re doing, yet for some reason persevere in  practicing and torturing yourself (if you are a musician, there’s probably a masochistic inclination in you, let’s be frank), take a step back and take a break. Go dance, watch an episode of your favourite tv show, sleep, meditate – or just stare at a dot on the wall because you’re too exhausted to do anything else. But take a break – because there is no point in hammering away an unproductive practice session.  

Watch great performers 

One of the things I always found helpful is watching how some of my favourite performers played the piece I was practicing. It always encouraged me to persevere in my efforts and return to my instrument to continue practicing.
While you watch such a performance, try and notice how the musician is playing the parts you find really difficult – either technically or musically, and try to immitate or integrate it into your own technique– a certain position or movement of the hands, or the way they lead and tell the story of the composition. You can learn a lot by simply observing. Seeing your favorite performers play challenging pieces is guaranteed to aid you in overcoming the inherent aversion to said pieces. Additionally, it will certainly make practice time more stimulating and entertaining.

Free online lessons 

YouTube nowadays offers a variety of tutorials on all sorts of things, thus tutorials on how to apply certain techniques on certain instruments are no exception. For example, pianist Josh Wright has videos on his YouTube channel with verbal and practical instructions on how to improve and perform certain techniques, pieces, or how to find and form your stylistic expression, as well as how to find inspiration and motivation when you are in a rut – and he does it in a manner that inspires you to grab your instrument and start practicing, 

So, go online, find what you need, be open-minded, listen carefully, and ideally – utilize what you’ve learned. 

Remind yourself why you are doing it 

The pressure to play pieces seemingly out of your technical league can be rather stressful. It helps to remind yourself that you are doing it because you want to improve your performance skills and technique, and reach a milestone in your practice where you’re actually enjoying playing the music. Or simply convince yourself you have to do it now and be done with that piece so you never have to lay eyes on that sheet of music again. 

As stated previously, there is no magic wand that will whisk away your aversion to certain pieces – you have to do the work.
Be your own inspiration and motivation in pursuing your dreams. Or in aiming for a perfectly executed composition. The choice is yours.  

Now go and practice.