We all go through periods of time in which we feel like we couldn’t possibly suck anymore than we do. This of course, is a mental thing. In most cases we really don’t suck. It’s just a natural thing to occasionally plateau in whatever you do, whether it be music, sports, or life in general. There isn’t much of a way to avoid this, so we must come up with strategies to break down that wall we will all inevitably hit. For the purposes of this post, I will be discussing this from the point of view of a musician.
A primary reason why we plateau in our playing as musicians, is because we tend to fall into a monotonous routine of practice. How can we combat this? Creativity! Find new and innovative ways to practice that you have never thought of before. That way, you won’t get bored by repeating the same exercises every single time you practice.
I tend to hit walls quite often, especially when I’m in the middle of preparing for something really big, important, and overly emphasized like All State, for example. These past few weeks of All State preparation have been pretty hard because of this, not to mention that general feeling of “oh crap, auditions are in less than a month.” Last week however, I came up with an idea inspired by my flute teacher. She told me that writing things down really helps in the process of practicing, so I decided to try it out. Looking through the drawer of school supplies at my house, I found an unused composition notebook to use as my “Practice Journal.”
Ever since then (a grand total of 5 days ago), I have recorded everything that I have practiced with great detail. I know you may be thinking that this sounds stupid, but I assure you, it is not. In fact, I have benefited from this in two ways. The first, is that I am able to remember what I practiced the day before and build off of that, rather than repeating the same routine of practice every day. The other way that I gain from this, is that it pushes me to pay attention to detail. I don’t simply play through all my scales. I play through a particular scale a certain amount of times, paying attention to every single specific detail. By then recording this in my journal, I can learn from the work I have done.
The next time you feel like a crappy player stuck behind a huge brick wall, take a deep breath, you probably don’t suck as much as you think you do. Find a new way of going about what you are working on. Change things up so that you don’t fall into that monotonous routine. Maybe a practice journal is exactly what you need to send that wall crashing down!