The Practice Slump

Writers and composers have writer’s block, and painters have slumps of their own, but what about a musician who can’t practice?  What kind of block is that?

I feel like I’ve almost lost my love of practicing.  Yes….I know….we all have days….but it’s been several months, and I just can’t focus.  I sit down, and I have a plan.  I’m going to practice this passage.  I’m going to do it this many times, with this many variations, until I get it even and up to so-and-so speed, etc.  Yet, pretty soon, about 20 minutes in, I take a small break, and all of a sudden, I find myself thinking about something else, and I become distracted, and I sit for 30 minutes doing inane tasks.  40 minutes after that, I look around myself, and realize I have put down the bassoon, and wasted whatever practice time I had set aside for myself.

My teacher always says “You’ll be surprised what you can do in 10 minutes”, but by the end of the day, I just feel unaccomplished and unfocused, which makes it harder to pick up the bassoon the next day and start all over again.

Maybe I just feel unfocused in life, or maybe I’m just doing too many things at once.  That’s no excuse.  What is funny about the whole thing, is I used to be incredibly unhappy with my life, and practice all the time.  Now, I’m quite content with my existence, but I have no focus or motivation to practice.  Where’s the drive I used to have?  Where’s the ambition and motivation?

I’ve also noticed a lack of fire when it comes to the music I’m playing.  My first recital is in June, and I like the pieces I’m playing, but nothing really strikes me.  Nothing excites me.  This isn’t like me, but I don’t really know what to do about it.  lol.  I’m at a loss.  Anyone have any advice?

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One thought on “The Practice Slump

  1. Everyone goes through slumps. It takes great physical effort to practice, and motivation doesn’t come easily. I have read your posts about how much you love the bassoon, and I know that with deep passion comes also its opposite at times. It is impossible to remain “plugged in” all the time. Don’t beat yourself up over it.

    My prescription would be to practice scales and arpeggios very slowly with the metronome for about 20 minutes, and then put the bassoon away. Let your mind wander. Read a magazine while you do it, or set up a slide show on your computer. You will know that you have done something that is necessary in order to stay in shape. Perhaps you need 30 minutes, or perhaps 30 minutes will simply pass. Don’t try to accomplish anything. Don’t even think about enjoying anything (though when you make a beautiful sound, you might get a ping of enjoyment). Then put your instrument away and go for a walk, or do some non music related work.

    You might feel motivated to pick up your instrument later in the day, or you may not. if not, just do the same thing tomorrow. When the mood strikes to really practice (and it will), practice.

    Send me an e-mail, and I’ll send you some PDFs of bassoon music you might like and probably don’t know. elainefine@gmail.com

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