Need motivation for practice? First things first.

Part of the problem of diligent practice, hours a day, carried out over many years, is that it does not feel good. There is a kind of arc which describes your natural tendency to be self-motivated.

  1. When you finally decide to play your instrument seriously, you have a honeymoon kind of motivation. Have fun with this, because it won’t last long.
  2. For the next decade or so, you will not feel very motivated if you are practicing in a serious way, because the improvement you get from purposeful practice does not outweigh the free time and relief you would feel if you were to stop playing in a serious way.
  3. If you stick with it, you get to a point where you are an expert. Your identity is intertwined with music. People recognize you for your achievement, and you finally understand that difficult practice is part of who you are. Also, your brain has actually been rewired to accept this practice as a norm. You will probably keep practicing once you reach this point.

Obviously, trumpeters may need help in the second step. One way is to set aside a dedicated practice time that will nearly always be there for you. The best time is the morning. Many of the best musicians get up early and practice before anything else happens in their day. Even though this practice time could happen later, the chances of some conflict with that later practice period are much higher. Having this dedicated practice time, especially if it is very early, will prove to be tiring, so you may want to take a nap in the midday.

I have benefitted from this motivation strategy perhaps more than any other one thing. I wake up at least one hour before the rest of my family. I have the coffee machine ready to go. I have my practice mute at the ready. It’s funny how this demanding commitment feels so great. It’s pretty close to bliss.

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