The psychology of practicing : LUSENET : Everything About Teaching and Learning the Piano : One Thread

I'm interested in anyone's thoughts or reference about what sustains muscians through lengthy practice sessions over many months and years. Ideally, the love of music is the driving force to keep a person at their intrument for hour after hour. I suspect that other motives often are present, though. Competitive drives ( "I want to be the best pianist in the school/town/world"), narcissistic wishes ( "I see myself bowing to thunderous applause at Carnegie Hall"), depressive withdrawal ("I can't stand people right now so I think I'll practice that Chopin for the next twelve hours") are a few of the other motives that I think can sustain people through the long lonely hours. I don't intend to suggest that these are as negative as they might seem at first blush. Complex motives can be put to good ends and I would say that if any of the psychological states that I mentioned resulted in better musicianship, it would be a healthy sublimation.

As I said, I'd be interested in anyone's personal "sustaining thoughts or fantasies" or in any references to this aspect of the fascinatin world of Practicing.

Regards, Mars Boyce

-- Mars Boyce (, April 12, 2001


To glorify the Lord's name, because He gave you the great talent of MUSIC.

-- Vipercat (, April 13, 2001.

Mars, What keeps me practicing away for hours and hours, is basically all what you suggested: I sit and dream as I play of becoming a world- famous concert pianist (tho I hate performing! ;), and when I'm really happy or extremely sad (like now, since my Kitty was put to sleep a week ago:( I play either happy pieces or sad, melancholy ones. (such as Chopin; his pieces are perfect for those moments.) So, does that answer your question? :)


-- Julie (, April 18, 2001.

Julie, Thanks so much for your heartfelt and honest answer. I'm sorry to hear about your Kitty. There is often no better therapy when one's soul is aching then to lose one's self in music that expresses emotions beyond words. Isn't that a fascinating contradiction that you point out. Despite the fact that you hate performing you dream of being a famous concert pianist. One would think that imagining doing something that one hates would be a deterent to sustained praciting but I guess that's what makes us such interesting creatures. Luckily, in our own practice world, we can create it to our own wishes with performance anxiety put away. Another motive that I think often comes into play is Identification. Often a close relationship with another important person fosters a feeling of wanting to be like that person. It can be toward a famous person(I want to be just like Horowitz) but often, and I think most relevantly to this bulletin board, toward a teacher. I remember an early teacher of mine who communicated a real interest in me as a person and as a young student who seemed so,well, as he shared aspects of his professional experiences with me. A little hero worship went along way in keeping me at my instrument in my attempts to emulate him. Teachers keep this in mind when developing young students. Ideally, you want students to move beyond this type of non-musical distraction, but a little infatuation is yet another drive that can sustain interest that might otherwise flag.

Further regards, Mars

-- Mars Boyce (, April 18, 2001.

I practice for hours and hours because i have a recital next week. eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeekkkk!!!!!!!!! also, out of habit.

-- Julie2 (, April 20, 2001.

Julie2, So can we add fear as a driving motive as well? Don't worry. You'll do fine. Mars

-- Mars Boyce (, April 20, 2001.

Because it's my job, and I'll not earn enough to live on if I don 't practise. Ihat's mercenary and prosaic, but unfortunately true for many musicians I think.

-- Gary Anderson (, July 23, 2001.

I dream of becoming a concert pianist also, but I HATE performing haha. It's because I have stage fright, and I've tried everything to get over it but can't. I was almost about to pay 500 dollars for hypnotist to put me in a trance that would cure me.

-- Zeldah Hanson (, July 23, 2001.

I spend Hours on end at the Keys because I dream, one day, that I'll actually be able to call myself . . "good". I simply want to be a damn good pianist! And practise is just about the only thing that'll get me there. Lot's of it! So, that's what I do. Yet, at the same time, I don't keep trak of the time while practising a lot of the times. I just get on there and play away until I feel myself loosing focus. Then I get up and do something else without even regarding the time. I only pay attention to "how long" I've practised when I set a time limit (probably because I have something else to do immediately afterwards; appointment, TV show, etc). Other than that . . . .My Desire Fuels My Practise Sessions! ! !

-- Call Me K.C (, December 29, 2001.

Mars, very interesting discussion. I have always loved to practice. I just finished my Masters recital in performance, so that was a big motivation. I like performing, it is a complete and total thrill. Practice is my own time, similiar perhaps to mediation. It allows me to think and sort through life emotionally and mentally. I like the way it feels to play the piano. A lot of what motivates me is, like you say, withdrawal from society. A lot is just because it is expected. Most importantly, practice is fun and entertaing, always a challenge. When I was little taking lessons, my mom once told me "You can either practice or clean your room." The choice was always mine.

-- Rachael Fischer (, April 20, 2002.

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