In a recent post aimed at helping musicians achieve goals and learn how to practice more effectively, I wrote about the SMART Goal system.

Today’s post focuses on the “R” in SMART.

R = Risky

According to the SMART Goal system, you need to have an element of risk built into your plans.  Without risk, a goal isn’t worth achieving.

At first glance, it seems odd to have a musical goal that is risky.  A risky goal sounds dangerous.  But, putting yourself at risk musically isn’t as much about danger as it is about making sure you’re constantly growing.

Artistic growth comes from working on new material and new techniques.  Whenever you decide to go after something new, you put yourself at risk of failing.  Overcoming this risk and succeeding is what makes your achievement worthwhile.

risks-aheadRisk involves stepping outside of your comfort zone.  You want to push yourself every time you set a new goal so that you’re constantly striving for something you cannot currently do.

I have seen risk used most successfully by my students when their goal includes acquiring a new technique and playing like one of their idols.

For a handful of my advanced bass students this has meant learning “Portrait of Tracy” by Jaco Pastorius, a beautiful and very difficult song utilizing harmonics in every measure.

Some of these students had only rudimentary knowledge of harmonics and had to push their technique to a new level to play this piece.   I could see the fear in their faces when they decided they were actually going to attempt to play this music.  When the process was completed, their faces were full of joy and they exuded a level of confidence that had clearly been missing just a few months before.

It takes courage and determination to overcome the risk of failure.  The payoff is a feeling of self-assurance for musicians who are willing to face this risk.

By following the SMART Goal system, you will include an element of risk in your musical goals and will advance your playing to a whole new level.

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