I Would Rather Play Music

When I’ve introduced my students to the concepts included in my recent blog Playing Music vs. Practicing Music, many of these students thought my ideas were, how can I say this, stupid.

They have told me that saying you’re “playing” instead of “practicing” doesn’t change anything in the real world.  You still have to put in the time and learn new techniques and new music to improve.

And, they’re right.  Up to a point.

Let’s say you play music purely for fun.  You have no career ambitions and no objective other than to enjoy being a musician.

In this case, part of the fun is to learn new techniques and new music.  Otherwise, you can only play a very limited amount of material and you could easily get bored.  Learning new stuff is actually fun.

Some musicians who do have their sights on a career in music have forgotten this fact and have started to look at playing their instruments as work.

No matter what your musical goals, it’s always good to look at playing your instrument as just that: “play.”

Always remind yourself that you are playing rather than working.  You do this with the language you use to describe playing.

Try this: Read each of the next four sentences out loud and see how each one makes you feel.

“I have to practice my instrument.”

“I have to play my instrument.”

“I get to practice my instrument.”

“I get to play my instrument.”

Interesting, isn’t it?

The first sentence feels like you’re commuting to a job you don’t like … in bad traffic.  The second and third sentences both feel slightly absurd, as if there is a disconnect.  “Have to play” and “get to practice” don’t make sense.

Only the last sentence feels really good, as if you’re lucky to have the opportunity to be a musician.

So, back to the title of this post.  “I would rather play music.”  Most people would rather play than practice.

What you tell yourself DOES matter.  What you expect to happen (and how you expect to feel) when you pick up your instrument creates your perception of practicing.

The first few times you frame your musical activity with such a positive thought, you’ll probably feel a bit awkward and phony.  That’s okay.  After a few days you will feel more natural and have more conviction.

And, the sentence I’ve included here may not work for you at all.  That’s also okay.  Make up your own wording.  Make sure it has a positive connotation and that you truly believe what you’re telling yourself.

Over time, you will change your point of view about practicing, er, PLAYING your instrument and have a more rewarding experience.

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