Managing Expectations

While mastering a musical instrument, you need to make sure that you’re ready for days when forward momentum is not obvious.  You need to trust the practice process and know that incremental changes are always happening. 

These small changes are leading you closer to your performance goals–but the changes may be too small to notice on a day-by-day basis.

Don’t get down if today’s practice session didn’t reveal any clear results toward your goal.  Your job is to train your muscles, and every exercise and practice loop builds muscle memory. 

Even  though the slow practice that builds muscle memory can feel unrelated to your final vision of performing your music, you must remain confident that you are on the right track.

If you are expecting a breakthrough at every practice session, you may feel let down when it doesn’t happen.  Realize that breakthroughs occur unexpectedly and infrequently.  Actually, that’s what makes them so exciting! 

If you are expecting to go from the initial learning stage to the performance phase during today’s practice session, you may be disappointed.  Performance is the final phase of the practice process, and you can spend many practice sessions not doing run-throughs of your music.  This is normal.  Practicing is different than perrforming!!

So, what can you expect from your daily practice session?

It’s realistic to expect that small problems will be solved.  For instance, a phrase or section of your music that really needs work can be figured out today so that you can play through it accurately–at a very slow tempo.

You can expect to notice a detail in your music that you didn’t realize was there yesterday.  Perhaps you notice a new technique you can use to play s specific section.  Maybe it will be a new phrasing decision.

Noticing these items doesn’t mean you’re ready to perform the whole piece.  But, they lead you closer to the long-term goal.

These are realistic expectations.  You must manage your expectations every day.  Don’t think each practice session will lead you to being “finished” with a piece. 

Daily work done correctly will lead you to your goals.  But, long-term goals (by definition) won’t be met today.

By focusing your expectations on short-term and daily goals, you will have a more fulfilling time at each practice session.  Celebrate the small victories, keep working, and your long-term goals will be reached!

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