Are You Stuck In a Rut?
You know what a rut feels like. You ‘re practicing diligently, playing the same piece or the same passage over and over again. You don’t think you’re getting any better. In fact, you’re getting worse.
What do you do?
Throwing your recorder out the window or burning your music might be tempting, but it’s expensive. And when it comes to making you a better musician, it’s not your best option.
Instead, try this action plan for breaking free:
Don’t panic. Falling into a rut doesn’t necessarily mean you are on the wrong track. Ruts and potholes are part and parcel of the road to better playing, and there’s not a musician in the world who doesn’t hit them. A rut is not a reflection of your musicianship or strength of character.
Is it a knot? To me, the practicing process is like brushing hair. You can brush and brush the surface of your hair and think everything is smooth; but you haven’t yet discovered the knots underneath the surface. Snarls that crop up in your practicing likely aren’t new; they’re just knots you’ve finally discovered. Keep untangling with patience and calm.
Change things up. If you feel like you’re banging your head against the wall during your practice, it’s time to switch things up. Fortunately the variety of things you can change about your practice is infinite. Slow your tempo to adagio. Change the rhythm of that tricky passage. Change your start and stop points. Play backwards. Reposition yourself in the room. Or find something new to focus on: Fingers if you’ve been focused on air, articulation if you’ve been focused on fingers.
Step away. Often, a practicing rut is best broken by making an appointment to come back later. When you reach frustration level, take a short break and play something else, returning when your body and mind are relaxed.
Rest- intentionally. Though it seems counterintuitive, sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is to rest. This doesn’t mean giving up or walking away or abdicating. When done correctly, rest is an intentional act. It requires your attention and intention, and when it’s done well, it enables you to return to your instrument itching to play.