How to Get Motivation Back to Practice Violin Non-Stop

by Michael Sanchez November 15, 2017

How to Get Motivation Back to Practice Violin Non-Stop

I wanted to write this article for the purpose of inspiring violin players or any musicians around the world that stumble across unforeseen challenges with progressing the violin. 

Many times what happens is students start off with lots of emotion when first learning the violin (which inspires practice and learning), but this dies off as they start to see challenges with practicing, failures with progress and their inability to see the bigger picture of what they are trying to accomplish.

This whole concept relates to why so many people start practicing hours and hours in the first month or year of learning the violin and then eventually find excuses to leave the violin alone, and possibly quit all together.

This doesn't have to happen if you understand what is happening - by taking the right steps you will get back to your excited state of learning violin which is most likely the way you were (or child was) when first starting violin. 

You can start getting motivation back, and this article will tell you exactly how to do it. 

Establish a Long-Term Emotional Goal

One of the things that can inspire any musician to practice and enjoy the process of learning a musical instrument is to have a long-term emotional goal. The reason why this is important is that without any sort of vision of what you are trying to accomplish, this can make short-term goals and practicing that much harder and demotivating.

If you establish (or re-establish) a reason why you are trying to progress on the violin (your long-term goal), this can create a sense of utopia that will make short-term challenges easier to understand and in turn will create less emotional short-term pain and demotivation. 

Think about why you got started with the violin in the first place - that emotional feeling of thinking what you might be able to accomplish (before getting bogged down by the steps) was what got you so excited to practice and learn in the first place.

So many people find reasons to rule-out long-term goals for various reasons or possibly don't ever establish a long-term goal in the first place. 

Here are some ideas of long-term goals that you could have related to playing the violin. They are certainly not limited to these: 

1. Being able to play in an orchestra someday.

2. Being totally competent to read challenging sheet music.

3. Having the ability to sight read fun challenging pop music.

4. Learning a song that you've always wanted to learn even though it is far out of your ability level range now. 

5. Having the confidence to play in a recital or play for others.

6. Being able to play in a church group or weekly jam session. 

7. Getting your child to the skill level of being able to join a music program.

With these long-term goals in mind, you can always have the thought that every minute you are spending time practicing (or encouraging your child to practice), you are working towards a long-term goal - and the thought of achieving one of those emotional goals is exciting.

This is going to help you get through some of the grueling days of practicing because you love the thought of one-day being able to achieve one of your long-term goals - and the important thing is to understand you CAN do it. There really isn't anything you can't do if you put your mind to it and take the right steps towards it a long-term goal. 

Don't ever let yourself think you can't achieve any long-term goal. Even a 89 year old student I had a few years ago (who had never learned violin before) put out of his mind that he was too old to play the violin. His long-term goal of playing in church was finally achieved because he ruled out the mental block of him thinking he couldn't do it. This is the type of mentality that led him to results - and similarly anyone else can take progression towards a long-term goal if they start being more confident and aware that motivation comes from within. 

Identify Weaknesses Related to a Long-Term Goal

Based on what you chose regarding a long-term goal, there are going to be mental and physical challenges that will come your way no matter how much we would love to just be able to accomplish them. 

What many people don't realize is that achieving long-term goals is not always a physical challenge that will just take tons of practice. Many times it is an emotional challenge within yourself that needs to be identified and worked on - or something related to confidence that needs to be overcome. These are considered weaknesses that I've seen so many players have time and time again. 

For example, if you are wanting to play in a symphony orchestra someday, it can be rather overwhelming to think how many hours of practice you would have to put in to get to that goal that seems so far away (or even unattainable). But what you might not realize is that part of the problem isn't just the amount of time you think you don't have or the amount practice you would need to achieve the goal, but also the mental belief that you could ever get there.

Many people don't see that any long-term goal has steps associated with it, and without seeing the path - you have already failed before even starting to go towards the steps - it really starts with the mind. 

Overcoming the Common Misperception of Inexperience or Age

I had a 62 year old student who started as a beginner a few years ago that never thought she would do anything other than dabble on the violin and see where it got her. To her, it was either deciding she wasn't good enough to play the violin, or getting to the point where she could maybe continue playing in the comfort of her basement (with no one else being able to hear her but herself). She had the mindset of giving herself a month or two and then evaluating herself from there. 

This student only saw the short-term goal of just being able to play the violin as her challenge - and it took some time to help her see that even with no prior musical experience, she did have the ability to think bigger and see the steps that she would be able to work towards an atainable goal she never would have thought was possible.

This student deep down loved the thought of joining a symphony orchestra. She loved going to classical music concerts and seeing master players like Joshua Bell perform - and she loved the thought of being in one of those seats up on stage accommodating a master performer. Deep down she loved the thought of being in any sort of orchestra, and that is what got her to the state of deciding to call me for lessons.  

During the first few lessons, it was obvious that this student had an emotional block related to believing in herself. Instead, all she could think about was her being able to learn the basics of playing the violin and she concluded early on that nothing else was possible or worth thinking about.

Even though deep down she loved the thought of joining an orchestra, the perception of being a part of that could never be a long-term goal in her mind because she labeled herself as never becoming good enough based on her age, challenges she had been seeing with practice, and her instinct of comparing what she would have to do compared to what others have done to achieve that goal.

As her teacher, I helped give this student the confidence that it wasn't as hard as she might think - and it was just a matter of her getting to a certain ability level for her to join a small adult orchestra first, and then building the skill to eventually move up once she got into the program.

The perspective that I gave her helped her see is that the path to her long-term emotional goal would start by working towards getting her into an adult amateur orchestra first through skill level preparation, building some skill in the 3rd violin section, then moving up to the second violin section and then eventually to the first violin section.

To her even getting into an orchestra was a unattainable goal, but I told her the ideal was for her to understand that getting into the 3rd violin section was something that was attainable in the short-term, and that just getting in would help her progress towards the ultimate goal of joining an advanced symphony orchestra in the future.

Once she got this realization, I couldn't believe how hard she started working towards the goal - it was like a brand new player emerged and she couldn't wait to come to her weekly lessons to get more and more help. 

This student after 2 years was able to shift into 3rd and 5th positions, was able to play competently out of Suzuki book 4, and was able to play fast enough to have the skills to keep up with the speed of playing songs with an amateur orchestra. After her 3rd year, she was finally in a position where I recommended for her to audition for the adult orchestra that would probably allow her in based on her skill level at the time.

Even with no experience 3 years prior, she was able to get into the orchestra and ever since has been progressing farther and farther towards her goal - she now is a member of the same adult orchestra but is in the 1st violin section! Her confidence has soured and she really doesn't need me to pull more of the confidence out of her to move forward - she is just on the track and loves every minute of it. 

What I wanted to show here is that many students of all ages have mental blocks that limit their ability to progress towards a long-term emotional goal. When you are convinced it's just a matter of taking one-step at a time towards a long-term goal, it will inspire you to practice more and love the track of doing something that will make you super happy in life related to playing the violin. 

Isn't that more exciting to think about compared to stumbling and butchering easy songs that you feel you should be doing so much better on in the short-term?

For this student I talked about, I would say her weaknesses were the thought of feeling she was too old to achieve a goal of joining a symphony orchestra, the mindset it would take too much effort, and the unseen vision that with continued practice she could eventually get to the ground level of achieving her goal. Once she got over this and established a long-term emotional goal, it definitely made practicing more of a joy for her and playing the violin was a much more enjoyable experience. 

Correlate Short-Term Goals with Long-Term Goals

My encouragement for you as a student or parent of a young student is to think big regarding goals and then identify short-term steps to help get there. These steps can be outlined by the guidance of a experienced teacher - but certainly not limited to getting a teacher to help.

Sometimes it's just believing in yourself and working on mental stability and confidence - technically this is something you could talk to with your therapist or personal counselor about. 

Don't let a mental block disallow you to feel like you are not good enough to progress towards a goal. Having the confidence you can go towards whatever it is you want to achieve is going to make you a better player and make it easier to develop the violin more into your daily life. Sometimes these are the things that can help out more than anything else in creating a fun experience for you, and developing you into a solid, long-term player. 

Just like you would look forward while driving a car (and not straight into your lap while driving - yikes), it is important to keep your head up. Anyone can achieve any goal associated with the violin no matter how old you are, how much lack of experience you have or anything else - you just have to understand that just like driving a car, it takes some time and vision to get there. 

Don't have your head straight down when trying to get to your destination. The more you look up the more you will be amazed at what you are able to achieve and before you know it, you'll be doing something specific that will define who you are. I've seen so many people achieve goals they thought were unattainable at first and it has been such a rewarding experience to see first-hand how much this positive influences people's lives. 

Michael Sanchez
Michael Sanchez


Michael teaches both the violin and fiddle in Grand Rapids, MI and is the author of the learning resource "Fiddle for Dummies," sold in bookstores worldwide. Michael is the CEO of Violin Tutor Pro, a website dedicated to helping students learn the violin, as well as Superior Violins, a digital store dedicated to helping students find quality violins.

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