You know what? Musicians hate practicing sometimes. Yup. You heard me. HATE. IT.
On our worst days, the thought of leaving the comfort of the couch to go repeat that stupid hard part one more stinkin' time when we're completely exhausted is enough to bring us to tears. "Just gonna skip tonight," we think. But a gig looms, so we drag ourselves to the practice space. We reluctantly start to warm-up. The sounds and the deep breathing and the stretching and the smell of the carpet and the familiar crack in the wall we always seem to focus on...they gently guide us into the space where we've had so many wonderful experiences before. Slowly, we start to feel better. We remember how much we love this stuff.
Then we hit that phrase. Clunk. Back down to earth. We trip on it again and again. We isolate it. Slow it down. Still fumbling. Okay, slower. Head's too far forward. Relax lower abdomen for deeper breaths. Release the shoulders. Ah...it finally smooths out. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Speed up a bit. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Speed up more. Remember the head. The breath. The shoulders. Speed up again. Fumble. Fumble. Fumble. Ugh. No better than yesterday. We leave feeling defeated and frustrated.
These days won't happen often, but they do happen. The most important thing I've learned is that I MUST get back in the practice room the next day when I have a day like this. Despite the voices that try to tell me I can't do it, that I'll never get it, and that I'm not cut out for this stuff, I have to get back in there. Because the truth is that the only way to get beyond those kinds of days is to keep having them until something finally gives. It always does. You'll never know exactly when you'll finally break through, but you must believe that it's coming.
As long as you are practicing regularly, you will improve. Put people in your life who will tell you this when you can't believe it for yourself. If your teacher tells you you can't get better, find a new teacher. Parents: you must believe that your kids will improve and that they need regular practice to do so. "Talent" will neither inspire them to practice nor make the practicing any easier. If anything, it can make them feel like failures when they can't magically get that hard part. They need your voice to tell them that it's worth it when they can't believe it on their own. Adults: join an artist support group so you can hear fellow artists telling you the stories about how they kept moving through the desert and finally made it to the other side. Read books like The Artist's Way, Daring Greatly, and Daily Rituals to help you see that others have shared your struggles and that you will improve.
You're not alone when practicing feels like a chore.
You're not alone when you feel like it didn't improve that day. Or the next. Or the next.
You're not alone when you can't fix it all by yourself.
So go get back in that practice room. Music is worth it.