Practice Psychology

There is what to practice, how to practice and getting your butt into the practice room-practice. I want to talk about the latter.

I admit that I am not the world's best practicer by a long shot. There are external and internal forces that make our legs move the rest of our body towards our instrument. I was lucky as a kid because I was trained in one of the best band systems in Canada in the 70s, Ron MacKay's band in Truro, Nova Scotia. Ron set the bar very high for us and showed us to get there. You had no choice, you HAD to practice or you'd look the fool. I was also fortunate to have an excellent private drum teacher, Ed Jardine. That combination of Ron and Ed was a perfect storm of motivation and direction. Those were my external forces. My internal forces were likely my genetics (I remember as far back as possible how moved I felt when music was playing), and perhaps the times I grew up in. There were a lot of bands portrayed on TV shows: Partridge Family, Hudson Brothers, Brady Bunch (they formed a band once), The Osmonds, The Jackson 5. It seemed to me as a kid that forming a band was the thing to do. Arguably, it might have been the time in grade four when my best friend and I would pretend a section of Hot Wheels track was a guitar, put on a Beatles 45 and lip sync while strumming our "guitars" in front of some cute girls from the neighbourhood. Yeah, that's what did it.

The thought of practicing can bring about feelings of dread, anxiety, and depression. After all, you have to face the pain of making mistakes…who wants to willingly go through that? This is why practice time often turns into play time, simply because it's more fun and less stress-inducing. However, you won't improve unless you get better. Allow me to offer a few suggestions that might help if you are the kind who puts off practicing.

1) If you feel anxiety, like you're trapped and want to escape, allow the emotion to exist as a physical sensation. Is there muscle tension somewhere in your torso when you experience fear, for example? Focus on the physical sensation, not the source of the emotion.

2) You do not have to do anything about uncomfortable emotions you feel when you think about practicing. Normally when you feel an uncomfortable emotion, you want to stop it, escape it. Do not. Tell yourself you can think about the emotion later, but right now, you don't have to fix it or do anything about it. Emotions are often like weather, they will pass.

3) If you are keen, keep a record of emotions and results. Take a piece of paper, draw four columns: DATE, EMOTION, TASK, RESULT? Date is obvious so under emotion, write how you are feeling when you consider doing the chore you are tracking. Under "task" put "practice" or any other chore you want to track, and under "result" you will briefly describe what happened (did you actually practice, did you ask the boss for a raise, etc.?). After a while you will notice that how you felt was a lousy predictor of the future (did you get that chore done).

I hope that helps. If anxiety and depression prevent you from enjoying life, I suggest reading:

http://www.amazon.ca/Depressed-Anxious-Dialectical-Overcoming-Depression/dp/1572243635