Feel your motivation flagging at the thought of yet another dreary practice session? Your instrument starting to pick up dust?

Never fear! We’re living in a brave new age of gurus, and there’s a solution-head out there for every spiritual and practical problem that ails’ ya.

Here’s a shortlist of techniques and approaches from trusted authorities in the science of motivational dynamics, hand-picked by yours truly to help you dispel those blues, and set you on the path to peak performance!

Dr. Pavlov’s (Re)Move approach

pavlov pooch

A classic! Used by all standing armies of the world. And evil geniuses too.

It works like this. First, you deprive yourself of something that you instinctively need. Then you enter into a pact with yourself that you’ll only fulfill that need when you’ve gotten around to accomplishing that important task you’ve been so woefully neglecting.

In our case: practicing our instrument.

Example: deprive yourself of your favorite food. If you’re supremely lazy, deprive yourself of a food you can’t do without, such as water, or coffee. Practice until dehydrated. Then reward yourself with a much-needed beverage.

Repeat until famous.

The official theory: behaviorism, esp. classical conditioning. Some of its fanciest words are: conditioned-reflex response to behavioral stimulus (I’m riffing, here).

Caveat: if this method doesn’t work, and you start to feel like a demoralized rat stuck in a cage, at least you can take comfort in the fact that you’ve become very good at manipulating yourself.

Dr. Loyola’s Seven Lively Virtues approach


Speaking of instincts, doesn’t your repudiation of discipline have everything to do with succumbing to your base instincts?

No cure for that, mate: biology is destiny! you say.

Don’t be so rash. Ever heard of righteous self-denial, or leavened grace? What about celibacy? Or HLCHFPI?

Following the percept of Papal Infallibility, Dr. Loyola and his Society of Jesus (otherwise known as the Jesuits) offers a rigorous program for combating what top Catholic theologians call the Seven Deadly Sins.

In Latin, the acronym for the sins (that keep you from practicing) is SALIGLIA, which stands for Superbia (pride/vanity), Avaritia (greed/avarice), Luxuria (lust), Invidia (envy/jealousy), Gula (gluttony), Ira (wrath/anger) and Acedia (sloth).

The countervailing virtues actively promoted by the Jesuits are summarized by the acronym HLCHFPI, which stands for (don’t ask me what these mean in English, ok?): Humilitas, Liberalitas, Castitas, Humanitas, Frenum, Patientia, Industria.

So there you have it. From the orthodox Catholic standpoint, it all comes down to SALIGLIA vs. HLCHFPI. And guess which of the two is easier to pronounce?

Caveat: Though it’s easy to associate the Jesuits with a life a discipline and self-denial, they’re pretty sensitive about being mixed up with Opus Dei. Be careful!

Dr. Spock’s Baby Whispers approach


Dr. Benjamin Spock, that is. Not Mr. Spock.

In stark contrast to the Jesuits’ disciplinary outlook, the highly influential (and controversial) methods of Dr. Spock have long promoted the view that a more “permissive” and “attentive” approach to childrearing, may paradoxically yield more self-directed and self-confident adult personalities.

So it goes for music skill acquisition. Assuming your music learning project is in its infancy, what seems the best approach to take?

Follow the precepts of Dr. Spock. Lavish your maternal instincts onto your instrument. Be constantly attentive to its every need. When it cries, pick it up. Also: reward it with gleeful applause for the simplest of accomplishments. Finally, truly learn to listen to your instrument, and don’t assume that a lack of sound is an absence of potential musicality!

And please, don’t let it sleep in its’ case: cuddle with your instrument in bed at night. Make sure your partner is supportive: it’s a little person’s future that’s at stake!

Caveat: be careful not to confuse Dr. Spock with Dr. Phil. That guy’s a Dr. Spock impostor sent by the Jesuits to get America back down on its knees!

Dr. Doppelgänger’s Outsource It! approach

SL guitar

Just another way of saying that you can program your digital avatar to do all the practicing for you in Second Life.

Or: let every musician who’s ever recorded a worthy note or track provide you with the musical materials to mix with you machine-generated beats.

If you’re a DJ.

Better yet, you can follow Tim Ferriss’ advice and outsource your practice routine for $5.00 a week, while you sip strawberry daiquiris on some beach in Thailand.

Dr. Freud’s Nimble Fingers approach

what’s on man’s mind

In this approach, everything little thing you do in life, every object you use, every innocuous preference you express toward someone or something, is but a thinly veiled substitute for projections of your sex and death drives.

Death drive!?! Well, that’s the part I don’t really understand with Freud.

But sex drive? Man, if we had to distill the lessons from a century of advertising into a single formula, it surely would be this! Take it from Edward Bernays, Freud’s nephew and the inventor of PR, who taught women to equate smoking with freedom, without them being aware of it, thanks to the magic of sublimated sexual desire in advertising.

On the music front: doesn’t this “projection of your sex drive” business clarify your choice of instrument, and the reason why you love/hate to practice it?

Why is it strange to think of drummers practicing their kits? What are pianists really doing, going up and down that keyboard? And what about the harp, its peculiar shape, and the delicate plucking technique of its finest practitioners? Tuning? Ergonomics?

Wind instruments? Don’t get me started…

So there you have it: why do all those lead guitarists play their axe so fast? Why did Toscanini buck around on his grand stand, with that white stick flailing about? Why did Jimi Hendrix set his guitar on fire, and Pete Townshend smash his at the end of every concert?

According to Herr Dr. Freud, practicing your instrument is a sublimated form of masturbating.

You got it! Go nuts!

2 thoughts on “5 expert ways to turbo-charge your practice routine

  1. Very interesting read, I think their would be a lot of mixed opinions on this. Love the theme that you are using, what is it?

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