1. Not Having Enough Time
Although I always stress to my students, I don’t need any excuses as to why they didn’t practice, this is the most common one.
This barrier is simply perspective.
Sometimes you may feel like you haven’t got enough time to practice because you think your minimum practice time should be an hour or half an hour.
It’s ok to practice for five, ten or even three minutes at a time.
Doing these short amounts of practice with focus is still better than not doing any practice at all.
When I ask students if they could find five minutes in the day to play their instruments, they always answer that they can.
If you adopt this mindset, you will find you will practice more and feel better about your music.
2. Lack of Motivation – Not Feeling Like It
Sometimes it’s good to have a break from practice, but it’s important to know why you are not playing, therefore reflective practice is essential.
There are many reasons you may enter a period of lacking motivation and once you know why, you will soon be able to fix it.
First, do some reflective practice or talk to your teacher to find out why you feel unmotivated.
Most commonly, lack of motivation is due to not having any goals for your music or having unrealistic expectations of what your progress should be.
So, start by setting some realistic goals for yourself, one that you can achieve in a single practice session, one you can achieve in a week and one that you can achieve in a month.
Once you have something to work towards and something you want to achieve you will find your motivation levels improve.
3. Uninviting Practice Space
Your practice space needs to be a place you feel very comfortable and happy in. Simply, if it isn’t, you won’t want to be there.
Please read this article to find out how to set up an environment conducive to practice.
4. Not Knowing What To Practice
There truly is an art to practice and if I had learned this early in my career, I think I would have been much better off.
Because of this, I have dedicated a lot of time developing a method of how to practice, some of which is detailed in this article.
Later in this blog I will be dedicating much time detailing how you can get the most out of your practice with the use of a specially designed practice diary.
However, in the meantime, make sure you are clear on details from your lesson and keep notes.
You can always email your teacher during the week if you have any questions if you are unsure about anything.
Remember if you practice makes permanent, so if you practice something incorrectly, it’s going to take you longer to correct it than if you had learned it correctly in the first place. We practice to make playing skills easier!
5. Not Enjoying Practice / Boring Practice
There are many things you can do about this, but the first thing is making sure you have checked your motivation (go to point 2).
Make sure you have some goals for your music and design your practice activities towards achieving these goals.
Having resources you like to work from is also important.
Practice can only be boring if you are stagnant, repeating the same exercises and routines over and over. So try to change this if it is your habit.
Try to have a practice goal for every session you do and collect resources that will help you achieve these goals.
6. Being Too Tired or Not in the Mood
Yep, I hear you. I think everyone experiences this every now and then.
If you practice a lot and this happens every now and then, that’s ok, take a break.
However, if this is a recurring theme for you, you may need to do some reflection work and see if the cause is something a little deeper, like not feeling motivated or not having goals or not knowing how or what to practice.
If the problem is simply that you are a busy person and tired at the end of the day, you need to have the mindset to just play your instrument for five minutes, beginning with breath focus and relaxation, knowing that this five minutes is like a meditation and a break for you.
It means framing your music practice not as work and effort but as a relaxing and energising activity.
Also, try to practice for your mood. If you’re not in the mood for technical exercises on a particular day, don’t do them, begin your practice session with something you want to do, something you find motivating and fun.
7. Not Improving Fast Enough
Unrealistic expectations and pressure to gain skills quickly will surely lead to a lack of motivation.
Try to learn about how you learn, through reflective practice but also reading and talking to your teacher.
Here are highly recommended reads: "The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How." by Daniel Coyle, "The Musician's Way: A Guide to Practice, Performance, and Wellness" by Gerald Klickstein, and "Effortless Mastery" by Kenny Werner.
Putting unrealistic pressure on yourself to reach a certain level of proficiency in a certain amount of time is dangerous. There are some things in music we cannot rush the learning of, it takes time and has it’s own way of developing for each individual.
Remember this is a creative and fun persuit, not a competition.
8. Away from Practice Environment
This can be one of the best opportunities to get into some other activities which will support your learning when you do get back to your practice environment.
Please read this article for some suggestions.
9. Not Having the Right Equipment / Don’t Like Current Instrument
This can definitely hamper your progress and discourage your practice.
Firstly, don’t be under the illusion that you have to have the best equipment in order to learn music. You can definitely start simply and build from there. But do keep in mind that having a great setup instrument will make it so much easier for you to learn and play!
Secondly, if you haven’t got the money to get the equipment you need, you have to think creatively about it.
borrow someone’s instrument,
hire a practice space,
rent your instrument,
join a government scheme –like a municipal band, which will loan you the instrument.
Where there is a will, there is usually a way.
Barring all of these, you may just have to stay with what you can get, be creative on that –which will make you a better musician – and wait until you have saved enough money, to eventually afford your equipment.
10. Don’t Want Anyone to Hear My Practice
This is a very common barrier to practice.
Practice where no-one can hear you, like in wide open spaces outside or behind a closed door.
This is definitely an option but sooner or later, you will have to overcome this fear, and you will. It's best to think and be confident in yourself while practicing! You won't be able to produce a beautiful full tone if you're playing like a small mouse. Playing like a small mouse will quickly bring your confidence level down, as you'll associate with the inferior sounds.
From Music Made Easy