I recently came across something I wrote to a young musician who wasn't happy with his "progress." He asked for advice and later thanked me for my response. Reading it again, six months later, I've realized that this is musical advice we all need to hear! We need to continually connect with the joy of music, at every step of the way. This is the only way we'll continue to enjoy music, and it will also help us to play at our best level. In other words, a positive attitude creates a "win-win" situation.
I'm sharing this here to remind us all to keep things in perspective. Excessive self-criticism is the single-most common impediment to music success. Practice hard, but make sure you're enjoying every moment! Here's what I wrote (I've changed his name and edited it slightly to make more sense in the blog context):
Hi James, I've felt the same way, too. I'll just share one thing: In the 30 years that I've been a professional musician, I've met a lot of very accomplished players who are happy with their playing but also a lot who beat themselves up and are miserable. I can't tell much about your mental outlook just from what you wrote, but make sure that you enjoy the process of playing, even while you're striving to get to a new level or perfect your sound.
The reason is this: There will always be a higher level, and a more perfect sound. Yes, work your hardest and improve, but at the same time, make sure you enjoy your playing at whatever level you're at. If you don't enjoy it now, you still might not enjoy it later when you're more proficient.
The irony is that when we focus on what we CAN do when playing, instead of what we can't, we often play much better. Good luck in your musical journey!
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