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Motivation for Practicing: What Students Often Ask Me

Motivation for Practicing: What Students Often Ask Me

motivation to practice

Motivation for Practicing – Is this You?

Hi Ari, I still love my bass and playing it, it just isn’t as much a priority for me that it’s been since I started. Why is that and what do you recommend?

Find Your WHY

My first response would be – have you found your WHY? Why do you want to play the bass? Write it down in a journal. Be very specific about this. “Because bass playing is cool and feels good.” or “because I love Jaco’s playing.” is not precise enough. What drew you to the bass and what still draws you to it? What are  the deeper underlying reasons, like how it fits into your social life? Is there a self development component or are you trying to prove something to yourself that will affect your sense of self worth?

Take your time to allow yourself to dig deep enough to uncover these reasons. Observe what happens for you as you do this… does your feeling towards it shift? Is the very answer appearing at the end of your pencil?

Your Goals

While you are there (in your journal), also write down what your goals are (or were) for the bass.  Define them as precisely as possible, and know that the more you learn the more these goals will become refined. And, equally important, new goals will emerge. I remember vividly struggling through my very first Jazz standard (walking bass!!) and wishing nothing more than to get through the song walking a decent line. Well, as soon as I was able to do that, new goals emerged: how to make it swing harder; how to comp to support the melody or soloist; how to play more effectively with a drummer, and with more attention to dynamics. New goals appeared on the horizon and they pulled me towards them as soon as I could see and articulate them.

There are moments in your learning path where you are not yet able to define such new goals. This is the time where getting good advice, a different perspective and/or recharging your energies can become crucial.

Motivation for More

The more you learn the more you realize how much more there is to learn and as you move toward the horizon, the horizon moves with you. There is no final stop on this musical train ride as there is always more to explore and learn, no matter how advanced you become. It’s especially important to take this in and cherish the place on the path where you currently are and appreciate the long road you have already traveled.

Being grateful for how far you have come is fuel for moving further.

As you write out your current goals think about how you would know when you have achieved them. Is it playing a certain song? Is it a technical challenge at a certain tempo? Is it sitting in on a jam or getting your first paid gig? Is it getting feedback or acknowledgement?

Powerful Hack to Keep Your Motivation for Practicing up

This is what’s important – whenever you pick up the bass and practice make sure to celebrate! Here is an example of how this could manifest: We have a coach named Chris D who does an amazing job at that. He might make a post into our Facebook Group that he just picked up Libby (affectionate name for his bass) and had a good time playing. Or occasionally he will post a practice video for all to see. The Hack: Acknowledge the good stuff – celebrate it! Practicing is so different when you close your session with a pat on the back saying: “I practiced! I was two clicks faster than yesterday on my permutations! Awesome! I rock!” You can add a fist pump or similar little gesture to physically enhance this habit. This may seem silly – but it works!

It’s backed by Science!

There is scientific research behind this (from the Behavior Lab at Stanford University) – if you do what you set out to do – celebrate your achievement! You’ll make better progress and your motivation will be stronger. Compare that with putting your bass down going: “man, I still don’t sound like Jaco!”

This mindset and routine will make it much easier to pick up the bass (or “Libby”!) next time if you unplugged her with a smile. And that smile – you earned it! Because you are the type of person who does what you said you’d do. You are the type of person who puts in the work, however imperfectly, slow or badly, you showed up. You did it. Yay! Awesome! And you earned the celebration as a reward!

Simply said, it is much easier to maintain motivation to a long term goal if there are rewards on the way – they can be self-generated like the “YAY” after a practice session or objectively verifiable such as being able to play a song at a certain tempo, notice a ii-V-I in a standard or keeping the form of a song in a jam.


It is awesome to feel yourself improve -to stick with something, to do what you said you’d do. See what answers you come up with in your journal.

You may also find that you need a break to recharge and regroup, and that is okay, too. But even figuring that out provides clarity!



Join a Live Practice Group

If you desire help from me personally, you can now join one of our live classes or practice groups. We have them running on various topics. If you have my theory book and are more on the beginner side of things, a great choice is this group – it just started from scratch and you can join now. 

Effective Practice
We meet 4 times a month Live on Zoom – Fridays at 5.00 PM Pacific.

Just join in with your bass. It’s fun, highly effective and very motivating! 

  • We spend 45 highly productive minutes doing super effective drills. 
  • Like-minded peers and an encouraging vibe!
  • Theory and technique, highly practical and lots of applications!     
  • Super supportive environment 
  • Beginners are welcome!
  • You can start and stop anytime

PS: If you already have some experience, this class is the perfect choice for you!

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