Generating enough motivation to carry out music practice is often very difficult but with a genuine motivation to achieve something, we can surprise ourselves!

In this short article, I’ve taken an excerpt from my latest book to explore the idea of music practice motivation and suggest ways in which we can think about how we should set about motivating ourselves to improve as musicians.


It’s fairly difficult to motivate yourself to do anything unless you have some sort of genuine incentive to do so. All of our decisions are guided by incentives. These incentives may be driven by financial, moral or aspirational goals. Your first step is to identify what your motivation actually is. In a lot of cases, this will hold the key to determining how likely you are to achieve success.

Whilst all this information is very interesting, how can we use it to help us?

When devising your practice goals, start by considering what might actually be motivating you or, to put it another way; what is it that’s going to make you want to get out of bed at 5am to pick up your instrument? Real motivation comes from those who are able to cultivate an almost obsessive attitude towards improving and to do it for the ‘right’ reasons.

Right Reasons? 

If you were to say that your main motivation for improving your skills was to earn more money. Could you consider:

As an example, let’s say that you want to improve your ability to play music from sight, often referred to as, ’sight-reading.’ Sight-reading is often the most dreaded activity of all musicians and it’s fair to assume that the vast majority of even experienced professional musicians would identify it to be one of their weaknesses.

Instead of listing the usual reasons that one may decide that they need to work on reading the little black dots, try to look at it in another way:

Have you considered what a huge impact that reading from sight may have on your ability to understand the language of music in general?

It’s fair to say that your understanding of advanced rhythms will improve with some sight-reading focus.

How about your employability as a musician? There is always a demand for players who can ‘read.’

Your ability to sight-read could set you apart from other musicians competing for the same gig or audition. Did I mention that it would undoubtedly improve your ability to read and write music?

By thinking differently about what motivates your practice, you can give yourself more of a drive to commit to new goals. Whilst you know that you should work on your sight-reading, view things from a different angle and give yourself a reason to actually bother. Wishful thinking will only get us so far!