Having to…

The other day I was really busy day and I found myself at 4PM finally heading home from the grocery store. On the way home I said to myself, “I have to practice” and that got me thinking. Why do I ‘have’ to practice? When did it change from I want to practice to I have to practice? (This also reminded me of how much I hate the phrase – “You have to understand.” People say it constantly, especially when they are making excuses about something. I really don’t ‘have’ to understand anything.) Anyway, back to practicing. I play the horn for fun. Yes, I want to get better, lots better, but in the end it’s enjoyment that drives me.

Of course my feelings about having to practice seem to be directly related to how well I am playing. Last weekend through Monday  I really wasn’t playing very well. It’s frustrating though I’m so used to it that it doesn’t phase me nearly as much as it used to. Tuesday I didn’t play at all and didn’t go to band because I had a horrible headache. Wednesday I didn’t practice just because I really didn’t want to which is is a first for me. Hence the ‘I have to practice’ conversation I had in my head followed by the decision not to bother. I’ve missed practice days but not because I just didn’t feel like playing. Then Thursday was absolutely stellar, both for the morning hour and again for the afternoon hour. Ditto for yesterday. It’s such a joy when I play a lot better than I expect to.

I wish I could unlock the secret to what makes some days so good. It could be because of the two days of rest but I’ve done that followed by an absolutely awful day. I did do a more abbreviated warm-up and I switched to one that my teacher gave me that she used back in high school. So maybe on Thursday I was fresher by the time I got to working on ‘real’ music. Not that warm-ups aren’t music but I’ve gotten into the bad habit of doing them by rote and not really thinking about making music out of the warm-up. Maybe the good days are days when I just concentrate better. Thursday I practiced standing up the whole time but Friday I sat after I finished my warm-ups. It would be nice to figure it out.

This morning my enthusiasm was back. I woke up at 5AM – fortunately not typical – and looked at my horn sitting out on a chair and wished that I could start practicing. Unfortunately people were sleeping. Gee, why do they do that? Don’t they know that they should get up so I can practice? I can’t wait until 8Am. Well, maybe 9 if I want to be nice.

Concentration –>

2 thoughts on “Having to…

  1. I returned to the horn after not playing for about 12 years after college; I’ve now been back longer than I laid off. When I have a day on which I feel I “have” to practice, I let the horn sit for a day. Almost always, by the next day, I “want” to practice. And, incidentally, I have always played the horn for recreation, instead of profession, even though I am in a couple paid ensembles, so it is truly “play” to me, instead of practice.

    Thanks for your blog. Reading it has reminded me of a lot of the trials I went through after picking up the horn again.

    Best wishes,

    Dave O’Neal
    Huntington WV


    • Hi Dave – Thanks for you comment! Sometimes I think I get obsessed with practicing instead of just playing and I worry too much about missing a day. It’s probably a lot better to use your approach. 🙂



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