6 Ways to Overcome a Slump in Your Practicing

Photo by Eddie Welker

Even the most motivated of us can fall into a slump. This happens to all creative individuals including saxophone players. Even athletes, writers, and artists are prone to experiencing creative blocks now and then. The thing is, it’s completely normal.

But, once you know you’re there, how do you get out of it? Hopefully, these simple yet effective tips will pull you out of that creative slump.

1) Mindful Practice

When you practice mindfulness, you take things slow and steady. It may seem counterintuitive that going slow will slow things down. In reality, it does just the opposite.

No matter whether you’re working on material assigned through regular music lessons for 30 minutes or two hours, be sure that you’re in a healthy mindset. Also, any time you start to feel frustration, step away. Take a 5-minute break and then come back. You will have a new perspective on things and a lot more clarity.

Get into the habit of taking little breaks after every 10 minutes. Reflect on your improvements and mistakes. It’s a great way to relieve stress and also avoid burning yourself to the point where you start hating what you love doing!

2) Change Your Environment

Whenever you feel creatively stuck, it’s always good to change up your environment. Of course, you don’t have to relocate to a new city. But, something as simple as moving to the garden or even to a different bedroom could do the trick.

Transitioning to a new place is the perfect way to give yourself a new perspective on things. You get into a new mindset and have a fresher take on things.

You never know, sometimes the change of scenery might give you a newfound inspiration to write a new song or play a different tune on your saxophone.

3) Think About the Benefits, Not Difficulties

Think about why you want to learn to play the saxophone. Do you want to become a professional musician? Are you doing this for self-improvement? Is it a hobby for you or something you do for fun?

When you think about the “why” behind the practice, and what you stand to gain from it, the hardships become more tolerable. Think about what a confidence-booster it will be when you can finally play a tune in front of your friends.

Or imagine yourself performing in front of an audience. When you focus more on benefits and less on difficulties, the slump will be over quicker.

4) Focus on Quality of Practice Rather than Quantity

Sometimes one of the biggest reasons we dread doing something that we are supposed to love is because we think of it as a chore. We think that we have to spend hours practicing a new exercise or tune. Once again, the solution is counterintuitive. It’s really not about how many hours you spend in the shed.

It’s about the quality of the input.

And, one of the best things to get over creative slump and the dread of the practice is to put a limit on the practice time. You can set it to 10 or 20-minutes.

During that time frame, give it your best shot. Intentionally limiting the amount of time allows you to ward off any distractions and get straight to business.

5) Do it Just For Fun

When was the last time you practiced just for fun? If you have to think about it, it’s been too long. Often we put too much pressure on ourselves in terms of perfecting every little pattern or etude, or whatever it is use to challenge ourselves. But, when you get rid of any deadlines, the need for perfection, or anything else that’s causing the block or the stress,  you become less inhibited.

Let your imagination run wild. Break all the rules. Explore a new melody. Don’t like what you created? That’s alright! Try something new. Try a new technique.

Some of the best music was created out of spontaneity and not caring too much about perfection.

The important thing is to play without any goals or objectives in mind. Playing without consequences will open your mind to new and fresh ideas. It will allow you to get into a beginner’s mindset where everything seems like a novelty.

6) Remember it’s Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

When you understand this fact, you become more forgiving of yourself. You also put less pressure on your mind. The idea is that for every two new things you learn in music, you’re bound to make one mistake. There’s bound to be that one thing you can’t seem to get right. That is bound to happen. It’s inevitable and normal.

The important thing is to not give up. Accept struggle as part of the process and continue to practice.

Bottom Line

Remember that all creative endeavors are bound to go through periods of block or slump. It’s completely normal. All the greatest artists, singers, and musicians went through that. So, if you don’t experience a slump, you’re doing something wrong!