LFP 034 | How To Combat Practice Fatigue

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LFP 034 | How To Combat Practice Fatigue

Learn Flute Podcast SHOW NOTES:

In this episode, you will learn how to combat practice fatigue as well as eight simple ways to prevent it.

This is the Learn Flute Podcast Episode 034.


You’ll learn:

What this podcast will be all about

  • Information on this podcast is supplemental to LearnFluteOnline.com
  • What is practice fatigue
  • A story about Rebecca’s son practicing
  • 8 ways you can combat practice fatigue
  • What you can look forward to learning from listening

Learn Flute Podcast 034

Press the Play Button to Listen Now:

Hey, it’s Rebecca – here with another episode of the Learn Flute Podcast which is in companion to the website Learn Flute Online all about learning how to play the flute, and doing it conveniently, and really, really well!

On today’s episode we’ll be talking about what to do about practice fatigue, and the steps to take to avoid it. Let’s get started!

Well hello hello again. It’s fun to have you here learning and enjoying each other’s company. Well, I’m actually totally alone right now, but as I record these episodes I imagine I have you standing right here with a burning question about playing the flute.

In fact, some of you fun students have reached out to me when you’ve been on vacation in my area and we’ve had some good one-on-one lessons right here in my studio. It’s so much fun to meet you online students!

In fact, I have done a fair amount of traveling the past couple of years, and I always meet up with any of you I can when I’m in your country or state. I love hearing directly from you how my lessons have benefited your life. It definitely makes the effort worth it.

So, let’s get started today with a question I was just asked yesterday from one of you. This is actually a pretty good one because it happens to everyone- and actually isn’t just tied to playing the flute. This is something that can and does happen in many different subjects or walks of life.

This nice young man sent me this comment, and it made me ponder for a minute before I decided to talk about it here in my podcast.

He says, Over the years I’ve noticed that sometimes when faced with a problem for which I cannot find a solution, if I walk away for a while, the answer will come to me – often in the middle of the night. Have you heard other students mention this?”

And, my answer to this is, Yes Yes Yes. Of course I’ve heard of this, thought about this, I’ve experienced this, and talked to other students about this. For sure.

So here’s an example that is fresh on my mind; my son Kort was practicing his flute last night, and he was kind of stumped on one part of his piece. It was a section he was repeating a bit to get used to it when he decided to give up. 

He put his flute on the stand and came out into the other room where I was and told me that he couldn’t remember how an entirely different piece went. A different one than he was practicing. This new piece was something he had heard and actually started learning a few years ago – he just wanted to revisit the piece and play it again.

He didn’t know the name of it but remembered how it sounded and what the song ‘felt’ like. So he sang it to me- I told him it was called the Hungarian Pastorale Fantasy by Doppler. This rang a bell to him and he rushed back into play it.

The funniest part of this little story is that he still didn’t have any sheet music out, but he began playing the first movement which has a hauntingly beautiful melody to it… he did play it in a completely different key than it was originally written, but that’s okay.

I’ve taught my kids to memorize everything from the moment they began, so they can pretty much play anything in any key by ear… which I guess we’ll have to talk about another day in another podcast.

Now, back to this story – what happened was that Kort had shifted his mind to a different piece, he did a little walking around. 

And then after that and after he had let his creative juices flow — because he was playing something he thoroughly enjoyed and was using his right brain to play it by ear… he then went back to the original piece he had been working on and .. voila! He had no troubles at all with the passage that he had been working on earlier.

Our human brain is kind of funny this way. It’s almost like writers block in some ways. I’m not sure what we call it, but I’ve been calling it ‘practice fatigue’. .. which I guess kind of makes sense because it’s like we’ve been practicing so long we are tired. But, in actuality what I really mean is that we get kind of frustrated with what we are doing to the point where we can’t seem to do it right anymore. Has that ever happened to you?

We need to realize that this is common a common occurrence and not to fret or worry at all. In fact, worrying about it will just make it intensify.

I think of our brain is kind of like being stuck in a certain gear like a car. We don’t want to stay in third gear when we are trying to go fifty miles per hour for example- haha it’s time to shift – and then everything is just so much easier.

When Kort was stuck- I think he was using his logical brain to work through his passage. And, he was trying way too hard. So, he shifted to his right brain- his creative side and playing something completely different that wasn’t so rigid- mostly because he was trying to play it by ear.. Which he actually did pretty successfully, I might add.  

Then, when he felt relaxed and calm he went back to the original passage he was working on. He slowed down and looked at it carefully – I’m pretty sure he was still in this new ‘gear’.. Or the other side of his brain and it worked!

Now, the story isn’t over because what he did next is important. He played this part a few times and felt satisfied. Then, he cleaned his flute and put it away.

You might wonder why this is so important to mention? Well, it’s because when he returns to this piece again later today when he comes home to practice he’s going to start his session remembering the positive feeling he left with the last time he was playing.

I wish I could put a visual here for you like sparkles and stars because this is so, so, so vital to his desire and motivation.

I hope you can learn from this and keep yourself from getting in a mode of practice fatigue where you’re stuck and frustrated.  Envision driving the car that is stuck in third gear when it should be in fourth,.. Remember the need to switch brains from time to time – from logical to creative, or vice-versa depending on what you’re doing at the moment.

I promise this will change everything. And, it doesn’t matter what level you are on. This could be for someone who has been playing for a month, or someone who is in their twenty third year of playing the flute.

Writers have this all the time. In fact, I looked up what someone else would say could help combat writer’s block, and this is what I found I found these eight things:

  1. Go for a walk. – It’s always a great idea before you practice because then you’re wide awake and not all soggy feeling.
  2. Eliminate distractions – put your phone on airplane mode, and let everyone in the house know you’re not available for the next few minutes or even an hour.
  3. Do something to get your blood flowing. … I do jumping jacks and run up and down my stairs. Holding still for long periods of time isn’t really good for anybody. So, take breaks and move!
  4. Play by ear instead of reading everything. This will engage that other side of your brain and you’ll feel more alive and awake within just minutes. Remember, with the method I’m teaching you, you CAN play without staring at paper. You can. I promise. Play some super simple or even more complicated, it doesn’t make a difference. It’s all good for you!
  5. Change your environment. Now don’t laugh here, but I play in my kitchen often. Like really often. I have a kitchen that opens to a great room with wood flooring so it’s really nice and shiny to play there. The acoustics make me want to play even longer!
  6. Read a book or listen to a story. Again, this is another thing that will shift you from one brain to another and free up what is binding you and causing frustration or fatigue.
  7. Free play – meaning, just play some random notes seeing if you can make up a new melody. This is a really good exercise for many reasons we can get into later also.
  8. Listen to some music in a completely different genre. It works! My husband is a country music listener- through and through so it only takes me a second here to find that type of music or, sometimes I go play a church hymn on the piano for a few minutes before going back to my flute practice.

All of these ideas work to combat fatigue and keep frustration from happening.

So, to sum it up here today I think we can all agree that it’s important to end our practice time with something positive so we remember that feeling for the next time we get in to tackle a new skill or work on a tough passage.

It’s been really great chatting today. I appreciate all of you and what you are doing to make and keep your dreams alive of learning to play the flute well.

If you’ve enjoyed this podcast or have anything to say about this subject, feel free to leave a comment. I read every single one, and  get even more teaching ideas from what you say and need.

Well, with that- I’m going to go out for a walk now!

See ya next time!


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I hope you’ve enjoyed learning all about the flute today and how to combat practice fatigue as well as eight simple ways to prevent it. Join us for the next episode.

Have any questions? Comment below and I will help you out.

Rebecca FullerRebecca Fuller
Get Flutie with us! Learn and enjoy every musical minute.

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