If you are going to make progress as a musician and stay sane at the same time, you’re going to have to learn to be honest with yourself.

Many musicians are not honest with themselves about their musicianship, their practice habits, and especially what the process of improvement and development looks like.

Some people will take this to mean that they aren’t hard enough on themselves. That they aren’t holding themselves accountable for their mistakes or laziness. I’m talking about the opposite phenomenon.

Here are a few things that I think are true.

You can’t radically change your musical habits or abilities in one day.

You can’t change the amount of work you did yesterday.

If you want to be really good you have to pass through every stage of ability along the way, there are no shortcuts. 

I don’t feel like these are controversial statements, but I personally have had a hard time letting them inform my process of practicing and performing.

We want to punish ourselves for not working hard enough, or not being good enough, but this isn’t working.

So be honest instead.

Do today’s work today, and tomorrow’s work tomorrow. Your mistakes in the past can inform today’s work or tomorrow’s work but that is their only value. You can insult yourself about those mistakes all you want, or you can spend that time and energy planning for the future and getting better.

Look for mistakes. If you’re making a lot of mistakes then you know where to go for practice, which is a blessing. And then when you work on those mistakes be honest about how many you can fix in a day. It wont be very many. It might not be any. That’s okay. But if you get discouraged and give up, then you aren’t being honest about the process.

All you can ever do is show up and do the work, and be honest with yourself about how it’s going. Because if you’re showing up and doing the work then it’s going great, which means you’re going to show up again tomorrow. I think that’s a better story to tell yourself, and it happens to be a true story.


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