What Are Your Biggest Frustrations?

Happy hump day!

There are lots of things in our lives that are frustrating and inexplicable.

Why is health insurance so expensive? 

Why do I rush every time I get to a difficult passage? How do I stop doing that?

Why are the milk containers at my corner grocery market so dirty?

I’m thinking about writing a book with answers to questions like these (well, the second one, at least). Though I have questions of my own, I think if I’m going to take the time to write a book, it ought to answer not just my questions but yours too.

So, what is your biggest frustration? What do you wish you had an answer to?

Is it something about practicing? Something about performing? Something about teaching? Something career-related?

Assuming that someone out in the world – a great artist, renowned teacher, recent audition winner, or sport psychologist – has an answer, what do you wish you could ask them?

Submit your question/frustration below in the comments.

UPDATE: Great questions! What I hope to do is find answers for these questions not just in the sport psych literature, but in the words of well-known musicians and teachers as well. I hadn’t planned on responding to the questions below, but am reading every one, and might toss in my 2 cents here and there if that’s ok.

Ack! After Countless Hours of Practice,
Why Are Performances Still so Hit or Miss?

It’s not a talent issue. And that rush of adrenaline and emotional roller coaster you experience before performances is totally normal too.

Performing at the upper ranges of your ability under pressure is a unique skill – one that requires specific mental skills, and perhaps a few other tweaks in your approach to practicing too. Elite athletes have been learning these techniques for decades; if nerves and self-doubt have been recurring obstacles in your performances, I’d like to help you do the same.

Click below to learn more about Beyond Practicing – a home-study course where you’ll explore the 6 skills that are characteristic of top performers. And learn how you can develop these into strengths of your own. And begin to see tangible improvements in your playing that transfer to the stage.


18 Responses

  1. Why when preparing an audition or concert, when everything is ready and sounds great, there are some days in which nothing at all works properly?

  2. When you have practiced your instrument and done all the right things and you still have lots of free time left, but have nothing urgent to do, what should you do? 🙂

  3. Why is it that I can go into an audition wonderfully prepared, confident, and excited, and still choke up as soon as I open my mouth to sing, and do an unsatisfactory job?

  4. My biggest frustration is, as one of my favorite vloggers calls it, the Little Hater. The Little Hater is that little voice in your head that tells you that you have nothing to add to the conversation; that your ideas aren’t good enough, or that the execution of those ideas isn’t good enough, to show anyone. It’s like the editor in your head just starts editing before anything’s even been written!

    The Little Hater makes a pretty hostile bedfellow…

  5. My biggest frustration and challenge is trying to be patient with the present. Keeping things in perspective and not constantly wondering, “When will I finally win an audition?” It’s frustrating when I can’t trust that I am working my hardest and smartest, and that winning an audition will happen at the right time if I just keep an open mind.

    Thanks, as always, for your thoughtful posts!

  6. My biggest frustrations are:
    1. Why does it take so long to get “in the zone” while performing? In other words – how do I stop the hyper-conscientiousness (looking at my hands, thinking too much, telling myself to calm down) that I experience at the start of every performance even when (or when I think) I’m well prepared?
    2. I get excited about learning a new program, but when it gets down to sitting down and doing the grunt work, I have so little motivation. How do I motivate myself to get started, and how do I keep up the momentum in the most practice-efficient way?

  7. As a jazz musician, when I improvise I play wonderfully technical things and operate in a clear, almost unthinking state of mind where whatever I tell my hands to do, they do. Yet when I play prepared classical pieces, my head is in a different place. I think differently and my technique fails me. For how good of a musician I am, I feel something as basic as my scales are subpar. If I play scales as part of an improvised solo, they’re perfect, but if I sit down and say “now I’m going to practice my scales”, there are tiny flaws everywhere. Why does my technique feel so different when improvising than it does it does when playing written or prepared? How can I bring the mindset I have when playing jazz over to my classical playing?

    1. I have similar struggles. I play jazz saxophone, and I struggle the most with trying too hard to be perfect playing written parts in a horn section. I over think and try too hard on easy written parts. It feels like I’m a completely different musician than when I’m improvising. I also have the problem with “now I’m going to practice x y or z”. Sometimes I end up practicing something at a lower level than I already can do it. I think it’s because I tell myself I’m going to “practice” it, which maybe cues my mind to think I’m not good at it, or instills a fear that I can’t do it, instead of just “doing” it like I always do.

  8. How do I keep myself motivated everyday?
    I find myself being motivated in spurts of energy and other days practicing, playing and teaching become more of a chore.
    How do I keep the passion thriving within me?

    And what frustrates me even more, is my lack of patience with some of my students. I don’t want to be one of those teachers my students end up hating.

  9. I have the exact opposite problem of Mr. Clayton up there. I do very well with Classical pieces. My technique is very good, but I cannot improvise to save my life. Even when asked to play something such as “Silent Night”, I find it difficult to plunk out the right notes…especially frustrating when moments before I can play Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6. I wonder if it’s a mental block or an underdeveloped skill. Any thoughts?

  10. How do we get more concerts?
    Finally after graduating I found what I wanted to do! I have my own school for kids from 0-5 and my duo. Living just from music being selfimployed was my dream.
    We currently live in Switzerland where I am from, my partner is from Mexico. Last semester we left the US and studied in Norway just for the duo, were living in a super little cottage, surrounded from snow and we discovered the bulletproof. In February we subscribed and we are just astonished about our progress. Thanks bulletproof!!!! We have had a very prestigious concert, got a huge great critic in the main paper, it was the best performance we have ever played!!! And I had to overcome a huge fear of having a black out, which happened to me a year ago in the final of a concerto competition. Ughhh.
    People loved our music, and the performance. We have great quotes from grammy-winners, play unpublished works by grammy-winners etc, etc.
    Since the end of February we started to look for concerts. We made some good contacts, played in a university, got even invited by the Embassador of Mexico for a coffee. But still it is very hard to get concerts and additionally the economical situation in the world is not very helpful. For example we just got invited by the SFCM for a concerts but they don’t pay the flight and besides that we would need to get the artist visa for the USA, (super difficult!). I take track of all my contacts and the work we do. So far the prognosis is that for 50 contacts we get around 1 concert or a gig. Is that normal? Am I just very impatient?
    I always stick for a while with my stategy and if it doesn’t work I think about what do change.
    The frustrating point: We are super prepared, we can go for it now but we just can’t show it so often.
    Any tips and tricks? How are you guys managing your groups? How do you have most success in contacting festivals and directors?
    Thanks for any ideas, tips!!!

  11. How is it that a tune that I’ve played for years and performed numerous times can suddenly disappear into the ether. For example, last Saturday, I was performing a tune and the second time through the “A” part, my muscle memory completely evaporated and I couldn’t for the life of me get it back – this, less than 24 hours after pretty much nailing it in a much higher stress (or so I thought) environment. This is not the first time that this has happened – just the most recent.

  12. Hi!
    When I focus on one idea and develop it in depth over a long period of time, open up some new ideas and concepts along with. I note them, and save for later study. Turning to the next idea and a few new ones appear again. On the one hand, it is good, but on the other – only 24 hours in a day … How to do to get it covered? (or just publish another book on jazz?)))


  13. My biggest frustration is finishing tunes. I can start with an idea, say 8 bars or more but, then it stops. I think a lot of it is my problem putting on paper what I come up with on my instrument (guitar), especially if the rhythms are tricky. Most of the tunes that I have written (that I liked) were done in about 10-15 minutes and usually followed this order: melody, harmony. Now, I usually start with the harmony first and try to develop a melody around that.
    Recently however I have come across some un-finished ideas in my musical notebook (some from years ago) that I was able to complete. Others still sit unfinished. When I play through these ideas they sound, to me, like strong musical statements; I just can’t figure out what to do next!!

  14. I’m like you (Clayton): I can play jazz and improvise better than I can classical music. I think the reason for this is twofold. First, as I am sure you know, classical music is ALL written out. Any étude, repertoire piece, etc. you want to play, has to be read. Often they are quite long! Jazz is great because other than having to learn the head of a tune and internalize the changes, the rest is up to you as an improviser; i.e. now YOU get to create the melodies! That’s why I love playing it 😉
    The classical realm is a different mindset. Your focus is on playing what has been written out but yet still try to put your personality into your interpretation. That is very hard. Plus if you start to play a classical piece, it’s the same every time.
    Jazz is new every time it’s played. The way you played “Stella by Starlight” on your last gig will not be the same on your next one. The element of surprise is what makes playing jazz easier for someone such as yourself and me then classical.
    I guess too it all depends on your background. Being a guitar player, I come from a blues/rock background; I have been studying and playing jazz for the majority of my playing career so, switching to classical things was and is difficult. Only in the last few years have I started working on some classical repertoire. I don’t have proper classical technique but what I do works for me. While i enjoy playing it at home by myself. I doubt that I will be doing a recital anytime soon!
    On another note, a few years ago, when I went from playing more jazz to rock gigs, I found that I had to relearn to play in that style: loud, more simple and economical, etc. Even THAT was an adjustment: “you mean I can ONLY play pentatonic scales!?”

  15. I guess that my biggest frustration is in my inability to keep myself motivated. Especially after a big letdown of some sort, my body will often get tired for long periods of time. This makes focused practicing really difficult.

  16. My biggest frustration is having to work a job building skills that have nothing to do with music. This also leads to frustrations managing time on different ventures outside of work.

  17. The greatest frustration I had till now in this musical
    path that I am in, is the unbelievable unwillingness to change
    something that to my taste or understanding sounds good. Although I
    have always embraced progress and I have a bit learned to ‘change’
    things , I still find myself in situations where I go back to old
    habits. Why are we so unwilling to change?

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