Jennie Khan

Freelance Cellist and Teacher

Jennie Khan is an Auckland based cellist and cello teacher. She has a variety of experience performing both here and in Europe and has been teaching students of all ages for many years.

Keep Calm and Carry on ....

Keeping motivated is difficult at times, but it is important especially as a musician. Practicing, performing, creating are all self driven. We need to keep motivated to make the most of what we are doing.

I often have many projects on the go at once, writing, teaching, practising, working on new performance opportunities, even maintaining this blog. I have come to the conclusion that there are 3 main things that can stand in the way of getting things done the way we want and these affect our motivation.

Firstly, time, and this is a big one.  We all have busy lives, demands of work, study, and everything else, we need to prioritise.We need to make time for our music, work out how much can be dedicated to it, and without a specific goal in mind, I'm mainly talking about practice. Practice is essential to improving as a player, and we must dedicate 'enough' time to it. The principle of quality over quantity applies for certain. When you're just getting started, little and often is best. You will achieve more practising 10 minutes a day than sitting down for an hour once a week. Further down the line when time is short, select a small section to work on really well rather than just playing through a lot of work.

Secondly, confidence. I think everyone has moments where they lose confidence in their ability. It's easy to give in to this and give up, thinking it's too hard, or I'm never going to get this. The better option is to fight it, use the self-doubt to work harder, and get what ever you're trying to learn better. We have to take baby steps, for most of us, learning music is hard, it's going to take some time, don't try and play things beyond your ability and expect instant results, you will just become discouraged. Not so long ago, I was given a brutal critique shortly prior to a big audition, I was given the choice to pull out or to give it a shot anyway. I chose the latter and practised twice as much. I was unsuccessful that time but I knew I had done my best and what I needed to do going forward. And I was reminded that in preparing for any performance we need to get to 120% so that when nerves kick in we can still play at least near to 100%. And remember too, when it feels like you're not getting anywhere, look back at where you have come from, what and how you were playing, then you will see how much you've achieved.

Thirdly, inspiration, music is an art, and we need to be inspired. Whether it be writing some new music, interpreting a piece or even setting some goals, these all succeed better with some good inspiration. For me, my writing gets blocked I can't hear what I want to write, my playing becomes bland and lifeless, and frankly, I stop setting goals altogether. But even in a general sense, when motivation is flagging, get inspired. Listen, find some new music that you love, or turn to the old favorites. Always look to the experts, go to concerts of really great musicians, go to gigs and experience what other people are doing. Discover new styles, and new ways of doing things, it might give you ideas for a new project or change the way you play something. It's important to find what you're into, explore all art forms, go to an art exhibition, sit in on a poetry slam, listen to classical music (Mozart to Prokofiev), jazz (Ellington to Reinhardt), Latin music (Tango), pop (eg, Beck) and the list goes on...  There will be sounds and ideas among all of these that will spark the flame and you will eventually find your own inspiration.

Remember to keep working at it, make music part of the daily routine. Even when you there's heaps gong on and I really don't feel like practice, I've got to do a bit, the most important time to practice is when we don't want to. Relish the compliments, take on the criticism. Find what inspires you and allow your enthusiasm to help you reach your goals.

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