Try a Motivation Ritual


Since piano parents are my best audience for helping guide my piano students, I wanted to give them something concrete. As a result, I posted a version of what I discuss below in my monthly studio newsletter. However, I’d also like to share these same tips with a larger audience. During the summer, I had the chance to read a lot through several Facebook piano teachers groups to which I belong. One of these groups has a book club that started reading James Clear’s Atomic Habits. Although this is not specifically a music book, Atomic Habits has many great ideas about how to build habits. I’m trying to adapt them to the habit of piano practice. One of his most interesting ideas applying to music is to create a motivation ritual to get to the piano bench.

Motivation Ritual

The motivation ritual is simply a device that gets you to do something you want to do by tacking it onto something that you enjoy. If you want to get into the habit of doing a morning devotional, connect it with some kickoff activity.  The kickoff activity could be preparing a cup of coffee, tea, or pouring a glass of water, plus preparing the coffee table. You sit down, beverage in hand, with your books nearby, so why not start reading?

You can create a motivation ritual for piano practice as well. That’s important since one of the biggest obstacles to progress is lack of practice. Even the site of the piano bench can become an object of guilt. If starting is an issue, then create a motivation ritual that gets you to sit down on that piano bench. It could be to sight-read a new Andrea Dow piece, or something from a pop book you like, regardless of whether it’s part of your lesson assignment. You could also play through some of your favorite previously-learned repertoire. If you’re especially stressed out or tired, maybe you just choose to listen to some music, seated at the piano.

The beauty of the motivation ritual is that it makes the difficult habit possible, without being heavy handed. There may be some days where practice doesn’t follow the kickoff activity, which got you to the bench in the first place. But, on other days, practice does follow. That practice may not have occurred if you didn’t start with some something that helped you ease into it. 

Let me know!

If this approach appeals to you, give it a try.  Let me know what you try, and how it works out for you!

young man playing the piano
Jeune Homme au Piano (1876) – Gustave Caillebotte – Bridgestone Museum of Art, Tokyo
Posted 2019-09-21