Avoid the SAD Syndrome

David Motto’s Practice Tip of the Week:
Avoid the SAD Syndrome

Many musicians have a habit of practicing in a way that will never lead to success in a performance.

Their practicing is full of uncontrolled stops and starts. Their playing is interrupted each time they make an error (or think they’re about to make an error!!).

Stopping and Starting is SAD

I call this process the “SAD Syndrome.” SAD stands for Stop And Do-it-again.

While in the grips of the SAD Syndrome, musicians sometimes re-start by going back a few notes, and other times they just forge ahead. Either way, they are teaching their muscles to play mistakes.

Worse yet, during the pause in their playing, some musicians blurt out a quick “Oh” or “Sorry” or “*%^$@#.” These words pass their lips almost unconsciously.

Stopping and starting creates stress and a lack of confidence. It can even lead to memory lapses and stage fright.

If it happens to you, it’s time to build new practice habits!

4 Ways to Avoid the SAD Syndrome

Here are a few suggestions to avoid the SAD Syndrome:

1. Slow Down
Practice at a slow, controlled tempo. When going slowly, you can anticipate and avoid a mistake before it even happens! This will allow you to keep playing successfully. The key here is the word “controlled.” To stay in control you may have to go much, much slower than you think you “should” have to. Please: Be willing to go slowly enough that you stay in control!

2. Practice a Shorter Section
Run just a few bars at a time. When each section is perfect, you can put them together to form longer sections of music. If you have to, run just one bar at a time.

3. Work on Transitions
Make sure you can transition from the end of one section to the beginning of the next section. Too many musicians skip this step, yet it is crucial to your ability to keep going – no matter what – during performances. If the SAD Syndrome plagues you during transitions when you practice, you may be in for a train wreck on stage . . .

4. Keep Counting
Often, the SAD Syndrome occurs because a musician plays an incorrect pitch. Instead of stopping if you hit a wrong note, keep playing in time. Get to the next note, placing its rhythm correctly in your count. Making rhythm, tempo, and counting as important as pitch in your practicing is a game changer.

You Can’t Stop on Stage!

If you’ve found yourself struggling with the SAD Syndrome, try all four of my suggestions and make a big change in your practice techniques.

And remember: Your performances will be a mirror of your practicing. When you’re on stage, you’ll have to play without stopping. So, it makes sense to play without stopping while you’re practicing.

For more information on the psychology behind the SAD Syndrome and how we limit ourselves by our very definition of success itself, read my blog post on how to change your thinking about success.

To Your Musical Success!
David Motto

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