Dealing With Frustration When Learning A Musical Instrument

No matter the activity in life, frustration is a reality even when doing something fun like learning a musical instrument. Accepting this fact and having strategies to deal with frustration will turn a seemingly negative element into something that can be used to move your playing forward and ultimately help you grow. Let’s explore some strategies on how to deal with frustrations and turn them into a tool to help us out in the long run.

Frustration Due To Jealousy

It is natural to look at other musicians and be envious of their abilities. However, it is important to realize that while every musician has been on the same path as you, they just might be on a different section of the path. It is often easy to chalk off someone’s advanced ability to natural talent. Hard work and determination will pay off in the long run. Instead of letting frustration and jealousy turn into a negative emotional mindset, ask the musician that has an ability you wish you had how they got to where they are. You might be surprised with the answer, and might learn something new from them. Once you know this information, instead of trying to duplicate what the other musician did, determine a way to adapt the new information to your current strategy. For example, if the new information is that the musician practices 2 hours of technique and 1 hour of music a day but you only practice 10 minutes of technique and 50 minutes of music, try switching it up to 45 minutes of technique and 15 minutes of music. Both combinations equate to a total of one hour of practice.

Frustration Due To Inability On The Instrument

Every musician has been here! You practice for hours and don’t seem to make any progress. Frustration takes over and you wonder why to even bother. At times it is hard to observe progress due to the nature of the long learning curve some skill sets take. Having a practice journal can help us see incremental progress. Let’s say there is an exercise with a fast run of notes. Set the metronome to 60 beats per minute (bpm) and work on the exercise for a few days until you can finally play the exercise cleanly. Record the progress in your practice journal and then try bumping up the tempo to 62 bpm. This time it might only take you two days to play the exercise cleanly. Again, make an entry into your practice journal. Then bump up the tempo to 64 bpm. You might be surprised that it only took one day to adjust to this new tempo. While going from 60 bpm to 64 bpm may not be a big jump, you know it took 5 days of work and can see this progress when reviewing your practice journal. This provides a good positive feeling which motivates you to keep going. After two weeks you might be at 80 bpm or faster and observing incremental progress might have helped get you there.

Frustration Due To Being In A Band

When playing with others the sources of potential frustration increase due to the social circumstances of being in a group. Ideally, everyone has an equal voice and ability so that the band as a whole can move forward as one unit. In reality, there will always be stronger and weaker players who must find ways to contribute to making music together. After a while, It is natural to feel frustrated when there is someone that doesn’t take responsibility and gets defensive when elements in their playing are pointed out. The saying ‘if you don’t have something nice to say don’t say anything at all’ helps to lower the potential frustration level. At times, the best strategy is to play your instrument to the best of your ability and let the other musicians figure things out. Unless you’re the bandleader, the job of deciding who is or isn’t in a band isn’t yours. Keep your head down and focus on making the best music you can. If you aren’t having fun anymore in a group, perhaps consider moving on to a different group. After all, music is meant to be fun, not frustrating. 

Now that you are aware of these tools and strategies, what else can you do to help your journey to becoming the musician you want to be? Check out THIS BLOG if you are an Adult Learning to Play Music and CONTACT US for private online music lessons to fast charge your progress on any instrument.

How to Overcome Performance Anxiety

Performance Anxiety is Common 

All musicians experience performance anxiety at some point in their career. It is common to feel anxious before or during a performance. 

In today’s blog, we discuss a few techniques to help you get centred when experiencing performance anxiety.  

1. Practice, Practice, Practice 

The first step to overcome performance anxiety is to practice. Feel confident that you are fully prepared for your performance. You practiced your pieces and you know the tricky movements. You’re ready to take the stage and give your best performance. 

2. Recognize the Symptoms of Performance Anxiety 

There are physical and psychological symptoms associated with performance anxiety. 

You might feel “butterflies in your stomach,” shallow, rapid breathing, or tense muscles. Or you might experience racing thoughts, or an inability to focus and concentrate. 

Consider learning mindfulness techniques. Mindfulness is the ability to know what you are thinking or feeling at any given moment. Learn to scan your body and identify when you’re feeling confident and relaxed or when you’re anxious.

Ask yourself, “What am I thinking at this moment?” “How am I feeling right now?” and put your emotions into words. By practicing mindfulness techniques, you will be more focused and centred. You can use these techniques anytime you are anxious. 

3. Stop and Take a Breath 

Deep, slow, rhythmic breathing is the easiest way to overcome performance anxiety. Before every performance, or anytime you’re feeling rushed and out of control, take a few moments to breathe. Inhale through your nose, and exhale through your mouth. When exhaling, try to push your belly button towards your spine. This empties your lungs and helps you take a full breath. 

Deep breathing slows your heart rate, increases your blood oxygen levels, and relaxes your muscles. This also relaxes your mental state. 

Consider making deep breathing part of every practice and pre-performance ritual. 

It Is This Simple 

These techniques can help you relieve your performance anxiety. If they are not working, or you’re experiencing severe symptoms, consider speaking to your doctor or health care professional. 


Remember these tips the next time you’re feeling anxious before or during a performance:

  • Practice. Master your pieces to the best of your ability
  • Tell yourself you are fully prepared for your performance 
  • Learn to recognize the symptoms and feelings of anxiety
  • Practice deep breathing to relax mentally and physically

Contact Brady Arts Academy today to discuss your musical education. Our dedicated instructors can help you perfect your musical abilities. 

Written by: Nicole Holas

Music Education and Social-Emotional Learning

Our world is full of challenges. We worry about our health, our families, and money. 

Music education teaches leadership, self-expression, and creativity. Practising music is a rewarding, fulfilling pastime that builds self-confidence. Don’t make it into another worry. 

Incorporating Social Emotional Learning (SEL) into your musical education is one way to deal with your worries. SEL helps you become more self and socially-aware. Adding reflection from SEL to your practice time helps you make responsible decisions. 

SEL and Music 

You can develop SEL skills by: 

  • Setting your own musical goals.
  • Working out your problems individually or with your fellow band members if you play in a group. 
  • Examining your performance anxiety. What is holding you back from being your best?
  • Studying the history of music, especially how it affected social change

Your music will improve as your emotional awareness improves. Use these techniques to incorporate SEL into your music education. Discuss your answers with your music teacher:

  • “Fist to Five” — Use this technique to rate your late performance, measure, etc. Using one hand, make a fist to illustrate something that did work. Then use your fingers and thumb to illustrate five things you did perfectly. 
  • Emotional Vocabulary Building — Use an Emotions Wheel to find the correct expressive word to describe your emotions. Instead of using “fine” to describe your playing, say, “I feel confident.” A poster of facial expressions can help younger musicians describe their emotions. 
Photo Credit: Instagram
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  • SEL-Based Questions — Become more reflective about your motivation and self-awareness by asking yourself these questions during a music lesson or practice:
    • “What is my one musical goal this week?”
    • “What are my musical strengths and challenges?”
    • “How do I respond to constructive criticism?”

Music education helps us learn dedication, perseverance, and cooperation skills. SEL skills affect every aspect of our lives, both inside and outside of music. They help us confront our challenges with strength and skill. 

Contact the Brady Arts Academy today to discuss the benefits of music education.

Written by: Nicole Holas