Perhaps the largest hurdle we face when learning a new song is that of motivation. Regardless of whether we’re beginners or experienced players, motivation affects all of us. Learning anything new takes time, perseverance, and dedication — which all come to a standstill without proper motivation.

The specific solution to the motivation problem is different for everybody. However, the same general rule applies for all of us: There has to be a personal reward for accomplishing your goal.

What constitutes a reward is different for all of us. For me, being able to perform and teach a song and share it with OnlineDrummer visitors is a strong, personal reward. It motivates me to sweat it out for hours in the practice room. For others, being able to perform a song in front of friends or family, or maybe even along with a band, is a strong personal reward. Yet others may be personally rewarded by simply checking another song off the “to-do” list. Or, maybe something more concrete like an evening out to celebrate the accomplishment.

Sometimes it can be difficult to identify a reward that works well for you. Here are a few ideas to start your brainstorm and trial of ideas:

Success Wall
Make a “success wall” in your practice area. Each time you complete a song, frame the sheet music or album image, and hang it on your wall as a visual representation of your hard work. As your wall begins to fill up, it will be a source of pride and motivation as you work through new songs.

Video Log
Record yourself playing the song, and keep the recordings in a file on your computer. As you’re working hard to learn a new song, looking back and watching your past accomplishments can be very motivating. Adding another song to the file will be a reward. If you’re thinking about uploading the videos for public access on YouTube, keep in mind that some YouTubers don’t have your best interests in mind when commenting. Posting on YouTube requires thick skin.

Open Mic Night
If you’re daring enough to give it a go, performing a song at a lighthearted event such as an open mic night is often a very rewarding experience. Open mic nights are meant to be a fun way for people of all levels to gain experience (or to simply have a fun evening). It may feel scary at first, but once you get your feet wet, the nerves will calm. If you’re considering this, going to an open mic night as a non-participant first can be a good way to learn more about the environment.

New Toys
If you feel guilty about spending money on yourself, feel guilty no longer. You’ve earned it with your hard work in the practice room. These can be drumming-related items such as a new drum book, a magazine, drummer apparel, fancy sticks, a poster, a decal, or anything to reward yourself for putting in the time. These items will serve as a reminder of the hard work and dedication that resulted in achieving your goal.

Jam Session
If you’re lucky enough to know a few other musicians, a jam night at home is an excellent reward. Not only do you get to catch up with friends or family, you get to perform your song in a relaxing environment. Be sure to let the other musicians know which song(s) you’d like to perform ahead of time. They may also request to perform a particular song, which will serve as motivation to learn another song before the jam session. With each jam session, you’ll have more and more songs at your disposal to have fun with.

A Night Out
With adult responsibilities, it’s sometimes hard to justify a night out. However, learning a new song can be a great (and justified) reason to celebrate. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Maybe a dinner at the local restaurant, a movie, an evening shopping, or a hike in the park if you enjoy that type of thing. Do something fun to celebrate and reward your accomplishment that you might not otherwise do.

Because everyone feels rewarded by different things, this list is meant to be an idea starter. If something on the list works for you, great! If not, begin experimenting with ideas that you think will help. If you find a reward that works for you, please share it with us. We’d be happy to share it with other visitors to OnlineDrummer so that they can experiment with it, as well.

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Publisher of OnlineDrummer.com, Alfred Publishing author, Ddrum artist, and veteran Drum! Magazine contributor, Nate holds a Bachelor of Arts in Education from John Carroll University and a Master of Arts in Education from the University of Findlay.