5 attitudes that can hold you back on the flute

Cover image attitude blog

The way you approach anything can make or break it. This applies to life as well as your flute journey. Some attitudes are conducive to progress, and then some have exactly the opposite effect. 

When I look back on my teaching career thus far, the students who have progressed and thrived were not always the best ones, the brilliant ones, or those who never made mistakes – no! It’s the ones who are the most open and eager to learn and who have a positive attitude towards learning. 

Conversely, those students who were more pessimistic in their outlook, or who were hard and critical of themselves, often also hindered themselves from making meaningful progress.  

I’d like to discuss five attitudes that I have found to be a particular hindrance in making the progress you want.  

  1. Negativity and pessimism

Now I know that not everybody is a “glass half full” kind of person and for some, continual optimism might not always be so easy to maintain. However, this point is not so much about temperament as it is just about the attitude you have towards learning. When you have a negative mentality, this will color everything you do. Scales will seem even more boring just because you are already approaching them negatively. That piece you feel sounds “awful” will sound even more so because you approach it as such. 

Try to put yourself in a positive mental space before you start. Take a deep breath before you begin your practice session and adjust your attitude as you begin. Perhaps some simple, upbuilding statements might help: I am doing my best. I am capable. I can do this. I am proud of myself. Whatever works to set a positive atmosphere before you even begin can do such wonders for your practice session. 

  1. Being afraid of making mistakes

Mistakes are an inevitable part of life. How else can we learn? Some of my students seem very bothered when they make mistakes and some even apologize for making them. I usually tell them – don’t worry! This is why you are here – to be imperfect, to fall and fail so that you can get it right eventually. Sometimes it takes many corrections and tries for something to stick, but, eventually, it does. 

Allow the mistakes, and then take it a step further – learn from them! Sit with them and try to see what the mistake is trying to tell you. Perhaps you keep getting stuck on a particularly fast run in a piece. Try and sit with it, slow down, and analyze what you could do to fix that. When we do everything right, we’re never going to learn or progress in a meaningful way. Mistakes are like signposts, guiding us to what we need to work on and helping us to correct our course. 

And I get it – many of us have perfectionistic tendencies, we want everything to be just right. It’s hard to break out of that mindset and allow yourself to fail. But remember that it is so completely human to make mistakes and it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you. It just means you are learning and growing and sometimes falling forward is the best way to do that. 

  1. Being closed off to feedback

This goes hand in hand with the previous point. When you are closed off to any feedback or correction, it will be hard to make progress. I know it isn’t always easy to be corrected or told what you’re not doing right – it does take a certain level of humility. However, listening to your teacher’s advice is wise and will help you to keep growing. Sometimes this is especially hard to do as an adult who is used to being independent, but applying feedback can only benefit you in the long run.

  1. Having unrealistic expectations of yourself 

In my teaching experience, I have had students who are doing really well for their level, yet they are continually discouraged. Why? Because they are trying to reach level 7 when really they are just at level 4 and are actually doing exceptionally well when they don’t hold themselves to impossibly high standards. 

Just like learning a language, music has different levels of proficiencies that are attained slowly and systematically, not all in one go. When you are feeling continuously discouraged, perhaps this is the issue! When you set realistic goals for yourself instead of trying to reach wildly unattainable goals, this will create a greater sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. If this is ringing true for you, perhaps it’s time to gauge your flute level – check out our blog post on this topic here.  

  1. Not celebrating your progress

Many of us play our instruments for a while, take lessons, take part in recitals and so on, and barely make time to look back at how far we’ve come. Well, you should! 

I try to look back on the progress that students make regularly and encourage them to look at how they’ve improved. If you struggle to assess this yourself, ask your teacher or fellow musician(s) for some positive feedback. It doesn’t even have to be a specific skill but can even just be an increase in confidence or joy in playing. Whatever it is – celebrate it! 

It could look like this: Last month when I started, I was feeling scared and I was barely able to play F and G major. Now I feel more confident and can play them both without stumbling. However big or small, make yourself look back regularly and deliberately focus on the good! 

A last word

Perhaps some of these have resonated with you. Maybe even all of them! If so, I want to encourage you to start tackling one or two and change the way you approach your practice routine. You’ll soon see that what can start as just a small change in your mind will eventually have a big, long-lasting ripple effect.  

Responses

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  1. Thank you so much for this! Do you know, before I became a member I would skim over these blogs when I came across them because I always believed that all the teaching lay only in the videos.
    Now that I’ve “grown” some, I realise that, actually, it’s not. Because I have just discovered that what I felt were in fact some aspects of negativity, and that I need to root it out if I am to progress further, and also HOW to go about lessons. It is all here, on everything.
    Thank you Renate, and also Tatiana and the entire team for the motivation and support.

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