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#2136949 - 08/22/13 05:04 AM Your Practicing's Positive Incentive Salience?
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
I was reading the other day about the prefrontal cortex of the brain and how - in regards to motivating oneself to exercise - it was the part of the brain “where actions are selected to seek stimuli that have what scientists call 'high positive incentive salience' – or are rewarding to them, as non-scientists might think of it. Simply knowing that exercise is good for us is not enough reward. Regular exercisers have built habit over time, based on positive incentive salience in either the activity itself, the aftereffects, or both.”
(http://news.rutgers.edu/research/rh-2012/exercise-motivation-20120919#.UhVO-j_JJLk)


TL;DR: The results of a study conducted on test rats provided with a running wheel concluded:
Quote:
Using scientific tools, Morrell and graduate student Julia C. Basso established that the rats ran because they “liked” the experience of running, “liked” being with the wheel and “liked” the aftereffects of the exercise. The tests showed that the wheel was a rewarding stimulus – had positive incentive salience – for them.


I wondered how this intrinsic incentivization, or positive incentive salience could be found in practicing piano. Surely, whether or not this is found (possibly regardless of one's progress) can account for a large percentage of those who quit studying after a period of time and those who carry on forever like many of the "lifers" who frequent these forums.

So my question to you all is how do you make practicing provide a “positive incentive salience” – that is to say, what do you do to help make practicing an intrinsically motivating and rewarding activity? As a part of this, how do you incorporate habit and routine to your benefit? We as humans are creatures of habit - even when we don't consciously enjoy certain things that we do out of habit, we're often more comfortable continuing to do them anyways rather than change them [for the better] and being uncomfortable in the short-term as a result; in expressing this, I don't mean to say that practicing is necessarily unenjoyable, but perhaps that certain less-enjoyable aspects of it could come to be enjoyed through the strategic use of habit and routine (be it sight-reading, learning/practicing scales, overcoming the familiarizing stages of unfamiliar pieces, etc.). Do you feel that the music you study plays a contributing role in providing a feeling of reward from practicing or are you process-oriented and can simply find enjoyment in sitting at the piano with whatever music it is you happen to have in front of you on any given day?



OT: I’ve always consciously been aware of how exercise has made me feel good/better during and after it, but honestly can’t say the same about practicing piano – at least probably not for about a year. I think that this may be due to putting excess/unnecessary pressure on myself, a bad track record of setting poor/unachievable goals, and not putting enough effort into following a set process (i.e. being excessively goal-oriented and not sufficiently process-oriented; http://gnorb.net/808/goal-oriented-or-process-oriented).

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#2136987 - 08/22/13 07:34 AM Re: YOUR Practicing's Positive Incentive Salience? [Re: Bobpickle]
malkin Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2691
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
I guess I just like practicing.
_________________________
A good student is one who makes the teacher feel like a good teacher.

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#2136993 - 08/22/13 07:42 AM Re: YOUR Practicing's Positive Incentive Salience? [Re: Bobpickle]
-Frycek Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 5921
Loc: SC Mountains
Sometimes, if I pet the big beast on its shiny white teeth it rewards me with pleasant growls. So far I haven't been bitten.
_________________________
Slow down and do it right.

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#2137019 - 08/22/13 08:26 AM Re: YOUR Practicing's Positive Incentive Salience? [Re: Bobpickle]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11810
Loc: Canada
Science is the new religion of things to be taken on faith - instead of "it's in the Bible" - "because it's science/said by scientists". Something gets presented scientifically, and we try to adjust what we do to whatever conclusion appears to be fact. If one of these scientists was learning to play piano and relating his own experiences, I'd be all ears.

This guy watched rats take care of their young while being drugged and while not being drugged. That's too far removed from learning piano.

I have reason for going for this model: "Know what needs to be done, and then just do it." Anyone who has succeeded in anything, whether music, sports, or other things, has done what needs to be done even when he did not feel like it. To want to feel motivated all the time can defeat us. From time to time we hear from someone who came to piano with great enthusiasm as a beginner, and then he hits the first low. He has been transported by the high that comes from starting a new thing, and expects to always be transported by it. If he isn't, then there is "something wrong". No, there isn't. It's normal. Push through. If you need to, decide to take a break for a few days, decide when you will go off that break, then do both things. If you miss the mark, dust yourself off and try again.

Of course we want to create rewards and incentives for ourselves. We definitely want to avoid negative self-talk (or friends-talk, or anyone-talk). But if we think that we must "be" motivated, then we put ourselves into a passive state, subject to how we feel about things. That's the part that worries me about this idea.

Rewards sometimes come afterward. I have had very dark periods where a lot was going wrong, I was overworked, and I created a routine where I would do specific small things. Maybe it was working on two measures of music for 5 minutes whenever I take a break from my work (I'm self-employed). I did it. I didn't feel like it. I felt empty. I didn't think I was accomplishing anything, and couldn't care less in either case. BUT - two weeks later looking back I had a whole piece ready note-wise. It was like the tale of the Shoemaker and the Elves. Shoemaker goes to bed, and every morning the elves had made a pair of shoes for him. Except that you are your own elf. You wake up after a "down period" and discover how far ahead you are from where you were. Had you let your degree of motivation lead - or if you even worried about it - then that doesn't happen. After experiencing this a couple of times there is actually a new motivation. The next time you know what the delicious end result will actually be.

My gut feeling, based on what I've experienced in working on music, is that seeking "positive incentive salience" is off track. We're not rats with cute hairless ratlets, hormones governing the attractiveness of the tiny hairless offspring. It doesn't fit.

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#2137020 - 08/22/13 08:29 AM Re: YOUR Practicing's Positive Incentive Salience? [Re: Bobpickle]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11810
Loc: Canada
Maybe a note saying: "Shoemaker and the elves. I'm the elf." Seriously - I actually do find this motivating. Don't know why. crazy

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#2137024 - 08/22/13 08:46 AM Re: YOUR Practicing's Positive Incentive Salience? [Re: keystring]
Sam S Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/12/07
Posts: 1424
Loc: Georgia, USA
I do feel better after practicing (or just playing) the piano. I am grumpy and hard to live with when I miss my practice. So I guess I am a little similar to the rats...

I also have my little habits. Practice at about the same time every day. Go through the same little ritual of opening the practice notebook, writing down the times, and so forth. I also have a handful of beach stones from Maine that I use as counters when I do repetitions of difficult passages - I suppose I consider them good luck pieces.

But one of the best incentives to practice, for me, is participating in the online recitals and the feeling of accomplishment I get from that. I guess I am goal oriented. I also look forward to going to Summerkeys and preparing for that. I do not really look forward to my teacher's recitals - too many kids...

Sam

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#2137029 - 08/22/13 08:52 AM Re: YOUR Practicing's Positive Incentive Salience? [Re: keystring]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12151
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: keystring

I have reason for going for this model: "Know what needs to be done, and then just do it." Anyone who has succeeded in anything, whether music, sports, or other things, has done what needs to be done even when he did not feel like it. To want to feel motivated all the time can defeat us. From time to time we hear from someone who came to piano with great enthusiasm as a beginner, and then he hits the first low. He has been transported by the high that comes from starting a new thing, and expects to always be transported by it. If he isn't, then there is "something wrong". No, there isn't. It's normal. Push through. If you need to, decide to take a break for a few days, decide when you will go off that break, then do both things. If you miss the mark, dust yourself off and try again.


I agree with everything you said, keystring, but I wanted to quote this because it's pure gold. Sure, there may be some people who are always motivated and never feel defeated or even just not feel like playing piano. But there are those who get this way for whatever reason, life throws us a curve ball, we don't make good progress on a piece and we get tired of it, don't have a specific goal other than go from one piece to the next, etc. It happens to me all the time, and I've seen it happen to many a piano student. Those that don't push through give up on their dream, or maybe just give up on it at that point in their life, as other things were more important to them. That's OK too.


Quote:
Rewards sometimes come afterward. I have had very dark periods where a lot was going wrong, I was overworked, and I created a routine where I would do specific small things. Maybe it was working on two measures of music for 5 minutes whenever I take a break from my work (I'm self-employed). I did it. I didn't feel like it. I felt empty. I didn't think I was accomplishing anything, and couldn't care less in either case. BUT - two weeks later looking back I had a whole piece ready note-wise. It was like the tale of the Shoemaker and the Elves. Shoemaker goes to bed, and every morning the elves had made a pair of shoes for him. Except that you are your own elf. You wake up after a "down period" and discover how far ahead you are from where you were. Had you let your degree of motivation lead - or if you even worried about it - then that doesn't happen. After experiencing this a couple of times there is actually a new motivation. The next time you know what the delicious end result will actually be.

I usually work best when I have a lot going on and I'm forced then to squeeze my practice into small time increments. I can get a lot accomplished because I know I only have a short amount of time to work in, so I can't waste time not being efficient. Excellent post, keystring!
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#2137030 - 08/22/13 08:55 AM Re: YOUR Practicing's Positive Incentive Salience? [Re: Sam S]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12151
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: Sam S
I do feel better after practicing (or just playing) the piano. I am grumpy and hard to live with when I miss my practice. So I guess I am a little similar to the rats...

I also have my little habits. Practice at about the same time every day. Go through the same little ritual of opening the practice notebook, writing down the times, and so forth. I also have a handful of beach stones from Maine that I use as counters when I do repetitions of difficult passages - I suppose I consider them good luck pieces.

But one of the best incentives to practice, for me, is participating in the online recitals and the feeling of accomplishment I get from that. I guess I am goal oriented. I also look forward to going to Summerkeys and preparing for that. I do not really look forward to my teacher's recitals - too many kids...

Sam
I'm like you, Sam. I'm very goal-oriented, and if I don't have a goal, I tend to get lost. I can't always be "on", but I would say most of the time I am, and then I go into slacker mode for a bit when I lack a distinct goal. Then I need to fabricate one: find a new piece to work on, change up my routine, something to make it through.
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#2137037 - 08/22/13 09:14 AM Re: YOUR Practicing's Positive Incentive Salience? [Re: Bobpickle]
WiseBuff Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/03/05
Posts: 812
Loc: Brighton Colorado
There does seem to be a high in pursuing something that you want. It motivates...makes you wake up wanting to do it. It can be searching for a new house (my daughter lately) or earning a degree (been there done that) or climbing all the Colorado 14ers (good friends wowed me with that one). Whatever it is...it is the quest that motivates. Once achieved it is like "is that all?" "what's next". There are also down times in the quest where it seems like there is no there, there. Those are the times that habit kicks in and I practice even though my enjoyment is off. Most days though, practicing (and of course drinking morning coffee) is my essential start to the day. Maybe that's why I have so few playable pieces. I enjoy practicing small sections and sometimes never get it done before I find another glittering sound that I want to chase.


Edited by WiseBuff (08/22/13 09:15 AM)
_________________________



Love to learn

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#2137065 - 08/22/13 10:11 AM Re: YOUR Practicing's Positive Incentive Salience? [Re: WiseBuff]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11810
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: WiseBuff
There are also down times in the quest where it seems like there is no there, there. Those are the times that habit kicks in and I practice even though my enjoyment is off. Most days though, practicing (and of course drinking morning coffee) is my essential start to the day. Maybe that's why I have so few playable pieces. I enjoy practicing small sections and sometimes never get it done before I find another glittering sound that I want to chase.

This set off a whole chain of associations, ending with the conclusion that you're on track. Since that happened in like two seconds I'm going "Wha-a-a?" and had to back track.

First image I had was instinctively I'll go after one thing, then another thing, totally immersed. At some point much later I'll be working on some piece of music, and I find that I'm using all of these "things", and somehow I have these abilities to draw on that I didn't have before.

The next thing that flashed in my head was a page from an "educational psychology" I had to read decades ago. There was this map of kids going from activity to activity, and little kids would wander frequently while older kids stayed put for longer. Well, that just made sense to me. Little kids don't know much so they have to learn a little bit of everything. If they specialized that early, they'd have tunnel vision. Well, aren't we like little kids? Isn't it good if we get engrossed in this thing and then the other thing, if it ends up giving us skills and insights from different angles?

I think that's why personally I don't like recitals with preplanned pieces. Having to finish a piece and polish it stops me from going to whatever seems important at that moment. Of course I had to be in one to discover that.

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#2137233 - 08/22/13 02:31 PM Re: YOUR Practicing's Positive Incentive Salience? [Re: Bobpickle]
Sweet06 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/22/13
Posts: 408
for me its mastery. I really really enjoy things when i know them inside and out. I love sharing that knowledge and I know what it typically takes to get there. Constantly rethinking to myself... where was I a year ago? 2 years ago? I always want to be adding onto my list of talents (currently quite small :D)

EDIT: I think the teacher is huge as well. I'd be MORTIFIED if i showed up with 0 practice.


Edited by Sweet06 (08/22/13 02:53 PM)
_________________________
"Doesn't practicing on the piano suck?!?!"
"The joy is in the practicing. It's like relationships. Yeah, orgasms are awesome, but you can't make love to someone who you have no relationship with!"

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#2137267 - 08/22/13 03:08 PM Re: YOUR Practicing's Positive Incentive Salience? [Re: Bobpickle]
jotur Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 5640
Loc: Santa Fe, NM
I think, for me, that live music, whether I'm making it, or the band is making it, or I'm dancing to it, or I'm listening to it with friends at supper, just resonates physically some way, to, pun intended, put me in tune with the universe. Recorded music doesn't do that for me. So in that way, time at the piano is its own reward - I love the feeling of live music.

Cathy
_________________________

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#2137279 - 08/22/13 03:20 PM Re: YOUR Practicing's Positive Incentive Salience? [Re: keystring]
Brian K. Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/21/07
Posts: 102
I'm literally addicted to playing...I don't even really consider it "practice" because that sort of implies some sort of negative connotation. I really can't walk past my piano without sitting down and playing it for at least a few minutes. Actually, I have 6 minutes before I have to head out the door, I think I may go run the minor chords around the circle of fifths a few times real quick!
_________________________
My personal blog/website dedicated to giving answers on the age old question - how to escape the "rat race" and make a living from your passions. I now play guitar for a living at night and learn piano during the day!

http://www.musicianlifestyle.com

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#2137448 - 08/22/13 09:59 PM Re: YOUR Practicing's Positive Incentive Salience? [Re: Bobpickle]
earlofmar Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/21/13
Posts: 1737
Loc: Australia
Only being a beginner I am still in the honeymoon period where practicing is rarely drudgery. However as an ex-ultramarathon runner finding motivation to run and train was not always easy. I found certain methods I applied then help with my thinking towards piano now, and I guess most of us would do these but not really think too much how important they are. Just a random list of things I find are commonalities:

Running - run with a group of like minded people
Piano - interact with people on this forum

Running - have an easy day of light running with no training purpose
Piano - Regularly play material you enjoy

Running - keep a diary and note progress
Piano - keep a diary and recordings to note progress

Running - have short term, medium term and long term goals (short to medium would be achievable long term would appear impossible)
Piano - have short, medium and long term goals but focus more on short term goals

Running - as soon as you have finished an event sign up or start preparing for the next to maintain motivation
Piano - don't dwell on pieces that you really know will never come together and start something new

Running - have a written plan of training sessions to be completed each week and keep to it
Piano - have a written plan for practice regime and keep to it

Running - listen to body and rest if required
Piano - never practice when tired or unfocused

Running - spend time researching your sport but never fall for "quick fix" solutions
Piano - spend time researching but never fall for "quick fix" solutions

Running - never run with kids, it's humiliating when they beat you
Piano - never watch kids on youtube play what your struggling with
_________________________
I thought I understood endurance sport; then I took up piano
XXXV-6-XXX

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#2137532 - 08/23/13 04:03 AM Re: YOUR Practicing's Positive Incentive Salience? [Re: Bobpickle]
rnaple Offline

Silver Supporter until April 24 2014


Registered: 12/23/10
Posts: 2107
Loc: Rocky Mountains
I think you all know what "mentally tired" is. At the end of the work day. You feel real tired. When you really didn't work hard physically. I thought it very interesting that if I practice piano at that time. It will wake me up mentally. I won't feel mentally tired anymore.

During practice. When I start feeling rather down on what I'm doing. Kind of a drudgery because of my lack of results. I've started whipping out this one piece which brings nothing but joy and laughter to me. "Merrily We Roll Along" is the piece. From cartoons. I was motivated to this by SquareD and his talking about cartoons every time he thinks about classical music. I also think this is because something my Coach mentioned about us needing to be like children at times. Play like children. It is good for us.

What motivates me to practice is knowing I will accomplish my end goal. That being to compose. Yes I enjoy playing pieces. But that is not my end goal. I also look forward to improvising piano with singing certain songs. I have much to look forward to.

I also know, partly from endurance running. When I am broken. That is not the end. That is the beginning.

I thursted for the endorphin high in endurance running.
I thurst for the euphoria of experiencing song in piano.
_________________________
Ron
Your brain is a sponge. Keep it wet. Mary Gae George
The focus of your personal practice is discipline. Not numbers. Scott Sonnon

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#2137569 - 08/23/13 07:38 AM Re: YOUR Practicing's Positive Incentive Salience? [Re: Bobpickle]
WiseBuff Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/03/05
Posts: 812
Loc: Brighton Colorado
Earl, I like your running/piano comparison. I'm way beyond honeymoon period with piano and still find this rings true.
_________________________



Love to learn

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#2137702 - 08/23/13 12:13 PM Re: YOUR Practicing's Positive Incentive Salience? [Re: Bobpickle]
woodog Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/21/12
Posts: 423
Loc: Bowling Green, KY
I love practicing now that I've figured out HOW.

Each time I practice, I improve in a measurable, very satisfactory way.

What's not to love about that? :-)

The times that I go to the piano tired (like last night), I pull out the 'less serious' stuff or just plink around. It's all good.

Forrest
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