I used to be a bit larger — well, a lot larger (I was overweight). When I lost a ton of that weight (about 65lbs), people that hadn’t seen me for months freaked out when they saw me again. The change was striking.
When a person desires to loose weight, it’s good advice not to get caught up in the day to day fluctuations in body weight. Instead, look at longer term (weekly or monthly) trends. It’s also said that a good way to gauge your progress is by what your barber or hair stylist says: they only see you every month or two.
This is a lot like practicing and improvement. It’s counter productive to get caught up in the day to day fluctuation of your playing abilities. Some days are worse that others. These things happen. What’s more important is that you’re fostering a longer term trend towards improvement.
Common advice is to gradually increase the tempo using a metronome. This could takes weeks or months. So many people sit down with a metronome and start playing technique, gradually bumping up the tempo. Then the next day they do it again.**
But how many times is there an off day where nothing seems to be working? A day when you’re tense and uncoordinated? Probably happens fairly often — as you get better off days happen less frequently, however.
What’s interesting about these off days is how much they affect us. Human beings demonstrate a profound loss aversion. In fact, the loss of something we believe we owned (such as coordination or a certain tempo) psychologically affects us more than a similar amount of gain.
When an off day happens, we tend to reevaluate everything and change strategies based on that one occurance. I’m all for dropping things if they aren’t working, but you have to stick with something for a while to see if it works. Look for long term trends of improvement rather than day to day fluctuations.
So don’t drop things too soon. And don’t get caught up in those off days–remember that much of your distress is probably due to loss aversion and some illogical thinking. Try to observe and evaluate based on bigger trends in your playing.
**This is not a very effective way to use a metronome