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How to get the motivation to keep learning the harmonica - my SPARK method

Updated: Jun 10

In today's free harmonica lesson I'll be teaching you my secret SPARK method for getting - and staying - motivated.

It's easy to get demotivated and feel like you're stuck in a rut with your harmonica practice. I've definitely found myself in that position. That's why I came up with the SPARK method which helps me to get the motivation to keep going.

I hope this helps you. Do share any tips in the comments that you have to getting and staying motivated.

❓Prefer to watch the video? Click here.

How to get the motivation to keep learning the harmonica

Harmonica teachers are always telling you to ‘practise, practise, practise’. In fact, I’m always telling myself ‘Liam you need to practise, practise, practise’. But it’s not always as easy as that.

In fact I’ve sometimes found myself so demotivated and I would have done anything to get out of practising; even though I wanted to get better at the harmonica I just couldn’t get motivated. Other times I’ve had a great period of dedicated practice but suddenly and abruptly I’ll lose motivation and feel like I’m back at square one.

Sound familiar?

If so, I want to tell you about my method for getting and staying motivated. It’s called the SPARK method.

Let’s get into it

S - Small Goals 

Straight up here’s the thing: big goals feel overwhelming. Saying to yourself ‘I’m going to learn the harmonica’ is pretty daunting. At first you’ll be motivated (as it’s a new, exciting activity) but soon you’ll feel a bit fed up. You’ll quickly find yourself overwhelmed with your massive goal to learn how to play the harmonica. If you’re overwhelmed you start seeking out something that doesn’t feel so overwhelming. Being overwhelmed is uncomfortable and, in an effort to get back in a comfortable position, your brain seeks a way to leave the uncomfortable situation.

Imagine your whole house needs renovating. It’s Saturday, the sun is shining and you say “right I’m going to renovate the entire house”. Suddenly you feel overwhelmed, panicked, and chances are you aren’t going to know where to begin. So you put it off - maybe you go off to the park or see a friend. You start to feel a bit more comfortable. But then you remember you really need to do up your whole, entire house. You feel stressed again. You want to run away. Maybe you even book a holiday so you don’t have to be at home seeing everything that needs to be done. So you’re back where you started, but you’ve just spent thousands on a holiday that needed to be spent on equipment, fixtures and fittings for your home!

The problem is the goal of ‘renovate the entire house’ is too overwhelming (even if you have a small house).

If you can break the project down into small tasks then you won’t feel so overwhelmed. In the house renovation example, you say to yourself ‘my first task is to replace the windows.’ Suddenly, you can focus – you feel motivated and know that you can definitely achieve the task of sourcing and fitting new windows.

You’ve broken a MASSIVE, overbearing goal down into much smaller – and therefore much more achievable - tasks. 

To bring it back to the harmonica, for me, when I am learning a new song, I break it down into sections: verse, chorus, bridge etc. I learn each part on its own before worrying about putting it all together.

This makes the learning process seem much less daunting. Suddenly I only have to learn the verse. What’s more I get a sense of accomplishment once each smaller task is finished.

💡 Small, achievable goals add up to massive achievements but big, unachievable goals just add up to misery.

P - Partner Up (Get a Buddy) 

This part of the ‘SPARK’ method is one of the most powerful for me. Whilst it sounds super fun – you might be imagining jamming with a pal – what I mean by this is to get someone who will hold you accountable. They don’t need to be a harmonica player – or know anything about the harmonica. 

What you want to do is introduce an element of external motivation into your practice routine. Knowing that someone else is aware of your goals and progress can provide a sense of responsibility and obligation, driving you to stay committed and focused on your objectives. This fosters a sense of accountability to not only yourself but also to the person you've entrusted with your progress. 

And talking of progress...

A - Account for Progress (Track Your Progress)

The third element of the ‘SPARK’ method is to account – or track – your progress.

It’s a common experience to feel a lack of direction which manifests itself as demotivation.

It's easy to get discouraged when you’re not sure where you are on your journey, or even if you’re going in the right direction at all. Here's where tracking your journey comes in.

By documenting your practice and achievements, you’re using key markers and motivators to navigate and propel yourself forward, in this what you'll find the motivation to keep learning the harmonica.

Firstly, tracking progress helps identify areas needing attention. Reviewing practice recordings exposes weaknesses like missed notes, sloppy rhythm, or uneven dynamics. These recordings act as an honest mirror, revealing aspects that might slip by unnoticed. You can then tailor your practice to tackle these specific areas, maximizing your efficiency.

Secondly, tracking progress fosters a powerful sense of accomplishment.

It's easy to forget how far you've come when constantly focused on what's next. Keeping a practice log or recording yourself playing a piece early on in your journey allows you to revisit those initial attempts later. Hearing the improvement in your accuracy, speed, and overall musicality will feel great and, crucially, fuels motivation!

Ready to move on to the fourth part of the ‘SPARK’ method?

R - Reward Milestones

I love music. You love music, that’s why you’re here. And, of course, making music is its own reward. However, it can still be extremely beneficial to give yourself strategic rewards during the learning process. 

It’s certainly thrilling to get a new technique down, or master a difficult song, but sometimes it’s not satisfying enough to simply give yourself an imaginary pat on the back.

Your brain thrives on positive reinforcement, so treat yourself when you achieve a goal you’ve been working towards for some time.

One thing you can do to make your rewards especially motivating is to make them personal. They don’t need to be limited to tangible objects, so get creative and put in place little treats to keep you going on the path to success.

K - Keep in Mind Peaks and Troughs of Motivation

Of all the elements of the ‘SPARK' method this, for me, is the most motivating.

I’ve wanted to give up the harmonica many times. I’ve decided it wasn’t for me, it was too hard or I was lacking in talent. I’ve thrown harmonicas against the wall in frustration, and put the instrument down for periods when I completely lost motivation.

Here’s the thing: That is COMPLETELY normal.

Recognising that motivation fluctuates naturally is essential for maintaining resilience and momentum in your practice routine.

It’s much easier to keep going if you know it’s OK to feel c**p about your abilities sometimes. Learning the harmonica is TOUGH, and even if you’re a positive person there will be times when you feel like packing it in. 

We all experience fatigue, stress and external distractions. By recognising that these peaks and troughs are part of the learning process, you can adopt a more compassionate and patient approach to your practice, allowing yourself grace during challenging times while remaining focused on your long-term goals.

Acknowledging the fluctuating nature of motivation also allows you to implement effective strategies for maintaining consistency and momentum in your practice routine. Capitalise on moments of energy by increasingly productivity, and accept the low moments when you might need to take a break.

Not being able to get motivated and stay motivated is the number one reason why harmonica players fail. There are other reasons that can also hold you back which I cover in this free harmonica lesson: why most beginner harmonica players fail!

I hope you’re able to implement my SPARK method and I hope you find it useful!

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