Copy-Paste Your Practice

In the before-times, most of the musicians I know would be knee-deep in band camps right now. Those camps (and the motivation they provide) have been yet another COVID casualty.

Lots of musicians are lacking the drive to practice right now. It’s not just students, either. I know colleagues that are having a tough time picking up the instrument some days.

Months of cancelled concerts, camps, and auditions have made finding and maintaining inspiration difficult.

If that sounds familiar, then this BulletproofMusician blog post might help.

When in Doubt, Copy

The post covers a study published this year from the University of Pennsylvania. The topic of the study was observing different ways people can find more “follow through” in their stated goals.

Study participants were divided into three groups – “copy-paste”, “passive advice”, and “control”.

The copy-paste group was told to get advice from a friend or colleague that demonstrates their desired behavior. The passive advice group was given a randomly-selected strategy to try, and the control group was told nothing.

The results of the study – at least over the short (one week) period – were dramatic. The copy-paste group far outworked the other two groups (read the full results here).


Before immediately applying this to yourself, there are a few important details to consider:

  • One of the things that makes this effective is that the participants want to get better at something specific and measurable. Just saying “I want to play better” is too vague to be useful.
  • The fact that you have regular contact (and accountability) with your peer may be part of what helps copy-paste to work. Reaching out to peers you don’t regularly see may not be as effective.

Aside from these two small caveats, this seems like a great strategy to apply if you’ve been feeling unmotivated. Not only could you get some useful advice, but the social contact is good for everyone right now.

If you don’t have anyone to contact about your playing, feel free to email me. I offer online lessons, but I’m also happy to answer any playing questions you may have via email, too!