If It Doesn't Challenge You ...

I practice the same things routinely, so I’m prepared in case someone walks in the house, sees instruments all over the place, and asks me to play something for them. BUT … have I fallen into a rut, both on my keyboard and my hammered dulcimer? Is my practice growing stagnant?

I think, if I’m honest, the answer would have to be yes. It occurred to me yesterday that I haven’t learned anything new in a while. I haven’t tried any new licks or tricks. I haven’t challenged myself for far too long. And if my practice isn’t challenging me, it isn’t changing me. Stated another way, challenges are what change us and help us improve. If my practice doesn’t do the first part, it won’t be able to do the second part.

If challenges change us, the only reason not to undertake a challenge musically is if we feel we are already as good as we want or need to be. And maybe some of you are in that season of your dulcimer playing. You just want to be able to play well enough to keep up at a jam session and enjoy fellowship with others who enjoy that kind of music. You want to be able to go along to get along.

But, to be frank, practicing your dulcimer without challenges will eventually become quite boring. And then you will find yourself practicing less and less often, and maybe even gradually, not at all. Take a moment to consider your practice. Is this the direction your own practice is taking?

If so, what to do? What to do? Of course, you know what I’m going to say.


Intentional challenges move us forward. When there’s a mountain in front of us to climb, it always looks huge when we’re standing at the bottom looking up. But it’s not insurmountable. Start climbing. Pick a new tune to learn. Dip into a new genre of music. Select a new technique to master. If you’re inclined to choose slow tunes (like me), decide on a fiddle tune that will get your toe a-tappin’. Don’t sit down on the job. Keep moving forward.

Moving forward with more challenging music will not only improve your ability musically, but you may also see changes in other areas of your life. This is because it increases your self-confidence. When we force ourselves to do something difficult and we finish it, our belief in ourselves increases. If you start to say “I can’t,” then you never will. Challenges teach us to recognize and appreciate our own strength and resilience.

Be inspired to take on new challenges. You’ll be better than you were before.



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