Cool out. Just take a deep breath and calm down.
It is very easy to get into a dark place with ones playing; it's part of being an observant musician. Unfortunately, it makes life close to intolerable. As a naturally snarky person, I have gone through extreme lows when practicing due to being hypercritical of my playing. Sometimes we just need to let go. Here are some steps I have started taking in order to approach the practice room with a positive mindset.
1. Set small goals
"I'm going to play Figaro perfectly" is not a small goal. There are forty notes in the first seven bars of the excerpt. Expecting perfection is both vague and not necessary. Instead, try to think of one aspect you want to fix as you run through a section. "I want to start Figaro with clear articulation" is a small goal. "I'm going to focus on my half hole use in the second bar" is a small goal. Sometimes as musicians, we need a win. Setting small goals is actually a suggestion I read in Cosmopolitan magazine (not in regards to practicing). I suggested this idea to a dear friend of mine when she was extremely stressed three years ago. She still sets small goals to this day. Small goals are a great way to boost morale and track progress. Additionally, it is conducive towards focused practicing. Thanks, Cosmo!
2. Get rid of hatred
Jeff Nelsen, professor of horn/generally fearless dude, suggests approaching each thing you work on with a similar mindset to a golden retriever. "Oh boy! I love Tchaik 6!" should replace every instance you would have thought "Ugh, Tchaik 6 sucks." Positivity and negativity can be heard in tone production and general execution during a performance. Even if this sort of reaction seems beyond fake, it works surprisingly well. The power of positivity is shocking, even when it is not a natural feeling.
If you would like another resource on faking positivity until it works, I would recommend the following Ted talk:
This video mostly addresses positive and powerful body language, but most of the principles can be applied to positive mental language. Also, it is just a great talk.
3. Take inventory of truths
Sometimes practicing is just not going well. This happens AND it's okay! More often than not, the bad things are all we can focus on, which exacerbates the issues at hand. Yeah, your reed sounds like you found it at a garbage dump, but gosh, you have great rhythm today. Maybe you missed every single note in Beethoven 4 in front of all of your peers? It's okay, because today your hair looks great.
Not quite like that, but you may get the idea. Today is today, and tomorrow happens tomorrow. Everything may seem like it is crumbling around you, but you will have tomorrow to try it again. After each performance, don't be afraid to give yourself a compliment sandwich in order to inventory you truths:
- I was really pleased with my dynamic level after my tapered notes.
- Next time, I want to work towards more natural sounding ornamentation so it does not stick out of the texture.
- The timbral changes I worked on in the practice room came across (whether good or bad)
I leave you with a little girl who knows how to inventory truths.