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  • Writer's pictureRon Dickson

Immediate Gratification v’s Delayed Gratification.

Everyone likes immediate gratification, the smile from a job well done. Delayed gratification requires more patience and is often a frustrating path. However, delayed gratification leads to tremendous success with less effort overall. Learning to deal with the frustration on the way and change it to a positive rather than negative makes our goals more achievable.


When we set ourselves something to learn on a musical instrument, we all know it is unrealistic to perfect it in one day, yet many of us get frustrated with our mistakes and inability to play it. This frustration is what we must develop techniques to overcome to achieve our target.

Our delayed Gratification is achieving our target. We cannot achieve this in one sitting, so we will not get immediate gratification – or can we?


Re-assessing our attitude to practice and learning can significantly increase our enjoyment and satisfaction. Some ideas to consider to gain that immediate gratification feeling every time you practice

  • You have practised. This always takes you one step closer to your goal

  • You made a mistake. Each mistake identifies something holding you back from achieving your target. Assess the mistake and work out how to eliminate it

  • Eliminating a mistake. Each mistake eliminated gets you closer to your goal

  • Completing a section. Everything we learn can be split into smaller parts, leading to smaller goals on the way to success.

  • Playing a section perfect at any speed. Once a section has been played through perfect, even if slow, it is now stored in the brain for developing further

  • Getting the right-hand movement correct for a section

  • Getting the left-hand movement correct for a section

  • Getting the rhythm correct for a section

The list can keep going depending on what it is you are learning. Giving ourselves smaller targets rewards us with immediate gratification during practice on our journey to get better and reach our end goal.


During many lessons, I congratulate a student on achievement and get the response that this was wrong, that was wrong, and the other was wrong, and my response is, great, now you have identified that we can work on those parts. However, the thing you were working on was achieved, yet you have ignored the success there. Musicians are always too hard on themselves. In some ways, this is good as it leads to fantastic results. In others, it can lead to quitting the instrument altogether.


Recently I had a long conversation with a student about mistakes and how they are a good thing as they help us learn. Recognising and correcting mistakes helps us to become better. Later they sent me a quote from Albert Einstein, which sums it up nicely.


“Failure is success in progress.”


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