It’s been a challenging day here in my head. Between Tuesday’s start of harp lessons and my accompanying reflections on progress or lack thereof, and Wednesday’s chorus class where I wouldn’t have found an alto line if it had been gift-wrapped and handed to me, I was teetering on the edge of a black hole of discouragement and futility, and contemplating whether I should chuck music and spend the rest of my life watching M.A.S.H. reruns.
But on some days I am exceptionally lucky and the universe sends me exactly what I most need to read and hear.
The first rope to pull me back from the edge was Philip Bradbury’s post on The Write Site, Apple Cider, Doing It Badly and Writing. If you are feeling discouraged about learning how to do something or about making any kind of change or improvement in your life, read it. He reminded me that whatever I’m working on, “as I keep doing it badly, I keep getting better.” And I can’t argue with this advice, passed on from his father-in-law:
“If you want to do something, even if you do it badly, NEVER GIVE UP!”
The second rope saving me from a life of television is this week’s practice tip from Molto Music, Do SOMETHING Everyday. Here’s what helped:
Can’t decide what to practice today? Then, do exactly what you did yesterday. It doesn’t matter if you feel you are improving or not. Due to the natural shape of the learning curve, you won’t notice improvement on a daily basis anyway.
By being conscientious and paying attention to the details of your playing, you will be making improvement–whether you recognize it or not! Much of our practice time is spent building muscle memory, and your muscles need a constant reminder of the sequences they need to go through to play accurately.
Even if you are not consciously aware of this process taking shape, it’s important to give your muscles the practice they so desperately need.
There’s no rule stating you have to or you’re supposed to or you should play through a whole piece flawlessly. That’s called performing! Most practicing is about focusing on small details. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Just go get some work done.
Let me tell myself again:
“It doesn’t matter if you feel you are improving or not. . . . By being conscientious and paying attention to the details of your playing, you will be making improvement–whether you recognize it or not! “
Ok, I think I’ve got it. . . .It doesn’t matter if I feel that I’m improving. It doesn’t matter whether or not I recognize improvements. It matters that I show up for chorus, that I listen well, follow my score, sing when I can. It matters that I show up at the harp and pay attention to the details of producing beautiful rolled four-finger chords and even tremolos. If I keep working, I’ll get better. As I keep working, I improve. It only matters that I don’t give up.
I’m surrendering custody of the remote control. It’s late, and I need to go get some work done.