Well, it’s that time of the year again…. By the end of the week, I will have accompanied over sixty exams in the last 6 days. Part of the wonderful variety of my job means that I accompany from Preliminary to Grade 8 examinations, accompanying many different instruments – violin, cello, flute, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, euphonium are on the agenda this week.
Once again I am filled with wonder at the level of preparation (and lack thereof ) which I encounter during the rehearsal period.
This time, I am seeing one thing over and over again. I am not sure if I haven’t noticed it before, but it seems to be particularly prevalent at the moment.
Last week I was rehearsing in my studio with 2 brothers while their mother observed.
At the end of one piece, I said to the elder brother, “That song is mostly ok; you just need to work on the bad bits. You can’t just pretend they don’t exist.”
His mother laughed uproariously. “That’s exactly what he does – I’ve just never heard it said so succinctly before!”
Over my years of teaching, I have noticed this aspect of human nature: if we are good at something, we tend to do it more, since it makes us feel good about ourselves. If we are not good at something, we can tend to avoid it (this is how I feel about golf) because our ineptitude makes us feel bad about ourselves.
Time and again, I find myself teaching discipline and hard work in addition to music.
Two weeks ago, I again had 2 brothers and their mother in my studio. The younger boy was struggling with a particular part of his violin piece. I got him to do it correctly once, then again, then again. We spent maybe 5 minutes on 4 bars, but by the end of this short time, his face had brightened, and he didn’t hate the piece so much anymore.
And yesterday, teaching one of my own students, she admitted that she had not really practised one of her pieces over the last week. The exam is less than 2 weeks away, but she was ignoring one-third of her programme, because it was all too overwhelming.
What is my advice?
DO THE BAD BIT!
Facing a problem head-on will actually diminish it.
In fact, like many of the things we procrastinate about, often when we face it, it becomes much less of a problem than we anticipated.
Sure, there may still be some hard work ahead of us, but isn’t it better to just start? Then break into bite-size pieces: 1 bar, or 1 phrase, then slowly piece it together.
It can be done, but it must be faced and attempted, and the satisfaction that comes with completing the task is the satisfaction of doing something well, and eventually succeeding.