Sunday, July 2, 2017

Seeing the Forest for the Trees- A Look at the Big Picture.

So I really dislike my playing right now and you know what?

I'm totally ok with that.

  You see, as I went through my first semester of graduate school, my professor worked to change and streamline a lot of things about my playing. This put me in a position where I was having to relearn how to do a lot of things. In many ways, I was having to take a few steps back to correct subtle but very bad habits and help push me through to the next level.
  I've spent the past few years trying to break through the proverbial wall to no avail. I'd made strides, the wall has divots, cracks, and holes, but it still stands. This is why I dislike my playing right now.

  Ultimately, when it takes a long time to break down that proverbial wall the aspiring musician has to spend a great deal of time staring at a really ugly, cracked, dented, beaten up wall; wondering how to finally break through.

So, how do we do that?

  First things first, you have to believe in yourself and your ability. You do have the ability to improve your skill on whatever instrument you play and your ceiling is likely far higher than you believe. This is a rite of passage that all musicians must endure; usually several times in their life....several, dozens, hundreds, THOUSANDS. There are world class players who still sit with their metronome and pencil on their stand saying 'Why can't I freaking get that passage?!'.

   When you love something enough to fully commit to it you are going to be frustrated by it constantly.  We all set impossible standards for ourselves and are still shocked when we can't ever WHY WHY?!?!?!? Believing in yourself allows you to do this but still step back and say 'Ok, I didn't quite get it today but I will tomorrow!'. If you don't believe in yourself, learn how. Find books on self confidence. Work with people who might be able help. You HAVE TO believe in yourself to succeed in this.

   Second, you have to trust in your teacher. If you don't, you need to figure out the disconnect or find one you do trust. If you don't believe they can really help you, then why are you there?

   Lastly, you must keep faith in the fact that the wall will come down. Keep steady consistent work in the fundamentals of your instrument. If you aren't performing scales, long tones, articulation work, etc every day then you are doing yourself a disservice. Get some studies on rhythm and work the heck out of them (I like Robert Starer's Rhythmic Training). Get music theory texts and work that. Most importantly, work to recognize 'holes' in your technique and work diligently to shore them up. What's holding you back? Is it air? Your tongue? Fingers? Is there a hitch in your technique in certain ranges? Identify those 'holes' and spend a little extra time focusing on them. As an example, one of the holes in my technique is a deficiency getting around the palm keys. As such, I'm going to spend a few weeks working major and minor (harmonic and melodic) scales, scales in 3rds, and scales in 4ths, just going into, through, and out of the palm keys.

So, why am I ok with disliking my playing right now? Simple, I have a plan and know that if I persist, the wall will come down eventually and I'll be one step closer to virtuosity. The only thing standing in between me and the literature I truly want to play With that knowledge, I can make it work.

Believe in yourself.
Get to work.
Blast through walls!