Learning an instrument is much like any sport, language or new piece of flashy technology. You must go traverse the plethora of highs and lows in order to become proficient. Much like an athlete performs routine conditioning exercises we as musicians must also drill techniques such as scales, pattern exercises and long tones.
Albeit not the most fun activity, the repetition, of the sometimes mundane, is where the real improvement lays: Pay your dues.
I remember a stage in my learning where I hit the inevitable brick wall. Much like a marathon runner during the 17th mile, I just couldn’t play this one particular phrase of music! I remember feeling incredibly deflated upon hearing the disappointment in my teachers voice when I inevitably fluffed the same phrase once again during my lesson. For weeks, I spent day after day using any method I knew in order to gain the longed for accuracy and most importantly, consistency. I practiced the phrase: forwards, backwards, in different rhythms, slowly, quickly, from memory, upside down, said prayers, shed a tear and undoubtedly threw the occasional strop. Eventually, I nailed it and managed to play it flawlessly during a Diploma examination at the age of 16. I’d paid my dues.
Last week a student of mine looked aghast at me when I demonstrated that phrase to her in order to give her a sample of the piece. ”I’ll never be able to play that.” she said, I bet you can all guess what I said in response to her.
For all of you who are curious as to what the piece was here it is:
Your goals are only a pathway ahead of you, take a step at a time towards them, don’t give in – pay your dues.