Jean Croker Petke

Change it up

Change it up

Practice — it’s what’s required if we want to get better — at whatever we do: needlework, gardening, cooking, writing, music, quilting, exercise . . .

Most of us have techniques and routines that work for us. They’ve evolved over time and we’ve settled into them. “This is how I do it,” we say. “This works for me.”

But what if we practice and practice and practice, as usual, and the results don’t happen. We give it our best shot, not just today, but over time, and still nothing.

What then?

Case in point: There’s a little spot, one measure, in a Beethoven sonata that has plagued me for months. It’s a trill with both hands. The first month or so, I used the editor’s fingering printed in the music. I stumbled every time. I drilled and drilled and still couldn’t get it. At my lesson Dr. B suggested different fingering. After a few attempts with his fingering, he said the trill was already better. I drilled and drilled for several more weeks. I could play the trill in isolation but stumbled over it as part of the larger piece. Another lesson and another discussion. We reviewed everything I had tried so far. Neither failure nor success was complete. Dr. B then suggested I try other fingerings and figure out what works best for me. Since then I’ve found a new fingering that’s working better. The measure of my success will be at my lesson later today.

My life-long stumbling block is following the rules, whether it be directions for a project, instructions in a recipe, or the guidance of a teacher. I resist forging ahead, especially with music, to figure out a better way. I’m learning that what works best for Dr. B doesn’t necessarily work best for me. Why? Because our hands are very different sizes — mine are significantly larger than his. We can each do things the other can’t do — all because of hand size.

At my last lesson, Dr. B gave me permission to figure out things on my own. Though he’s told me before that the editor’s fingering is not always the best, I am now a believer. Continual stumbling, even after much practice, means something needs to change.

I’m learning to have confidence in my years of piano study. I can create new fingerings and new practice techniques. I don’t have to wait from someone else to tell me.

How about you? What have you continued to practice with unsatisfactory results? Have you looked at what you’re doing, your intentions, and your discipline? If you’ve followed the directions and rules and teachers and it’s not working for you, become your own expert at what you’re trying to accomplish.

Create a practice that works for you. Adjust as necessary.

Until next Tuesday . . .


One Comment - Leave a Comment
  • Linda Dingus -

    I truly believe that learning what works best for each individual should be allowed in all walks of life. In the pressroom each trainer I had insisted I follow their way each time. What I was exposed to was frustrating because each one had a different technique.I finally decided to work on my own technique of getting the work done. Life became much better for me on the job.

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