I spend a lot of my time practicing: piano, exercise, knitting, writing, and football with The Boy. But then, isn’t most of life about practice? Figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Learning from our mistakes and failures.
That’s how it is with piano practicing. I practice and practice,
often a measure at a time, sometimes only two chords at a time, until I can play them correctly in sequence. Then I add two more notes to the pattern and practice until I can play them all. It’s what Dr. B calls cumulative practice — continuing to add notes before or after, always playing them correctly. That’s how I work on particularly difficult passages. The pace is often painstakingly slow.
Some time later (weeks if things are going well, months for more difficult pieces) I’m able to play the entire piece. The music and I continue to grow together: I listen carefully, try to be in the composer’s mind, and add my interpretation to the notes on the page. The music becomes mine after memorization and many more hours of practicing as the music settles and matures within me. That’s when I’ve practiced all the way into the music.
Dr. B shared another bit of wisdom that helps this process. “If you’ve drilled the fingering for a few days and it’s still not working,” he said, “then change the fingering to something that works better for you. Keep trying til you get the best combination.” Translation: there’s nothing magic about the fingering written on the page. I have permission to change it to something better.
I’m such a rule follower that I’ve struggled with awkward fingering that wouldn’t work for me, even after weeks of practice. He has given me freedom I hadn’t known before.
I think that’s what Seth Godin means when he says to practice your way into it. Knowing the rules is important, but there are other ways to get where you’re going, other ways to create your own success.
It’s in the trying — the practicing — that we learn. And it’s our mistakes that cause us to relook and rethink what we’re doing. Perhaps you’ve heard this saying: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results. If your practicing is not creating the desired results, then perhaps it’s time to change your practice.
I’m granting you permission — just in case you need it — to change your practice.
Keep practicing — until you get all the way into it and it becomes yours.
Until next Tuesday . . .