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Piano Angst

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I cancelled my piano lesson today.

Partially because there is yet another plumbing crisis at my house (gotta love the shifting Texas soil) and I'm waiting on the excavators to get here to begin digging.

The real reason: I only practiced three days this week. Yes, I was busy, but I was also just tired, and quite frankly I'm tired of beating my head against the Wall of Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C# minor. What on earth was I thinking when I chose this piece?! And I CAN'T give up! I will NOT admit failure. I won't do it. But I sure feel like one right now.

It dredges up all that old angst from music school. How it didn't seem to matter how much homework I had, or how many rehearsals I had to get to, or what my work schedule was like, my teacher still demanded perfection in every lesson, and when I couldn't deliver, well... I got told I wasn't good enough. You get told that enough times by someone who is supposed to help you, and you start to believe it. That is ultimately why I quit playing clarinet. I hate it. Hate. IT. I STILL get calls to do gigs, and I pass them up, because I WILL NOT PLAY THIS WRETCHED INSTRUMENT ANY MORE. EVER. That, and they never seem to pay enough to be worth my while. And I hate conductors. And I fall asleep in rehearsal or draw pictures on my music when I get bored or disassemble someone's instrument when they aren't looking because they're being jerks.

The difference here, I keep trying to tell myself, is that I'm learning to play the piano for ME, because it's something I've always wanted to do. But I fall into the same old patterns of frustration and expectations of perfection (as in, why can't I play this like Van Cliburn, or Vladimir Horowitz, or Glen Gould, or...). And then I don't want to practice because it's just so far to go, but I can't seem to give up on the piece, and I have to see it through, no matter the cost. So I stand, screaming into the void, "WHY CAN'T I PLAY THIS INSTRUMENT?" The answer usually comes back "you don't do enough."

Here are the facts: I've been playing the piano for a grand total of 10 months. Ten months, and I'm expecting to play Rachmaninoff like Horowitz played Rachmaninoff. NOPE. Even if I quit my job to practice 10 hours a day, I don't think I could play that well. And I don't WANT to practice 10 hours a day. I'd get bored and wander off. And anyway, to what end? I'm not going to play it for anyone. It's just for me, so I can say that I can do it. That's it. So I guess, in spite of my angst and expectations, it's just going to take as long as it's going to take. No more, and no less.

Really, though, I feel like a loser for cancelling due to lack of preparation thinly disguised by a plumbing crisis.


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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    You're right - erasing those "old tapes" that play in our heads is SO difficult. But it sounds like you're on the right track. You ARE doing this for YOU, and no one else. It takes however much time it takes while you continue to have a life. And hopefully you will find joy in the process!
    1652 days ago
  • PROT358
    Have patience! I read that with any discipline it takes at least 10 years to attain a sense of mastery, and that was true in my experience with the piano. As a teacher I can say that I have taught students who didn't have much time to practice. If it is a choice between having a lesson with less practice or missing a lesson, I always recommend to take the lesson. It is almost impossible to attend a lesson where absolutely nothing is gained, and in the interim (especially if the cancellations run in packs) the student might actually backslide or regress a little. You might not feel at your best but it can still be productive.

    Put your perfectionism aside and keep at it! I'm cheering for you!
    1653 days ago
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