Lesson for a beginner


Welcome, welcome!…OK… before you touch your instrument,  I’d like to explain, and then discuss a few things with you. Let’s pause right here, and take a breath. Please take another breath,  now pause. Your brain, your body, and your spirit are marvelous things… I’m still amazed at the potential for learning they have. Your mind, and body want to learn. They are in some ways like the best kind of dog. THEY WANT TO PLEASE YOU!!! As a matter of fact, they have already begun learning… they’ve been learning ever since you walked in the door to my studio. This is, again, a true marvel, but it’s also perilous… whatever you show your hands-mind-heart is what they will learn….so if you offer up the practice of fidgeting, your body will remember that,  so next time, you won’t even need to ask it to fidget, it’ll begin all by its loneself… if you choose to fiddle with your instrument while I’m explaining, or demonstrating something to you,  your body will learn that behavior also. It will almost come naturally. If you practice the part of a melody, or rhythm that comes easily, and put off a gentle, insistent pursuit of something not so easy, that’s what you’ll learn. See?  So, having pointed all this out, and assuming that you’re paying reasonable attention right now, see how important it is to start your lessons, and practice with a clean slate?  You’ll screw up (we screw up),  you’ll not only have myriad things to learn, but also, volumes to unlearn. It’s been my experience that the unlearning is much harder, and tedious to abide, but it’s worth it!

My teaching practice includes LOTS of talk about how to prepare for practice, how to listen, how to breathe and sit while practising, how to have fun, and how to keep at it. I haven’t seen many instructional vehicles where bad information is presented. You can find this good information most anywhere… and that can be the biggest challenge. So many choices… There are also a million different ways to present that good information. So I don’t offer much of that, for me, it’s not what you’re getting that’s interesting, as much as how you’re getting it.  If you’re stubborn, inspired, and willing to fail, chances are really good that you’ve got what it takes to be some kind of a musician. Lots of that success will come from a sort of inherited familial, genetic gift. But that’s not as important as the stubborn bit. I know SO MANY people who have the whole package of “talent”, but they haven’t learned how to learn. They haven’t learned how to keep at it.  It can come too easily, or one just can’t (or won’t) settle down with the minutiae of learning. It comes easily, (perhaps too easily) and we don’t take the time to consider what just happened.


So, I want to encourage you to take the time to not know. Get intimate with it… it will be a long,  glorious, tedious, heartbreaking journey. Not knowing will be one of your very best friends, and who of us wouldn’t like another best friend?  I’ve learned that I always have the option to just stop… take a breath, and say “I’m confused”, or, take a breath and ask “where was I?”, or even…”This is really pissing me off right now!!!”. These are good things; it is unequivocal  evidence that you’re human! You’re teaching yourself to allow yourself to fail, but not failing . Isn’t that great!!!? What a dichotomy! What a relief! I can make mistakes, and they can serve me! From this little nugget, you can even infer that making mistakes is a good thing.  I’ve learned this, because I’ve taken LOTS OF CLASSES AND LESSONS, GONE THROUGH LOTS OF METHOD BOOKS, and WATCHED LOTS OF VIDEOS… these are all brilliant things… but until I learned how to slow down, and learn one bit at a time, it never made any sense. Until I could pay attention to how I was learning, and to what was happening while I was learning,  I couldn’t see any progress, and I became discouraged. I’d had enough, and I wanted to toss my instrument out the window, or worse, let it quietly age in its case…alone in a dark closet,  forgotten…

That’s a big chunk of a lesson. Let’s stop, take a few breaths, and end the lesson. OK? Advanced students might consider taking a breath before, and after finishing.



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