I’ve been taking piano lessons for the past four months, and while I love it, and the way that practising the piano at home relaxes me, I still find them scary.
Every week I trot off to my piano teacher’s house. She is very nice, very encouraging and very patient. And yet I instantly revert to my ten-year-old self. I get a dry mouth; my hands shake and my brain turns to mush (this is not wine-related). Music that had sounded perfectly ok at home now sounds like a load of tom-cats being garrotted; I can’t read the score and I feel – there is no other word for it – panicked.
My teacher says that this happens to all her adult pupils. They are too self-conscious for one thing and for another too worried about getting it right. Of course the whole point of lessons is to try and get things right, and also to learn from what goes wrong. I suspect that another reason is that of course this really is a case of practice making perfect. I don’t need to tell her whether or not I’ve been practising; she knows as soon as I start to play by how confident I am (even when things aren’t going perfectly) so I don’t even bother with any excuses such as “I’ve been busy” etc. Quite frankly, unless I’m away from home with work there is always time to practise, even if for only five minutes a day (I aim for an hour a day when I’m home).
I had cause to reflect on this last week when I was working with a group who haven’t, collectively, had much (if any) training, and they were nervous – very nervous in fact. I shared my piano lesson reaction with them, because I wanted to use it to demonstrate that we as trainers genuinely empathise and understand what it feels like to be in their shoes, to wonder “What will happen?” and “Will I make a fool of myself?” – and the myriad variations on that way of thinking. And of course to reassure them that nothing “bad” is going to happen to them.
Then I realised that there is another link to draw between the piano lessons, and the hours of preparation you put into presenting in front of an audience. You need to put a lot of time and effort into it, and sometimes you’ll wonder if you’ll ever get anywhere. It can feel difficult, frustrating, lonely and soul-destroying*. But what’s the alternative? You do nothing, you get nowhere, and then you freeze when the spotlight is on you? Nope. Not a good alternative.
I started off wanting to learn the piano for its own sake, and now I’m thinking that I’d like to take a Grade exam (cue dry mouth and sweaty palms at the mere thought). So that’s my plan, and one I’m working towards every day.
At this point in time, none of us knows what’s really going to happen post-Brexit referendum. So in the meantime we have to keep on keeping on. Our efforts may take us nowhere. But they may well take us somewhere, so if you’ve been a bit lax in your own practice of late, there’s no time like the present to get going again. Good luck!
*May I shamelessly use this blog to applaud Mr D’s patience in the face of endless repetition of scales and short pieces? He has a professional musician for a brother and grew up in a home where eight hours of practice was standard – every single day – so he’s not necessarily keen to have to go through it all again. I thank you, Mr D.
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about the author
Nicky Denegri is our Senior Consultant. If you would like to know more about this subject, drop her an email and we will be in touch.