October 21, 2011

Raindrops on roses

All week, I’ve practiced the newest piece of piano music I’m learning, the song “My Favorite Things” from the Sound of Music. I made sure to practice every single day. But when I played the song for Beautiful Piano Teacher at my lesson today, it still sounded pretty awful. My right hand knows the song, but I kept pausing between measures to see what my left hand was doing.

My piano teacher was all supportive and encouraging — really, she’s the most patient person on earth — and she kept telling me not to compare myself to my piano-playing sons. But still, it drives me crazy that my playing is so slow and torturous. Putting my right hand and left hand together still makes my head explode.

“This is so frustrating,” I said to With-a-Why this afternoon as I sat back down at the piano. “I practiced every single day this week. And it still doesn’t sound the way it does when you play. That’s so unfair.”

“Yeah, that’s really unfair,” he said. He switched his voice to a higher pitch in imitation of me. “I’ve been playing this song every day for a whole week, and I’m not as good as someone whose been playing for nine years.”

I conceded that he did have a point. But still, it feels like I’m learning really slowly.

“It’s not like I think I will ever play as well as you or Shaggy Hair Boy,” I said.

“Why not?” he asked. “You won’t catch up with us, but someday you could play as well as I can now.”

“Really?” I asked.

“Of course,” he said. “It just takes practice.”

He shook his hair out of his face. “Really, you ought to set your goals higher.”


Jo Royal said...

A great reminder of the danger of comparison. We need to stop comparing ourselves to others, and instead, stop and look at own achievements and goals. I found this particularly interesting as I am about to find myself back on the piano learning track after 15 years of not tinkering at all. Keep up the practice and recognise your achievements :) Great stuff!


Anonymous said...

Don't you hate it when the kids talk like parents?

readersguide said...

Awww. Sounds like he's taken the parental advice to heart --

Zhoen said...

Well, when he's right...

I can so sympathize.

L said...

:) You know, he may be right... but... not exactly. Some people have innate talent for music. Unfortunately, I'm not one of them. I had piano lessons for SEVENTEEN years straight, every single week of the school year. OF COURSE I never practiced enough, if at all some weeks (I was extremely busy both during high school and college -- I actually finished my bachelor's & got married before I graduated from piano because of my required recitals -- you may have read my super long post on the subject).

In any case... yes, if you keep on studying, you will get to play OK. But some people will always be better if they have the talent. I, for example, have a really hard time with lots of things such as learning songs by heart -- and I think some of it must be connected to my ADHD, I just never made the connection.

Anyway... it's exciting that you're studying. Sometimes I think I'd like to go back, but frankly, I don't know if I'd get any better. It's frustrating, but I'm looking forward to the day when both my sons will play WAY better than I do. And I know (both because of the much better method they are learning from - Alfred's premier and because they're pretty musical) that it will take them ten years less to be as good as I am now.

Sorry for the long comment. It's just that this is one of the "sore subjects" in my life (together with money and some other stuff).

L said...

P.S. I LOVE The Sound of Music! I know most of the songs by heart.

My favorite things doesn't sound like an easy enough song for a beginner... but whatever. Seriously, these new piano methods they have nowadays are fantastic, out of this world, amazing. I'm sure I'd be a much better player had I learned through them. I don't know what your teacher does, but you should check them out! (and maybe this is a moot comment and you already use one of the newer methods). I'm saying this because the methods teach things very gradually and in a very logical & organized manner and even though things get a little challenging once in a while, it doesn't feel insurmountable. (not that your song does)

I talk too much. sorry.

jo(e) said...

Lilian: I don't know about the innate talent for music. Studies seem to indicate that it's mostly about how much time you put in practicing. I think that's the hardest part about learning as an adult -- I just don't have as much time on my hands as the average seven-year-old.

I don't know anything what the new piano methods are, but I'm willing to trust my teacher because she taught my two youngest sons and they play beautifully, so it's pretty clear that she's a fantastic teacher. I'm having fun playing, and that's probably the most important thing.

BrightenedBoy said...

That's a lot of wisdom from a 17-year-old.

L said...

Great! I'm glad you're having a good time in spite of the fact that some songs are more challenging than others. Does your teacher pick them out of a specific book? Just curious.

As for innate talent, I've seen it enough that I know it exists and that I don't have it. Of course I could try to go and research the issue and I'm sure that there are dissenting academic opinions, etc, etc... so I'm only talking about my own experience around musical people, which is considerable (I have several friends who are professional musicians, composers, arrangers, orchestra conductors, choir directors, etc).

Some kids (like one of my best friends who's currently pursuing an M.A. in music) are able to play full songs by ear when they're 3 years old and are wonderful pianists when they're teenagers whereas other people can't. Music just flows out of certain people and others have a really hard time. I also know a few people who are tone deaf (can't carry a tune) and no matter how many singing lessons they had, it doesn't help... so... I believe (IMHO) that there are people with real limitations and people with real talent where music is concerned (and everything else, really, e.g. writing).

but I agree with you 100% that by practicing enough most people can learn tolerably well and have fun playing any instrument (singing is another matter! ;). I also know my limitations (although they really frustrate me and I totally need therapy for so many issues), and I know have other talents that I value. I just wish I could be a bit better musically... that is all.