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I realized about 6 months into my playing that the point of lessons is not to play perfect during a lesson. but rather for the teacher to teach you. Music lessons are not performance time. That is when you are in front of an audience. Also, and this was for me, difficult to accept and understand... your teacher is not judging. He/she is watching and listening for areas where they can help you. They expect, and would like to see mistakes and areas for improvement so they can help you to learn and play better.
If you could take an unfamiliar piece and in a week or 2 play it without mistakes, without needing to improve bowing, intonation, or tone, you would not need lessons.
We have been conditioned in school and other areas of life to avoid mistakes. To get as close to perfect as possible. We are encouraged to get as close to a 4.0 GPA as possible (US grading system). In music (especially strings) and other forms of art, this does not work that way. Mastering an instrument takes years, sometimes a lifetime. Ever noticed how a painter is rarely ever completely satisfied with their work? Claude Monet said, "Perhaps it's true that I'm very hard on myself, but that's better than exhibiting mediocre work..."
I am not suggesting your goal should be to master the instrument, but having a mindset with the expectation to come to a music lesson with no mistakes is not the point of lessons, and can cause much more stress than you need and even be counter productive.
I have never gone to a lesson having played anything without mistakes. Even when I thought I have learned a piece well (playing by myself in my familiar surroundings), often I would go to my lesson and make mistakes that I had never made in practice. It is normal and nothing to worry about. My teacher says all her students have the same experience. And they will tend to blame it on everything from their instruments to the chair they are sitting in.
There is some level of nervousness I experience, which is odd because my teacher is really patient. She is not the cause of my anxiety at all. I am still not completely over the idea that my teacher is watching, looking for problems... I am working on it. I deal with the anxiety with humor. We joke a lot. I'm sure she is aware it is a coping mechanism. For me, it seems to help me relax during lessons. I don't know if that would work for everyone or every teacher.
My advise, Cynthia, is to try not to go to lessons expecting to play smoothly, without mistakes. Welcome the mistakes! They will help your teacher know where to help you play better.
- Pete -
But, nothing he said registered at all. Huge mental block! I told him that I really did play. Even with the issues, I did get a lot of serious practice pinpointing trouble areas. He said he knew and could tell. I think he LIED! LOL
He did not lie. Instructors know. They know because they have students who do not practice. They know the difference. I bring my own music in to my lessons often. I am sure my teacher is very accepting of this because she knows I will actually work on it. She is very aware I practice every day.
Just now, I just finished a detailed spot practice session. I was working on the last 5 or 6 measures of that minuet. The measures, or half measures depending on which measure and difficulty level, I worked on were not too bad on there own, but together or adding the one before, blows up in my face.
Periodically, I do start from the beginning and go through to the end. I don’t want to create a habit of stopping at specific spots. I tend to do that and it is not something I can correct later.
Starting and stopping when you didn't intend to is something to avoid. You should be in the habit of playing through whatever passage you intended without stopping. Stopping at a spot you intended is very different and is not something to worry about.
How can I get over the hump of not being able to connect the trouble spots together? Is that something that will come when I become accustomed to those spots that are causing me issues and am able to just treat it, not treat, but it just comes naturally without a second thought? Do you think that maybe if I don’t think about it that it will just naturally come together because those spots no longer intimidate me?
I think you should try something. Trust yourself.
I agree with @AndrewH. He discussed the concept of repeating passages for a specified amount of times, and if you make a mistake in any of the repeats, you have to start the count over again until you do not make mistakes through the entire series of repeats. He believes this is absolute rubbish, and so do I.
Instead, take a passage where you are having difficulty, play it very slowly and work out the issues. When you are focusing on the difficult area, play the measure preceding it and the measure that comes after it. Then play it through from the top and play through the difficult passage. Do this slowly. You will increase speed over time.
What you will find is that your brain and your muscles will record the correct playing over time. You will be amazed that the next day, you will remember how to play it (this is one reason daily practice is so critical, so that you can reinforce good playing). Sometimes this is referred to as "deliberate practice." It is much more beneficial.
Trust yourself that you will remember.
- Pete -
I wonder @Mouse if you are not expecting too much of yourself, and then beating yourself up because you are not meeting your own expectations.
Have you gone back to works you did awhile back, that would be easier for you now? Can you play through those?
I would suggest you go back to something you studied a couple months ago (or more), and have moved on from. Can you play it straight through after a bit of refresher practice? No? What if you work a little (not too much) on the trouble spots as you've described? Still not able to do so? Go back further. If you can, then you've confirmed you can do it.
You might have to go all the way back to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star or Ode To Joy, but I doubt it. At some point as you review older pieces, you'll be back at a level where you feel it is easy and you'll be able to play through it.
I'm quite sure it's not a mental block, but that you're a little beyond your competence level (after all, you've said your teacher continually challenges you with things you didn't think you could do), and it's too much to be able to keep all the moving parts together.
I'm guessing that if you look back to see where you can play straight through, you'll find you're looking back 2-4 months. If I'm right, that window will keep moving forward as you do.
BTW, ViolinLab has a lesson where she talks about how practicing bowing alone --without fingering -- and then adding the fingering has become one of her favorite ways to practice troublesome passages. I'm such a beginner, I haven't tried it yet, but I've stored the idea away for later use. It could be something that might help you.
. I was fine with the minuet until that section where it sounds like motes were thrown up into the air, like flinging a blanket up and letting the notes loose, and they drop down on the staff paper and are just divided by measures.
@Mouse I'm not familiar with the piece of music but is it possible that another section takes over the melody at that point and cellos are doing some sort of backing ( don't know the proper term )?
Maybe you can find a track to play along with for just that section. Possibly musescore has a file that someone has put together.
I think I might know what you mean cid. I have encountered similar thoughts and feelings toward some art that usually isn't music. I've tried to make sense of some painted art and come up empty. Even wondered if the artist was doing drugs when he/she painted it. Artists tend to put things together that don't fit together in the real world. Same goes for some lyrics. Many songs out there have lyrics that just never made any sense at all. I wouldn't say it's ignorance on my part. Sometimes an artist wants the person who sees or hears to have a private interpretation of it. Sometimes the interpretation is intended to be more symbolic or even like some kind of puzzle.
Some artists consider it their mission to stretch your mind to places it has never gone to before. They do that by making art that pushes our ability to understand it on common everyday terms.
Music is a bit unique in that we are mostly accustomed to "western" music formats. Music from India or China sounds almost alien to us because we were raised on the western system of music. Most modern music follows an easy to find pattern. Classical music OTOH doesn't always move back to an earlier established pattern. I see classical music more like reading a book where you read through each chapter to find something different. Chapter 1 is nothing like chapter 7. Not really a verse/chorus kind of thing.
I'll admit that no matter which format you hold some of it to, it doesn't connect in any way that seems to make sense. There is no expectation in it. Some composers attempt to make something different, build a better mouse trap, and end up making a mess lol. Imagine being a player in an orchestra and being handed some of this to play Much of it is progressive and makes perfect sense, some of it doesn't make as much sense to me. No emotional connection whatsoever. Same can be said for a lot of the popular music now too. I guess it comes down to personal preference and taste. In order to play something you consider unorganized you need to lay aside any expectation and follow the notes. Not something I intend to do much of.