Monday, October 8, 2012


See that E flat right there?  Last week it was the bane of my existence.  It belongs to a song, written by Bach, called presto.  That isn't so much its name as a direction on how to play it though.  The real name is bwv 1001.  I have no idea what that means and it doesn't really matter for this post.  

Back to E flat.  This one is is followed by B flat which turned it into a gigantic road block that I could not get through no matter how long I spent obsessing over it.  No matter how many times I watched it being played on youtube, screaming at them to "slow down dammit! I can't see what your doing!"  Thats what i get for deciding to learn a song who's name means its played fast.  I tried playing the phrase preceding it in every place i could fathom but every time i got to the E flat, everything fell apart.  I couldn't reach B flat from there, or there, or there.  A week of this.  up and down the fret board getting nowhere, in fact moving back from where i'd ended it the week before.  

Finally Saturday and my guitar lesson came.  I was a little anxious because i knew it would look like i'd done nothing all week.  I told my teacher i was stuck and after a few minutes of looking at the music he did the one thing i hadn't tried.  He used the very spot i was unable to play in any one place and used it as a transition.  I was so frustrated and had tied up so much emotion into that one spot and my inability to play it that the moment that i realized what he'd done and that i could actually move past it I nearly burst into tears.  I had to force myself not to think about it and move forward with him to what came next, and luckily was successful in not completely embarrassing myself.  It was an incredible weight that had lifted.  

I have a tendency to place all of myself into the one thing that I can or can't do.  So if I fail it becomes this huge suffocating thing that i can't overcome.  It holds me down and starts dragging me into a particular kind of self-loathing depression that involves hating everything i've every produced good and bad.  I do the one thing I fear the most of other people and dismiss myself as unimportant, unintelligent, and incapable.  All the moments I keep to torture myself with run through my brain like a constant nightmare reminding me just how ridiculous I can be.  You might be thinking "Good grief its just music, just a single note.  All you had to do was get some help from someone who knows what their doing."  Well, you wouldn't be wrong.  I would have said the same thing to someone else struggling with such a simple problem.  Asking for help seems like such and easy thing to do when your not the one doing it.  However, if I didn't have a weekly guitar lesson, I would never have told a soul what this one small note was doing to me.  To be fair, if I wasn't taking lessons, I wouldn't be learning classical music, but I feel like it would just be another, probably more simple, song.  I would have given up.   Maybe stopped playing for a few weeks or months.  That in itself would have made it much worse and confirmed that I was a failure.  

I went home on Saturday and worked on the song some more.  Slowly playing through the part that i'd just learned and then tentatively pairing it with the next few notes to see where it would lead and if i'd be able to follow.  After a few measures I began to feel some confidence again.  I can probably guess that I won't be playing this piece perfectly anytime soon.  But at least I'm no longer doubting that i'll even be able to learn it.  By sunday i'd learned more in two days than i'd learned in any of the weeks i'd been spending on it.  

I guess the point of this blog isn't so much the note that i couldn't get past as it is what i learned about myself because of it.  I have a process for learning things.  As an example, in music I memorize a certain amount and when i think i've gone as far as i can remember for one day I go on past it, maybe three measures.  Not memorizing them, just reading through them and figuring out where i'll be playing them.  It gives me a head start, i won't remember it the next day but i'll learn it faster and better.  This is the process i've used since high school and it rarely fails me.  When it does, I don't know how to handle it.  Typically I think I let the after effects run their course like I would a cold, assuming there is no cure and i can only treat the symptoms.  Not telling anyone because that would probably make it worse.  This time that was interrupted by help.  Yes, It was scheduled and Its his job to do just that all day long, and  I'm sure he had no idea how he unwittingly put a stop to the emotional landslide that was about to happen.  I felt like I'd stepped off a cliff only realize it was only a small step down.  Hopefully I can remember this next time and find a way to interrupt it again.  Maybe its asking for help,or maybe its having a goal and allowing myself to reach it imperfectly.  

My teacher continually tells me I can only achieve things If I tell myself I can.  The minute I say I can its a possibility and if I say I can't, then I won't be able too.  I always nod in agreement because this is something I already know and its easier said than done, but until now I haven't really experienced it.  So, here's my goal.  I want to finish learning this song by the end of next week.  I can do it.  I will.  

1 comment:

  1. this is so inspirational for me. it's so hard to tell yourself you can do something but eventually you learn to believe your own voice. i can't wait to hear you play this piece. i still don't know how you do it! amazing.

    your guitar teacher may have crazy finger nails but i think i love him