Thursday, June 11, 2009

Musical Funk

I am in a serious musical funk. Negative, negative, negative self-talk galloping through my brain. All though my lunchtime practice session today. All through my lunchtime practice session yesterday. Here’s what the negative little voice was saying:

"For someone so supposedly talented as you, who has worked as hard as you have at piano, you’d really think you wouldn’t suck as much as you do."

OK, I was going to make a list of everything that little negative voice was saying, but really, that’s pretty much what it’s saying right there.

Granted, I know I’m coming back to piano after a nine-month “fallow period.” I’m not in the pianistic shape I was in before. Deborah and others have said that fallow periods are necessary and good. That’s fine. But I think back to what caused the fallow period. It was basically a thought similar to the following:

"For someone so supposedly talented as you, who has worked as hard as you have at piano, you’d really think you wouldn’t suck as much as you do."

I can tell you when the fallow period started. It started at a group lesson where I played the C# major prelude and fugue that I had poured my heart and soul into for two years. When I took it on, I knew it might take two years (or more) to learn it. I was also learning Ständchen at the same time, which was no piece of cake. And I was working full-time, well, more than full time. More like 50-60 hours a week. And commuting two hours a day. So I went into this piece knowing I was going to live with it for a long, long time.

I was playing it really well in my practice sessions a year ago. I was aware. I was one with the piece. Playing that fugue was like having a million-tiny-fingers brain massage. It was like being part of a complicated dance where me and my dance partner were totally in sync with each other … only there were three dance partners—the three voices of the fugue. And the prelude … it was ready. I was ready. I looked forward to the group class, particularly because John Cobb, probably the most accomplished pianist in western North Carolina, was going to be there.

Well, I flopped. Maybe “flopped” is too strong of a word. But the prelude sounded mediocre, and I didn’t play the fugue well at all. I played it certainly … but it sounded like one of those “this-student-is-playing-way-beyond-her-means-and-shoudn’t-be” moments.

After I finished, I got some feedback. It included things like:

- Do you practice with a metronome? (Of course, this is a veiled and polite way of saying your timing sucks)

- Were you uncomfortable on the bench? I thought you looked really uncomfortable. (I wasn’t uncomfortable. But it was a comment on my posture, which I know needs work. Someone also said that I had some “strange body positions” when I was playing. Ah, nothing like knowing you looked stupid.)

I wasn’t uncomfortable on the bench, but I was uncomfortable. I’m uncomfortable playing for other people, and always have been. So maybe that came through in my posture and “strange body positions.”

Whatever. After that session, I decided I really didn’t want to try anymore. And I’ve pretty much been stuck on the following statement ever since:

"For someone so supposedly talented as you, who has worked as hard as you have at piano, you’d really think you wouldn’t suck as much as you do."

So now that I’m back at piano and my time and energy are limited (amazing how much it takes out of me to drive an hour and a half on a Friday afternoon after work, or a Saturday, for an hour-long piano lesson), I’ve picked up an easier group of pieces.

I really want to learn all “Seven Dolls’ Dances” by Shostakovich. These are kiddie pieces, but I don’t care. Plus, I’m about to have a kiddie, and I want to play them for him/her. So I’m sticking with the Shostakovich. The other piece is a Schubert Impromptu (Op. 90, No. 2). I’ve dropped the Bach P&F I’d started, and I dropped the Beethoven Bagatelle, which I never liked that much anyway.

The Schubert is a late-intermediate piece. The Shostakovich is probably an early-intermediate piece. I’m working on them, rather than on more advanced stuff, to experience mastery and to play at world-class standard without having to struggle through learning the notes. "World-class standard." Those are Deborah's words. Heh. We’ll see about that. For someone supposed so talented as me, who has worked so hard … OK, we don’t need the broken record here.

So, that’s where I’m at. Feeling negative and kind of depressed about the whole piano thing. I really need to get back into the mode of loving piano and being thankful for my ability to play it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love your blog! I'm comforted to know I'm not the only one who feels depressed about my lack of piano ability most days...Just when I'm ready to give it all up, I read about your experiences and that gives me motivation to continue. Please keep up the writing!