August 2015 Lesson – When it feels like you are never going to get it

Going into my lesson last Saturday I felt confident that I would receive a passing mark on 4 of my 6 assigned pieces. I didn’t obtain approval on any piece! My performance at this lesson was disappointing.

Tabs on the right are completed hymns. Tabs on the top are currently assigned.
Tabs on the right are completed hymns. Tabs on the top are currently assigned. (Violet’s tail is visible on far right side)

When it feels like you are never going to get it

I sat on the organ bench hearing again that the tempo isn’t quite right. And syncopation continues to be my nemesis. Lesson after lesson, the same issues are repeated. I sometimes feel like I am never going to get it!

The fugue from Prelude and Fugue in F Major (BWV 556) has now been on my assignment list for 2 years! For at least the last 6 months, Michael has said “I’m going to need to hear at one more lesson”.

I wanted to cry. But didn’t. How could this be happening again after I felt so confident before my lesson?

After my last lesson, I felt like subdividing was going to fix all my problems! It turns out that I have a tendency to slow down and speed up my subdividing in the same way as when I play without subdividing.

Why aren’t you giving up?

Now, you may be wondering why I am going through the hassle. Why not give up? It’s been almost 6 years of taking lessons and I have not obtained a position at a church.

I am not giving up because I am persistent. Even though my lesson felt like a failure, Michael pointed out that I have persistence on my side. And he said that I was able to do things at this lesson that I could not have done a year ago. I was able to make some corrections on the spot. I am slowly making progress even when it doesn’t feel like I am.

Learning a piece for 2 years sounds like a very long time. However, I only practice 2 to 3 hours a week which is not a much time per piece.

Reflections also helps as I can appreciate how far I’ve come. In the photo, the sticky tabs on the side of the hymnal are those that I have successfully learned so far from this hymnal (I’ve learned some from another hymnal as well). Each tab represents a success! This proves that I can fix the issues.

I have the tools to correct the problems and I’ve done it in the past.

What if you feel like you are never going to get it?

If you are in similar situation where you are learning something and feel like you are never going to get it, I encourage you to not give up. Be persistence. Follow your teacher or mentor’s advice. Use the tools that you have. And keep practicing as practicing is what it takes to improve! Believe that you can do it. Stay positive. Pray.

Replace bad habits with a new habit that will move you forward. For me, that means learning a piece correctly from the start by being disciplined and utilizing the techniques that Michael has taught me. I also need to be recording myself at each practice session and check my tempo/rhythm/subdividing with metronome.

Another habit I need to change is not playing something for a couple of weeks after I feel comfortable with it. Then since it is “out of practice” when my lesson comes, I do not play it as well as I could at my lesson and it gets added to the “one more lesson” list.

I need to reread The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business!

Did you ever feel like you were never going to get it? Did you eventually get it? Share you success story in a comment! Your story could inspire someone to keep going.

You may also like:

Persistence – The one thing you need to become an organist or anything else as an adult

Is subdividing the answer to my tempo problems? - June 2015 Lesson
A Festival of Hymns at Pease Auditorium
Website | + posts

Heidi Bender writes about her experiences of learning to play the organ. She started on the adventure in 2009.

She also writes on her website Tons of Thanks, which helps people write thank-you notes. Heidi is also a cat lady who writes at The Joy of Cats.

10 thoughts on “August 2015 Lesson – When it feels like you are never going to get it”

  1. That F major took me about that long to learn, as well. Back then I practice maybe once or twice a week. Now I’m blessed to be able to put in about two hours every day. Recently I finished the A minor Prelude & Fugue (543); when I finally played it a choir member came up to the bench raving about how wonderful it was. “And it only took nine months to learn!” I responded 😉

    Time is the most important thing. I also find the more I can love (or talk myself into loving) a piece, the easier it is. Congratulations on your fortitude, and stick with it!

  2. Glad to hear you’re not giving up even after a very tough lesson. While I do play for a church twice a month now, I wasn’t ready when I started. However, they were desperate and it forces me to put in the practice in order to not be too humiliated LOL. I wish I had waited a bit longer and gotten a bit better before taking the job. I am slowly getting more comfortable with it. BTW, I try to put in 6 hours per week. Your persistence inspires me!

  3. You are certainly are persistent. They say practice makes perfect. Many like to be perfect without practice.
    In years gone by, 30 minutes of piano practice was all I could do in a day or get my kids to do . My mom got tired telling us girls that it was time to practice so know what she did……cancelled all lessons without telling us. I found out when I sat down to practice one day without being told to practice. Guess I didn’t like the recital thing where every piece was by memory . I took piano lesson for 4 years then became more active in band. I do sometimes play piano when home alone yet. If you remember Heidi all 4 of you kids took piano lesson at sometime in early elementary years. Music is an important part of life. IF you enjoy the organ and then keep practicing or play for your own pleasure. Eventually you can reach your goal of playing for a church.

  4. You MUST practice 2 or 3 times per week. Practice in a church near where you work at lunchtime. Take off an extra hour at lunch now and then. You also need intermediate goals, like playing for a friend or coworker at lunch. I did this for a year to prepare for the AGO’s Associateship performance exam, which I passed on the first try. Once a week will not cut it. HTH.


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