Category Archives for "Confidence"
Have you ever felt like learning something new is taking longer than you expected? That’s me with the organ. It’s not new anymore, and after years of modest effort, I’m still struggling along.
There have been times when my lack of improvement from one lesson to the next would nearly bring me to tears of frustration.
And then I read the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. He describes the Valley of Disappointment as the time spent learning until your results match what you expected. The graph below is from the book.
Learning about “what you think should happen” vs. “what actually happens” gave me hope that I can still become a great organist! And, it helped me feel like I am not alone. I am not the only one in the valley!
I started learning the organ in 2009. If you would have asked me back then, I probably would have said I would take lessons for 2-3 years! Here it is more than 10 years later and I’m still in the valley disappointment! The allure of being a great organist continues to taunt me.
♦ There is no pressure to perform for anyone since I do not have an organist position and no one at a church is pressuring me to play for their services.
♦ My practice habits have not been fantastic or consistent. In 2019, I intended to practice every day, but “broke the chain” when I was grieving the death of my cat, Kilala. One day off led to two, and then three.
♦ I don’t have the time every day to practice like a student studying for a degree. My understanding from Marijim is that college students that are majoring in organ often practice four or more hours a day. If a piece takes 8 hours to learn, it might take me 2 months to get in 8 hours on a piece.
♦ I skipped learning music theory. I figured if I could play the music why did I need to understand the theory. Now, with much encouragement and explanations from Marijim, I feel that learning it will help me become a better musician.
“The greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom.” – James Clear
♦ Practicing is borning sometimes when the time I need to spend to get a piece from 80% to 100% is much more than the time it took to get to 80%.
♦ And then I made a habit of not playing a hymn or any piece that I learned after Micheal gave his stamp of approval. I was so happy to be moving on to something new. If you don’t use it, you lose it! So, even though I have learned many pieces, I would have to spend time remembering (relearning) how to play previously learned pieces!
Atomic Habits put habit change into a different perspective. The book talks about your identity. If you want “great organist” to be part of your identity, ask yourself what do great organists to become and stay great?
By developing better practice habits, I will climb my way out of The Valley of Disappointment!
I will share some of the benefits of weekly piano lessons. First, I will give some background on how I got to this point.
When Michael let me know last summer that he could no longer give me organ lessons, one of his final recommendations was for me to find a teacher that could provide weekly lessons. I had a choice to make.
Once again, I decided not to give up. And I started weekly lessons with Marijim in August. I decided to do whatever she asked since I wasn’t exactly a successful organist. She suggested that we start with the basics and that I would benefit from learning the piano.
So I bought a piano and beginner piano books. Accepting that I was still at a beginner level was difficult. I had to admit that the results just were not there. Even though I managed to play the organ for a church service once, I was still taking a very long time to learn new hymns and other pieces and couldn’t sight read well.
I have wondered how I ended up in this situation. Eventually (sometimes that was a year or more), I would be able to play a hymn or other pieces successfully. I don’t know what the word for this is, perhaps by rote, but I would sit down at the organ and attempt to play a piece over and over again. And, then I would be making mistakes and not being self-aware to know until Michael would tell me at a lesson. And I know there were time periods where I wasn’t practicing much.
Now that I’ve been taking weekly lessons for three months, I will share some of the benefits I’ve experienced.
As I learned in November 2017 from reading The Four Tendencies, I am an obliger. I will get more done when someone else is expecting me to deliver. Marijim is my accountability since she is expecting me to make improvements each week.
Marijim is also expecting me to learn music theory as it will help me understand the music better and help with my sight reading. I had attempted music theory in the past (I have this book!), but without the accountability, I gave up when it felt hard.
Michael had made it clear at one of the first lessons that I could learn music theory on my own. So we didn’t talk about much after that. I felt like I was off the hook! Michael would say that a chord was in D minor (or whatever key) and I pretended to be able to follow along. Only now, I understand that knowing the theory will be beneficial. And Marijim spends a few minutes on music theory at each lesson.
As an adult taking lessons, it can be easy for me to skip practicing the piano or organ for other priorities. And pushing off practice when I was meeting with Michael, was much easier to do knowing that my next lesson might not be for another month. It’s harder to skip practicing for a day when I only have seven days in between lessons. When I can only squeeze in 15 minutes, now I do it!
Each week I get feedback on what still needs work. This is reducing the amount of time I spend thinking I have something, okay, only to find out it isn’t. And then having to spend even more time correcting the muscle memory.
More frequent interaction with my teacher makes it harder to hide my struggles. When Marijim gives me advice, she’s going to know if I did what she said. Much of her advice for improvement is similar to Michael’s: use the metronome, count out loud, record myself, write in fingerings, etc. However, now I’m trying harder to follow the suggestions consistently. When my lessons were a month or longer apart, it was easier to try for a week or two and than relapse back into old habits.
I have talked about confidence in many posts. It’s been a struggle for years! Because of the feedback at lessons and increased practice time, I feel that my confidence is going up! Ordering the Alfred d’Auberge books 1 and 2 was hard as I had to agree to start over from the beginning.
They were helpful to learn piano technique as playing the piano is somewhat different than the organ. And, being able to quickly learn the simpler pieces boosted my confidence. Yes, they were easy and straightforward, but I could play them correctly!
In the the third piano book, several of the pieces are to be played allegro (fast). I’m still working on this, but feel like I am on the verge of conquering this, thanks to Marijim’s instructions and encouragement.
Also, I am feeling less nervous playing in front of Marijim because I see her every week! At home, usually The Cats of Organist Heidimy cats are my only audience.
I still have many of the same issues on the piano as I did with the organ. This isn’t a total surprise. I still struggle with subdividing, syncopation, dissonance, and tempo. Going through the easier pieces should help me get on track faster. The weekly lessons are forcing me to make corrections faster. I still need to use the metro.
How long is hard to answer. I will stick with weekly lessons until Marijim recommends less frequent meetings. Until the time comes when I am confident enough in my abilities I will stick with weekly lessons (or whatever lesson scheudle the Marijim proposes).
I hope this post as helped you understand some of the potential benefits: Accountability, Practicing more, Faster feedback, and increased confidence.
Share in a comment any other benefits of taking weekly lessons.
I am still struggling with syncopation. On April 30, I met Michael for another organ lesson. I haven’t played the organ since then. Tomorrow, I will get back on the bench.
My expectations going into the lesson were very high. I had been working on my mindset for a few weeks. I had practiced every day in the week leading up to my lesson.
I knew the classical pieces would need to be repeated as they were not strong enough yet. And I had underestimated the complexity of “Herr; num selbst den Wagen halt”. It looked easy!
I’ve been working on “Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending” for over a year. I felt like crying during my lesson, but I managed to hold back the tears. It was better than my previous lesson, so that is a positive, but the syncopation still needs work. Michael gave me a suggestion for a different way to practice. I am hoping this will help me to get it right!
I decided to take a break after my lesson. I was going to have a busy week working on my book and we had a trip planned to visit the Mammoth Caves. This seemed like a good time for a break.
My hope is that taking a break will help me to change some of my practice habits more easily. I need to stay committed to different practice techniques for more than a few days.
I need to make a habit of recording myself even when I think it sounds okay when I play it. I will need to rely on the metronome to help me learn to feel the beat. We noticed that if I made an audible sound for sub-dividing, my tempo was better than when I just did sub-dividing in my head. I will practice making an audible sound along with the metronome.
I am also reading The Power of Neuorplasticity now. I will learn how I can reprogram the “programs” in my brain. Perhaps choosing different thoughts will lead to better organ playing. Time will tell.
Even with the current hardship of syncopation, I still believe that I can learn to play pieces in tempo. I am not giving up!
I haven’t thought of a good question to go along with this post, so I will just thank you for your support!