Confidence Archives - Page 2 of 3 - Heidi Bender

Category Archives for "Confidence"

How does that piece go again?

Kilala cat on the organ bench
Kilala cat on the organ bench

My cat Kilala sitting on the organ bench next to me as I practice

At the end of last year, I discovered that I am not able to easily play most of the pieces I have learned.

The revelation

My brother’s family came for about 4 and a half hours away to visit family in the area on New Year’s weekend. Knowing that they were coming, I wanted to be prepared if they asked to come over and hear me play something.

I have been taking lessons for six years so I should be able to put on a mini-concert at my home on demand. Usually, only my cats are around when I am practicing and they do not seem to mind hearing the same assigned pieces over and over again.

I attempted to play the Christmas hymns that I learned in prior years. The next piece I tried was “Oh Love, How Deep”, which I once knew well enough to put on YouTube. The muscle memory was not as strong as it once was! I struggled to play them through.

The habit problem

I have developed a habit of not playing pieces after they get approved at a lesson. I am usually ready to move on to the next newly assigned piece.

Since I’m not performing anywhere on a regular basis, I hadn’t really considered what would happen if I stopped playing what I’ve learned. Well, I found out the hard way!

The new goal

My goal new is to form a new habit where I play already learned pieces on a regular basis, at least once a week. As a result, I will be able to play more than what I am currently learning if someone stops by and wants to hear me play.

I am currently reading “Better Than Before” about forming habits. One suggestion from the book is to giving new habit a rhyme:

An idea expressed in rhyme, seems more convincing that the same idea paraphrased in a non-rhyme, which is why “Haste makes waste”, is more compelling than “Haste fosters error”.

So far, the rhyme I have come up with is “Stay Fresh Refresh”. However, that sounds like it could be a tag line for a deodorant commercial!

What suggestions do you have for the rhyme that will help my new practice habit stick?

October 2015 Lesson – Gaining Confidence

My cat Kilala standing on the keys while I was practicing.
My cat Kilala standing on the keys while I was practicing.

My cat Kilala standing on the keys while I was practicing.

On Halloween I met with Michael for another lesson. I left the lesson feeling more confident than ever before as 4 of my 6 assigned pieces received a passing mark!

The Lesson

I began the lesson by playing the Walcha prelude. At my previous lesson I was not able to play it in a convincing manner. I had not practiced it enough. After that lesson, I decided to play it each time I practiced until my next lesson. This strategy worked! I only had to play it one time through for Michael. He approved it!

Next up was the Bach prelude. I played it, but not perfectly. Micheal remarked that it was improved since last lesson. Then he had me play it again a little faster and without thinking about the tempo so much. It was the best I have ever played it at a lesson!!! Michael said it was good! Finally, after 2 years and 2 months he did not need to hear it at another lesson!

I also received approval on my playing of two of the three assigned hymns: “God Be With You Until We Meet Again” and “Christ, Mighty Savior”.

A mistake in practice…

The Boellmann piece (Prière à Notre-Dame) didn’t go all that well. When practicing at home I focused on learning the parts for the hands without pedal. The pedal line is not difficult so I thought it would be easy enough to add in later. This was a mistake. Adding it in the week of my lesson didn’t work! I was not able to build the muscle memory and coordination to accurately play the pedal and hands together. I have learned from this and will be including the pedal line during practice even when it looks easy!

Gaining Confidence

Since this lesson I  have felt more confident tackling the newly assigned pieces. This was the first time to have 4 pieces approved at the same lesson. And I was assigned 4 new pieces! I have realized that Michael would not have assigned me these pieces if he didn’t think I could do them.

I also feel confident that I can correct my syncopation issues in “Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending” before my next lesson.

Will this lesson become a major turning point? Only time will tell!

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