My Story Archives - Heidi Bender

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July 1, 2018

Summer Update: A new teacher and a piano

used piano

I have two updates to share. First, I’m starting with a new teacher in August. And then, I bought a piano!

The teacher change:

When I reached out to Michael to schedule a lesson in June, he let me know that I needed to find a new teacher. He had personal reasons and also suggested that another teacher may be able to offer a new approach to my rhythm problems.

Michael had been my teacher for almost 9 years, as I started with him in September 2009. I am very grateful for all of his time, support, and advice. I hope to make him proud someday!

He also suggested that I find a teacher that could give me weekly lessons. I have a teacher lined for weekly lessons starting in August. I will withhold her name until I’ve met her in person and she approves having her name on my blog.

The piano:

My new teacher read some of my blog posts. She suggested a “back to basics” approach to fix my rhythm, which included practicing on a piano.

I didn’t have a piano. I probably could have worked out something with my church to practice on the piano there. My parents also have an old piano (it would need to be tuned though and might have other issues). Knowing myself, I felt like I needed to have a piano at home if I was going to be serious about it.

I went to King’s Keyboard House and purchased a used piano that was once in a school. It was already tuned, and I can turn it back into the store for credit if I ever want to upgrade to a better piano.

My new teacher had me order the Alfred d’Auberge Piano Course Books 1, 2 and 3 and NoteSpeller books 1 and 2. So far, I’ve played through all of book 1 and part of book 2.

Playing the very simple pieces in book 1 that contain eight notes, reveals my rhythm problems. So, I have a problem with the basics!

I am practicing with the metronome until I can meet with my new teacher.

The timing of needing/wanting the piano seemed meant to be as just a couple of weeks prior, my husband and I had emptied a bedroom to have it painted and to install cat shelves. So, we were able to accommodate adding a piano.

The cats do like to run across the piano, and some of them sit on the bench while I practice. I am thankful that there is a cover for the keys!

cat on shelf by piano

Kilala on the shelf by piano

Do you think piano practice will help make me a better organist?

June 20, 2016

June 2016 Lesson: Ending the insanity practice method

June 2016 Organ Lesson: ending the insanity

At the start of my organ lesson on June 11, I shared with Michael how depressed I felt after the previous lesson. That lesson felt like rock bottom.

June 2016 Organ Lesson: ending the insanity

He asked “What did you do about it?”

I told him about taking a break. The break was 11 days off. Then I practiced for 3 days and took another 7 days off. This is the longest break I have taken since I started organ lessons in 2009.

I also decided to practice how he has been telling me practice for years. I’d been doing the insanity approach for the past few years: practicing in the same way, hoping for a different result at my lesson.

This meant I needed to make a sound along while playing. Not just in my head. Not just relying on the metronome to make the sound for me.

He asked “Why did it take so long to actually do what he said?”

This is a very interesting question. I have been paying him for advice as my teacher for over six years. At most (if not all) lessons, he encouraged me to make a sound while I played.

* In the past, I was making the sound in my head and thought it would be the same effect.

* The metronome felt like a suitable replacement.

* I would try it for a day or two, and then revert back into my old habits.

* I didn’t want to admit that I needed to make a sound to be able to play on tempo

* I had tried making a sound on my own (without using the metronome at the same time), only to discover at a lesson that my sound making wasn’t reliable.

* Feeling embarrassed to make sounds in front of Michael at my lessons.

* Maybe a part of me didn’t believe it would work for me

What I did during my practice time

I practiced making a sound aloud along with the metronome. I needed the metronome to keep me honest. I also recorded myself much more often, with and without the metronome.

Instead of practicing 6 pieces, I focused on the 3 hymns and the Bach prelude.

The Difference

Turns out, practicing how Michael said worked! I could play on tempo at my lesson! I played “Angels From the Realms of Glory” very well and it was checked off of my list. I still need to keep working on the other 2 hymns, but I am making progress. Michael could tell a difference.

Given my progress, I had the courage to play “Crown Him With Many Crowns” by memory for Michael. I have been playing this piece for warm up at home. He said it was at 95% and gave me a couple of suggestions for improvement.

Stay Fresh, Refresh Update

Facbook Memory of Nun Bitten WirThen I shared my goal of remembering how to play the pieces I had learned once but I have forgotten how to play. Back in January, a Facebook Memory reminded me of Nun Bitten Wir by Buxtehude.

I have been slowly relearning this piece. I played it for Michael. He said I should work towards polishing and memorizing it.

That way if I am ever at a church or somewhere with an organ, I’d be able to sit down and be able to play something without having music with me.

Michael was also very kind. When I got home I check Nun Bitten Wir with the metronome and I was way off!!!

The morale of this lesson:

If you are doing something and it’s not working, change it up! Resit the insanity method and you also do not need to wait for rock bottom.

Is my fixed mindset hindering my progress?


I recently read the book Mindset by Carol Dweck. My coach, Camilla, who is helping me Get Things Done, suggested I read it after I mentioned my fear that no one will read my book other than friends and family. (My book is about thank you note writing).

I realized that I developed a fixed mindset with my organ practice!


In Mindset, I quickly learned about fixed and growth mindsets. The fixed mindset believes that we can’t change much. That our qualities are what they are and we can’t improve beyond a certain level. The result is, as Carol puts it, “If you only have a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain personality, and a certain moral character – well then you’d better prove you have a healthy dose of them.”

The growth mindset believes that we can change. We can learn more. We can work hard and improve at things. Your true potential isn’t known. Carol says “This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things that you can cultivate through your efforts”.

The book points out that we can have fixed mindset in some areas of our lives and growth mindset in others.

My fixed mindset with organ practice

I have been taking lessons for several years. Sometimes I have felt like my progress has plateaued. I felt that way even after Michael has told me that my he believes that “I have the chops”.

Since learning about mindsets, I believe I developed a fixed mindset towards my organ practice. I had a growth mindset at the start of lessons since I believed that I could learn to play the organ as an adult.

Evidence of my fixed mindset:

  • I began to resist marking up my music. I felt like I shouldn’t have to do that anymore after all these years. Michael adds marks to my music at nearly every lesson. And I’ve seen the markings on his scores. Yet, I still felt like I should be able to play without so many marks.
  • After years of practice, I continue to struggle with syncopation. I’ve felt like its become part of my identity as an organist. “The organist who can’t handle syncopation”.
  • Failing to practice consistently the week before a lesson believing that a little more practice will not make much difference so what was the point.
  • Beginning to believe that I can’t play as well at a lesson as I can at home.

I had a fixed mindset BEFORE the organ in other areas

I was able to identify with many of the stories in the book. They were several involving school and learning. One of them was about drawing. When I was in seventh grade art class we had to draw a portrait of the student seated across from us. My drawing was not great. I’ve felt like I could not become good at drawing based on that one attempt. In the book people who took a drawing class were able to improve!

Another story was about math. In high school, I felt very successful at math. I earned student of the month while taking geometry for receiving 100% on every test that month (and maybe homework assignments). Fast forward to college. I had decided to study math because “I was good at it”. Well, college math was much harder! I received a D in Physics (I got an A in the lab!) and a D in calculus. I was not so smart after all! I had to retake calculus. The issue was that my math skills going into those classes were not strong enough. I didn’t want to admit this as I was the one in the family that was supposed to be good at math. This was a fixed mindset.

How is your mindset? Fixed or Growth?

One of the insights in this book, was that just be learning about mindsets we can make different choices.

There are also sections about raising kids and how to praise them in a way to encourage them to have growth mindset instead of fixed. Stop telling that that they are smart!

Further Reading:

The book: Mindset by Carol Dweck.
Brain Pickings: Fixed vs. Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets That Shape Our Lives
Bullet Proof Musician: Why the Wrong Kind of Praise Can Undermine Our Students’ Confidence

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