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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.

April 2016 Lesson: Still Struggling

April 2016 Lesson- Still Struggling

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.

April 2016 Lesson- Still Struggling

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 didn’t get a passing mark on any hymn. Same old story with syncopation and tempo.

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!

The Break

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!

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?