Friday, January 29, 2010

Okay, I Get it!

I was rehearsing with a quartet one time, and as sometimes happens, three of the musicians were trying to get the fourth (in this case, me) to play something a particular way. Somebody suggested I try something. I agreed, we decided where to start, and we started playing. We hadn’t gotten too far before everybody stopped. No, that wasn’t quite it. Somebody explained again what they were looking for. We started again, and stopped again. Still not right. Somebody else described and demonstrated. We played again and stopped again. Somebody else tried to help, and I burst out, “I understand what you want me to do, okay?” And the other violinist countered, “Well, if you understand it, why aren’t you doing it?”

Seems fair, doesn’t it? If you get it, what’s the problem? Well, understanding isn’t the end, it’s the beginning. I’ve seen this happen in chamber music groups and I’ve done it as a parent and a teacher—we don’t get the results we’re looking for immediately, so we start “fixing”, instead of allowing time for something to sink in. But sometimes our brain gets it before our body can do it. We need to develop the strength or the skill to follow through on the understanding. We have to be able to try and fail. A hundred times, if necessary. We have to be able to break things down, hammer them out, and work them into the music. We need to repeat something over and over until it becomes part of our muscle memory. Until it is as naturally a part of the music as the notes—woven delicately into the rhythm. Until it becomes part of us.

As it turns out, this post isn’t just about violin. If only I could develop the patience to apply it to all areas of my life…

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