Sunday, January 4, 2015

agricola, agricolae agricolarum....

I went to my first banjo lesson.  It was terrible.  I was completely out of rhythm, my fingers were stiff and clumsy, I got frustrated and, for the first time since I bought it, I hated that damned banjo.

Afterwards, I got in the car and Kathe, all excited, asked me how it went.

"It was awful," was all I said.

What happened?  Since I have been writing here, it has been "banjo" this, and "music" that.... and suddenly, I just detest the bloody thing?  How is that even possible?

I went in, introduced myself, and sat down with the banjo.  Mike the Instructor grabbed a banjo off the shelf (I hate him already) and started asking me a few questions to see how far along I was.  Yes, I can read music, yes, I can read a tablature.  Yes, I played piano when I was a kid, so I understand rudimentary theory.  Yep, 4/4 time, eighth notes are one-and-two-and-three-and-four-and...

And then he asked me about the book.

"You know," I said, "I skipped the playing of Aunt Rhody.  I just couldn't bring myself to do that.  But I learned what I needed to from the lesson, and put it to work on the songs I wanted to learn."

"That's OK," Mike the Instructor said.  You shouldn't stop doing the fun stuff.  "But let's see this."

And we did scales for the next twenty minutes.

After ten minutes of stretching my fingers to the limit, cringing at every missed note, forgetting to move my thumb, losing track of which finger was plucking, I was done.  My hand was cramping, my frustration level was soaring, and I was sweating. 

I said so.  "Well, it is certainly OK to be lazy sometimes."  Mike the Instructor is a bit of a jerk.

This is the equivalent of taking a new language student, and going straight for the grammar lesson. Repeat after me, agricola, agricolae agricolarum.... and now the subjunctive. Agrico...


Yes, if I am going to progress, I need to have the scales so embedded in my muscle memory that I don't think, I just touch.  And I definitely need to play with a metronome.  I have known that my playing was hindered by the fact that every lyric of every song I played was "No, no, wait"

That is:

.  Strummmmm.

So it is all true.  He's right.  But it is much harder than I thought to not be ready. I wanted to be able to use what I had taught myself to launch better playing.  Working for it, sure, but I wanted to work towards playing.

Not work towards being he best Latin Conjugator in the World.

Finally, the lesson was over, and he assigned me an etude to practice, the scales to practice, and a song ("be sure and avoid turning it into a song with triplets; make sure you are playing full eighth notes - use your metronome"). 

And I was dismissed by Mike the Instructor.

Lessons learned from my first lesson:
- Scale practice is every bit as miserable for adults as it is for kids.  The persepctive of the long game makes it no easier
- My sense of embarassment that I am not good at something is not lessened for being an adult. 
- I still don't like playing in front of people
- It is possible to quell enthusiasm, if you throw enough grammar at it, and maybe most importantly,

- My expectations are REALLY high

See, I wanted to be ready for my first lesson.  What he gave me was the tools to be ready for the NEXT lesson.  He showed me a scale, and I wanted to be able to do it at that moment.  But what he was doing was giving me something to practice.  If I come into the second lesson, not having practiced, then it is OK to be embarrassed. 

But you can't be ready for the first lesson.  That is just the ego talking.

I gotta go.  My banjo is staring at me from the corner - accusing me of not putting in the practice time I need.


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