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I've stopped practicing, just when I need to work hard.

practice ensemble nerves

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#1 BadStrad

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Posted 18 April 2014 - 14:21

Hi, as you might know I've recently - after much searching, found an ensemble that I can join.  My first rehearsal with them is after Easter and the music is a bit of a challenge for me.  I know it's to be expected - everyone has said "expect to feel lost at first" and so on, as they recall their memories of early ensemble playing.  I don't think I'm scared of making a twit of myself, having already discussed the joy of playing just the first note of each bar with another of the violinists that I know a little already.  I expect to be out of my depth initially, but I think/hope this will really push my progress forwards once I get into it.

 

So, I would be best served to be getting in as much practice as possible, fingers flexible, metronome work, going over the tricky bits of the music and so on.  What am I actually doing?  Faffing on the computer, scheduling extra teaching, in short ANYTHING except play my violin.  It is gathering dust as I type.

 

It could be that I'm having one of the natural lulls that go with any cycle of learning, but I suspect I've somehow psyched myself out.  It's like I'm setting myself up for failure, so I can say "See - I told you you weren't good enough."

 

I know I have to get my self back to playing, but in the mean time, has any body else self-sabotaged like this and if so how did you overcome it?  Or did you just leave it and then have to work twice as hard when you had to deliver the goods?


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#2 UnnaturalHarmonics

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Posted 18 April 2014 - 14:32

If I can't motivate myself to put energy in, I just do scales. Pure technical scales with the metronome on so I don't have to worry or think about anything other than the notes. I also find it helps to get the instrument out of the case, e.g. when I get in from work and before I droop into a vegetative slump. Once you start, you know you'll enjoy it as much as you ever did. It's just getting started...


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#3 sbhoa

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Posted 18 April 2014 - 15:20

If I feel as though I have too big a work load I find myself doing nothing.

At the moment I'm doing some work on orchestra pieces as I'm now finding that some of those passages which were just out of my reach are becoming more attainable. I don't spend time on passages that are not going to get near to performance ready by the time we'll be playing them in concert. When the material is pitched at what feels the right level for me most stuff will sort itself out during rehearsal and some will only sort itself out in rehearsal because it's getting the context that is the problem.

Most of my practice time still goes on lesson related material and I think I'm being proved right in that because as I've progressed I've become more able to manage those (previously) tricky passages at orchestra.


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#4 niobe

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Posted 19 April 2014 - 09:46

Thanks Unnatural Harmonics, I can certainly relate to 'Getting Started' - think it applies to other activities/exams too!


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#5 Guest: VH2_*

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Posted 19 April 2014 - 10:08

I am mystified.

 

I can procrastinate as well as anyone when it comes to fixing a dripping tap, getting down to the swimming pool for some exercise, getting my hair cut, sorting out my tax affairs, fixing the rotting cross-member on the French window, fixing the leaking roof, repainting the front door, writing thank-you letters and so on, but when it comes to working at music and the piano ... since returning to serious study  over six years ago ... it is hard to stop myself from spending time on them (when I "ought" to be doing something else).  I literally NEVER have to whip up any motivation.  It is just there, all the time.

 

So it seems odd to me that anyone that an adult that has chosen, of their own free will, to be a musician should have any such problem.

 

To me, procrastination is a sign of something that I think I "ought" to do, but do not really want to.  I think that anyone that finds difficulty making themselves practice would like, at a conscious level, to be committed to the pursuit of music and performing skills, but in reality, at a deeper level, possibly subconsciously, they are not.  Or perhaps it is just that they are attempting to learn some music that they do not much like, or that is technically too advanced?

 

As a teacher, sometime performer, and blogger a big part of my job is to (try to) instil such a love of music and enthusiasm for the piano that the student wants nothing more than the opportunity to study, practice and improve.  It is a far more important part of the job than the technical instruction that accompanies it.

 

When you really, really love what you are doing, you do not procrastinate. You just do it.


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#6 hummingbird

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Posted 19 April 2014 - 14:16

The way I look at it is that a love affair with an instrument is like any other love affair - when you first meet, it's grand passion and all-consuming, you can't get enough of each other. Eventually it settles down into a comfortable relationship, but that doesn't mean to say that it's all plain sailing. There may be times when you wonder if you're with the right person/instrument, and times when you might want a break. You might wonder if you would be better suited to a different person/instrument, or no person/instrument at all. At times like this it might be hard to practise. If it's just a phase, then you might go back with renewed enthusiasm after a bit. I don't mind admitting that I'm past the all-consuming grand-passion stage, and I'm glad I am because it was very inconvenient to the rest of my life whilst it lasted. I like to think that I'm now in a comfortable relationship with my piano - I like it a lot, and I'm looking forward to discovering more of its charms, but that doesn't stop me getting infuriated with it (or rather myself) when I can't get something right, or overwhelmed when the mountain seems impossible to climb. Sometimes I use the well-tried strategies for overcoming a stumbling block, but sometimes, partly because I'm full of human frailties and partly because life sometimes throws things in the way, I can't face it. I refuse to beat myself up over this. I know that before long, I will be able to face it again, and with renewed enthusiasm. Usually when I go back to it, I discover that it's not as bad as I thought it would be and I wonder why I ever thought it was difficult in the first place. I put this down to the fact that I've had a break and given my mind time to process things. As for your particular situation, BadStrad, I suspect it's a well-known and fairly common phenomenon - isn't it a musical manifestation of the "fight, flight or freeze" syndrome? I can't suggest anything other than what you know to do yourself, but I do know that sometimes acknowledging the problem with friends (or forum friends) is the first step to breaking the cycle so I hope you can get back into it soon :)
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#7 corenfa

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Posted 19 April 2014 - 15:35

I get this way with practising and with exercise. I come up with some quite good excuses. I have conversations with myself about it. They mostly go "Just shut up and do it- I don't want to hear about it, just get on with it". Not suggesting this sort of conversation necessarily is the solution for you, but it is for me. 


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#8 sbhoa

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Posted 19 April 2014 - 15:42

I get this way with practising and with exercise. I have conversations with myself about it. They mostly go "Just shut up and do it- I don't want to hear about it, just get on with it". Not suggesting this sort of conversation necessarily is the solution for you, but it is for me. 

For  me when it's hard to get started it's usually because I have several things I need to work on but have trouble getting the balance right. If I practice one or two things I'm neglecting others. Taking turns with repertoire is ok mostly but sometimes it feels as though everything needs all the time I have and I just spend time doing tiny bits of several things and feeling like I've done nothing properly.


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#9 Guest: VH2_*

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Posted 19 April 2014 - 15:59

 If I practice one or two things I'm neglecting others ... sometimes it feels as though everything needs all the time I have 

 

Yes, that's life.  An infinity of possibilities, and a finite time to spend on them.

 

People misunderstand the idea of making sacrifices for your art.  They think it is accepting discomfort and poverty, but it is not, at least that is not all that it is. It is forgoing all those other things that you could have enjoyed or excelled in, but did not pursue because of commitment to your great passion.


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#10 sbhoa

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Posted 19 April 2014 - 16:25

 

 If I practice one or two things I'm neglecting others ... sometimes it feels as though everything needs all the time I have 

 

Yes, that's life.  An infinity of possibilities, and a finite time to spend on them.

 

People misunderstand the idea of making sacrifices for your art.  They think it is accepting discomfort and poverty, but it is not, at least that is not all that it is. It is forgoing all those other things that you could have enjoyed or excelled in, but did not pursue because of commitment to your great passion.

 

And keeping going even though you know that you are never going to get to the end because there isn't one even if you had the time, energy and single minded commitment.


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#11 BadStrad

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Posted 19 April 2014 - 16:34

Thanks for the replies.  I think there is an element of feeling overwhelmed.  I want to work on the stuff I doing with my teacher, and look at the ensemble pieces and my pupils are chasing me for extra lessons as the A levels are looming, plus the normal running a house stuff and . . .   As Sbhoa says, when I do practice it feels like I'm doing alot of nothing properly.  Of course that is rubbish.  It's all good stuff, as when I do work I've been very focussed and I can feel the progress I've made recently in my finger flexibility.

 

I feel like I *ought* to be doing all the stuff that is for others, and as VH2 says with that comes an element of not wanting to, which make me slow to get started on it.  As some one who was brought up to put others' needs first a part of me believes (why!?) that I can't do the things I want until I've fulfilled all the other obligations/oughts.  Of course, I know that all that is kind of an excuse.

 

Perhaps the truth of the matter is closer to what Polkadot says - there is the element of flight, fright or freeze going on to.  If I'm totally honest, I'm frightened, no terrified.  This opportunity is what I've wanted for years.  It took me a long time to get to a place where I could even consider I might take lessons and finding an ensemble to play with is a dream, and happy as I am, I'm so scared that I won't be able to do it.  Logical me knows it will be fine and the conductor has said she can re-write the parts to make them easier and so on, but emotional me, the one who wants this so much, is still the child who got thrown out of instrument lessons.  I know, I know, it's stupid, but there you are.  Maybe I just needed to admit that.


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#12 sbhoa

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Posted 19 April 2014 - 18:18

Thanks for the replies.  I think there is an element of feeling overwhelmed.  I want to work on the stuff I doing with my teacher, and look at the ensemble pieces 

 

Perhaps the truth of the matter is closer to what Polkadot says - there is the element of flight, fright or freeze going on to.  If I'm totally honest, I'm frightened, no terrified.  This opportunity is what I've wanted for years.  It took me a long time to get to a place where I could even consider I might take lessons and finding an ensemble to play with is a dream, and happy as I am, I'm so scared that I won't be able to do it.  Logical me knows it will be fine and the conductor has said she can re-write the parts to make them easier and so on, but emotional me, the one who wants this so much, is still the child who got thrown out of instrument lessons.  I know, I know, it's stupid, but there you are.  Maybe I just needed to admit that.

I've always prioritised lesson material as that is properly chosen to help me to improve in a sensible manner.

I've been happy that most of the time orchestra music has been at a level where I can learn most of it during rehearsals and it steadily improves. Where I have practised orchestra music it's been things that I know I can improve within a reasonable time frame without taking out too much of my 'proper' practice. Anything that was not going to get secure and up to speed by the time we'd be playing the music in a concert I just left.

The gap has closed and I'm now playing some of those difficult passages relatively easily and some I'm close enough to feel it's worth putting in some effort at home though lessons still take priority. Sometimes the tricky passages at orchestra turn out to be quite useful exercises which fit in with some technical issue I'm working on in lessons so I can kill two birds with one stone there.


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#13 Roseau

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Posted 19 April 2014 - 20:13

I too prioritise lesson material for the same reasons as Sbhoa. However, on occasions when I am really struggling with orchestra music I take it into my lesson for my teacher to look at. He does sometimes give tips on practising tricky bits but what I used to find very helpful was when he told me what I would be able to play if I practised it and what was so far beyond me that it was a waste of time trying. He is also good at suggesting which notes to miss out to make a difficult passage easier.


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#14 balu114

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Posted 19 April 2014 - 20:29

Hello BadStrad,

 

I think most of us have experienced this and I hope this is just a phase. Most of the advice given are quite sensible.

 

I tend to go into one of these phases couple of times a year. Usually. it's related to something else that is going on in my life.

 

On these occassions, I go into an "accountant" mode. I force myself to practice and note down the time I spent on practice, listening to a piece, lesson time etc. Most of it end up being mindless practice but it is still something rather than not playing at all. I also appoint someone else to be my conscience, to enquire me about my practice. Slowly, it does get better!

 

All the best!


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#15 hummingbird

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Posted 19 April 2014 - 20:58

Perhaps the truth of the matter is closer to what Polkadot says - there is the element of flight, fright or freeze going on to.  If I'm totally honest, I'm frightened, no terrified.

A Freudian slip?  It's flight, fight or freeze!

 

BadStrad, is there anyone you can practise with? I find one of the pieces my band is rehearsing very difficult, as do my clarinet partners, so one day, one of them came round to my house and we practised it together. We discovered when we broke it down and played it really slow, that it wasn't too bad after all. We still can't play it at the speed required in the band, but thankfully it's not in our concert repertoire for this season. Of course we could have done this without getting together, but sometimes the music looks so scary that it's helpful to have someone else to practise with so that you can give each other moral support.


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