Meri’s Musical Musings

Be patient with yourself (and your students)

Posted on: February 5, 2016

When it comes to music, I am generally a fast learner. But there were times when it bugged me that I didn’t master something quickly, especially during the first period I took private music lessons, which was as a young adult in the late 1990s and early 2000s. My clarinet teacher at the time sometimes if not often told me to “give it time”, which I soon found out is part of the Buddhist philosophy of life. In addition, I see music teachers, especially on piano, who have students who don’t get certain concepts of playing music right away and they try to ask for solutions, when often all the student needs is further practice and some time.

That lesson my clarinet teacher then gave me has really sunk in in recent weeks. Seeing my husband, who is a professional pianist, practice very difficult jazz material with 5 and even 6 part chords in one hand, it takes him days as opposed to usually minutes to master these really difficult passages, practicing an hour a day or more. Seeing some of the challenges my students faced in proper tone production, and in getting the clarion and altissimo notes on the clarinet—but then a lesson some weeks later, they suddenly seem to master it. Even some of my piano students, particularly my most gifted ones in recent years, including a then-11 year old, had a little trouble being patient with themselves in knotty passages in their music, particularly in the works of JS Bach that one student was learning the BWV 999 for his List A Level 6 RCM and memorizing it, there were one or two bars near the end that he needed extra time to get consistently correct, although he memorized the rest of the work in about 3 weeks. I told him one lesson to sleep on it for a few days to a week or so, and by the next lesson or so, the passage worked itself out in his fingers.

My own practicing on clarinet and piano I am realizing the importance of patience with myself. On clarinet, I am learning a difficult clarinet alone piece that I happen to love which also is on one of the lists for my next clarinet exam, months ago, and even a few years ago when I first tried the fast passages in the two fast sections of that work (L’Abime D’Oiseaux from Quartet for the End of Time) which was all but impossible even at a fairly slow tempo back then, but now is almost too easy and I’ve almost got those fast passages at full tempo, with just 15-20 min work over a a few days, and I think I will get it consistently right at full tempo in the next 3-5 days. On the piano, I am working on the Mozart K545 “Sonata Facile” first movement for a possible Level 8 RCM piano exam in a year or so. There was one passage on the first page of that movement that had tricky fingering combinations that seemed almost illogical at first, so I put it away for a few weeks, and now am back at it. Now I’ve got most of the first page hands together at about 75% of full tempo over a couple weeks, with only rare lapses in notes or fingering.

Lesson learned: be patient with yourself and your students, especially if you are normally a fast learner in music. My first clarinet teacher was right.

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  • None
  • V V: Wish I had read this before I fell for their scheme ! Oh well - have posted my experience on Yelp and N49 and hoping others can avoid the pain of fal
  • clariniano: Thanks for the additional information. It was actually Yelp that deleted my reviews, because of so-called bias. I too have seen the horrible technique
  • No Thanks: Former Teacher at the Ontario Conservatory of Music I took lessons at the Ontario Conservatory and when I left for private lessons from another tea
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