Monday, December 17, 2007

The practice of patience

or maybe it's the patience of practice.

About six weeks ago (two months?) I started taking piano lessons. It's been a lot of fun, but also challenging. I played the flute when I was in grade school, and I have fiddled around with the guitar for a couple of years, so reading music, practicing, and all the other things that come with learning an instrument aren't new to me. But the piano is new. And lessons with a (very good) teacher who expects improvement... that's new. I've been forced to sit diligently at the piano nearly every day, working on scales, triads, an actual songs. At some points, I get so frustrated. Either the music looks like a foreign language to me or I know what I'm seeing but can't make it translate through my fingers and onto the keys.

A couple weeks ago, my piano teacher threw in a new element... the foot pedal. I'm playing a very simple version of 'Silent Night' for an upcoming recital and she insisted that the pedal would help fill out the song and make it sound less elementary - which is good. But I couldn't quite get how I was supposed to use it. I was still struggling to just learn how to play the song... so when she added this little extra... my brain just wasn't ready. I think she sensed my frustration because she had me watch her play so I could understand the rhythm of the pedal. Once I saw her do it, it made so much sense and actually seemed quite simple. So I started practicing with the pedal.

It was a struggle to make everything work together like it's supposed to.. hands and feet (hands and 'foot', I guess...) and there were many times that I got really frustrated. But then.. this past Saturday, I was practicing and it all just seemed to come together. And it felt good.

I liked playing the flute in grade school, and I like playing around with the guitar, but there's something about playing an instrument that requires the use of more than just the hands... The more I practice the piano the more I learn that certain movements allow me to play better, reach the right keys more easily, etc. It's like you're playing music with your whole body, and I'm loving it. (It makes me think that I might enjoy learning to play the drums....) :)

Tomorrow night is the recital. My first ever. I'm finally feeling confident enough about my playing to be excited instead of just nervous. It's going to be really fun.

Over the last few weeks, I feel as though God has used these lessons and the practicing that goes with them to remind me of the enormous benefit of baby steps. I would get frustrated because I wanted to be able to sit at the piano and just play, without having to try and figure out what notes are on the page and where to find them. I would get frustrated because it felt like my fingers were just doing their own thing... or were twisted up and somehow physically unable to hit the right keys. But there's been progress... and it's very satisfying.

Indeed, every mountain (and even every molehill) is climbed one step at a time. And there's deep satisfaction in moving forward just enough to be able to take the next step.


Blogger Cheryl said...

Have a great recital, Stef. Just have fun and you'll do great! I'm re-teaching myself to play... Beethoven and Bach did not prepare me to play worship music all that well, and that's all I want to be able to play now. It's fun trying to learn by ear, though sometimes frustrating.

9:11 PM  

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