Moments of frustration come for me when I am learning a piece that is neither inspired nor intuitive to learn.
So what do I do?
As a musician I’m expected to play pieces given to me. I’m not asked to like them. I’m paid to play them to the best of my ability.
The trouble is, it isn’t easy to work on things that aren’t enjoyable on some level.
And I’m a spoiled brat when it comes to uninspired music.
I was a good student as a kid, always getting good marks, except in 2nd grade music class. My teacher had to pull me aside.
“David, I’m sorry, but I have to give you an unsatisfactory grade in music class, because your attitude has been less than exemplary”
the unspoken response from my 7-year-old mind: “Yeah, that’s right! Because we have to sing these STUPID songs!”
This coming from a kid who would make music his career. Hmmm…
Thankfully I found my way to an incredible source of highly inspired music through orchestras and choirs, but every once in a while I hit a road block, and my mind refuses to cooperate in learning notes that are no fun on any level.
I’ve played a great deal of 20th century music by the likes of Milton Babbit (in other words, very erratic, unintuitive, count-your-brains-out-and-pray), and for the most part, have had a great deal of fun in the process with the intellectual challenge of playing extremely complex rhythms and fragments of notes. Most pieces had some level of inspiration behind them.
But sometimes I am faced with a piece that I just can’t get into. My mind digs in it’s heels and refuses to cooperate nicely.
I have to practice VERY SLOWLY.
It’s very humbling.
And even more humbling when I try to speed it up and it still doesn’t work. So I go back again and play it SLOWLY.
I go eat some ice cream.
And I try again. I breathe in deeply to offset my heavy sighs of frustration (it does get a bit drafty around me).
I look for some hook that will get my heart to buy into the process. Will it sound cool when it is all together? Is it at least fun for the fingers to play? Is there any fulfilling aspect to it? Does it have any emotional expression that I can wrap my heart around?
For when I get my heart engaged, my mind will follow.
And until then, it’s just going to be a lot of ice cream.