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Aids To Perfection


Fiffaro
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I've a question that I've been meaning to post for some time, and a comment by Cynic has prompted me to put fingers to keyboard.

 

I also am incapable of a completely faultless performance, but we do try to keep obvious faults to a minimum!

 

Recently, I chanced on what was clearly a masterclass situation for tennis coaches. Although my interest in sport is minimal nowadays (it's so boring watching Australia win all the time :o ), I was fascinated by the techniques that were being taught, watching for some time and going away wishing that I could sit in on a similar session for organists to teach me approaches like that to aid my practice and my performances.

 

I have a number of approaches that I do employ. For instance, I'll designate a piece each week as the piece that I want to see as near note perfect (while remaining musical) as I can. Each practice session, I will then play the piece, remembering any wrong notes or split notes etc, recording the number of them, then working on the mistakes. Finally, I will repeat the piece, again counting the instances where I'm less than happy. My aim is to have a count of zero mistakes for the FIRST playing.

 

Another 'trick' is that I use colour flags to mark sections where I need to be particularly vigilant when I'm playing, even recording the number of times I slip in a particular passage so I can't delude myself about how well I know a section.

 

Nevertheless, my mind does wonder, even when performing, and the slips I make seem to correspond to a loss of concentration on the performance (What am I going to cook tomorrow night? I should pay the rent tomorrow. You get the idea.) rather than hitting technical limitations - for most things.

 

So how do you go about preparing the (mythical?) faultless performance and how do you channel your concentration during the performance?

 

And, Cynic, please excuse me for using your quote. A fellow student of mine back in my Vienna days once stated that his teacher had performed all of the keyboard works of J S Bach in a series of concerts without mistake. One of the group responded with "Yes, but was it worth listening to." If you play more excitingly with an occasional slip, I'm far more interested in hearing you than if you were to play perfectly but not have a chance of entry onto my list of '10 best organ recitals'.

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This is a subject to which I've devoted a lot of attention over the past few years. Whatever techniques one uses to improve concentration &c., there is no alternative to knowing the music very, very well and this involves constant, slow (sometimes very slow) systematic practice, particularly of the most difficult sections. Have you tried learning pieces backwards? If you learn the ending first and then gradually work towards the biginning this has a wonderful pyschological effect because, in performance, you will know that you are moving towards the part that you know best. Lots of people do this and find that it works. One very well known lady teacher I was with some years ago used to use all kinds of coloured sticky paper to put over difficult bits that needed extra work.

 

The Roger Fisher books on piano/organ (4 thin volumes published by Animus) are well worth reading as are the various Inner Games books. The original was the Inner Game of Tennis and those such as the Inner Game of Music followed on. Easily obtainable.

 

More and more I become convinced that all the technique and musicianship in the world is wasted if you are not in the right frame of mind. Quite by chance I came across self-hypnosis CDs and, although at first I was as sceptical of these as anyone I quickly found that these can be immensely helpful and that those by Paul McKenna are the best of the lot (some others are awful). These have helped me enormously in a number of other significant areas of my life (one in particular) as well as music. People may mock and laugh at them and some people may even think they are incomatible with Christianity. My own experience is that they are not incompatible with anything but are very positive, Of course, what works for one person may not works for others and everyone has to find out by trial and error what works for them.

 

Recording yourself is very helpful and nearly always makes you aware of faults that you were previously oblivious to. I know one international recitalist who testifies to this. Recording yourself is rather like playing to a highly critical audience or to your teacher; those of us who teach the organ must be familiar with "I could paly this perfectly yesterday when you weren't listening".

 

Louis Kentner is quoted as saying that all piano music is either easy or impossible to play; it's just a case of finding the easy way. I have a student taking a grade exam in organ next week and I told her yesterday that the examiner will probably forgive an isolated wrong note but he will be less than happy with a performance which is utterly boring!

 

Teaching is another salutary way of improving one's own performance. Brief example. My own current teacher (William Whitehead) was constantly criticising me for a particular fault. Whilst teaching one of my own students I noticed that he was making the same error, very slightly, in a particular piece and I spent some time helping him to correct this fault. It appears that this had the effect of eradicating the fault in my own playing.

 

I do hope all this does not sound pompous, patronising or presumptious but it is a problem I have battled with constantly over many years and my experiences might just be of some help to others. To those who think I'm trying to teach Granny to suck eggs, I'm sorry!

 

Malcolm Kemp

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Malcolm Kemp's ideas are doubtless very useful, but at a very young age, I discovered a quite different way of learning things.

 

Being almost entirely self-taught as a musician (I had more brass lessons than keyboard lessons), I nevertheless studied with the greatest organists of all, but what I NEVER did was practice bits in isolation, or at half-speed; unless there was something terribly complex about the fingering etc.

 

The learning technique I developed was my way of getting around the learning problems I had at school, where I could stare at things for hours and totally fail to understand them. This extended to music, but not to the same degree as other things. Nevertheless, concentration was always a major problem for me, and still can be to-day when I'm mentally multi-tasking.

 

The reason I mention this, is not to draw attention to my learning difficulties, but to pass on a very fast way of learning things which is NEVER boring.

 

I did most of my practice at home on an electronic-organ, and what I did when learning something like a Bach trio-sonata, was to play along to a good recording, played on a deck with a pitch control. What I discovered, was that by learning just the left-hand part of a trio sonata, the outer parts just fell into place quite naturally and very easily (allowing for any tricky bits which need to be practiced seperately). I would estimate that it reduced practice time by as much as two-thirds, and because the WHOLE music was heard at the same time, it was never in the slightest bit tedious.

 

Now that I'm much better at understanding things at first sight (having developed a learning repertoire all my own), I still use the "play along" technique, but nowadays, just as a means of checking that I'm doing things right.

 

Of course, the great thing about playing-along to master organists, is the fact that you also learn the best phrasing, tempi and registration at the same time, and that is as good as any masterclass.

 

So although they could never know it, I owe so very much to people like Messrs Germani, Hurford, Jackson, Dalton, Downes and a host of others.

 

MM

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I can relate very much to what MM says, because I too was largely self-taught. I learnt mainly from Francis Routh's "Teach Yourself the Organ" (I think it was originally published under another name) and from listening to recordings. There was nothing like embedding the sound of a recording (and the interpretation) in my head for gaining the basic facility for playing a piece. The other thing I found invaluable for gaining basic technical facility was playing all the organ music I could get hold of - in other words, sight-read, sight-read and sight-read again. However, all this only went so far. It only covered the basic learning process; it was never the solution to eliminating all those little glitches. And I invariably ended up having to undo all sorts of bad habits. It was still worth it though.

 

I think Malcolm's advice is very sound. There really is nothing for it but hard slog, making sure that you really know all the difficult bits and are not just getting away with them 99.9% of the time.

 

The other thing - obvious perhaps, but no one has mentioned it yet - is to make sure that all fingering and pedalling for the tricky bits is thoroughly worked out, marked in the score and adhered to. (Actually I'm incredibly bad at doing this. When I was young I used to rely on my memory, which worked OK then, but nowadays I have no idea how I managed to play some of the pieces I did.) Don't rely on the first fingering that comes to mind either. Make sure that you really have found the best possible solution. This applies particularly to those passages where really slow practice is essential. Personally I find it all too easy to practise something slowly with a fingering that simply will not work at high speed. With impossibly difficult pieces this can be something of a chicken and egg problem. You need to be able to play the thing fast to tell if your fingering is going to work, but you can't play it fast, so...

 

The concentration problem is one I suspect we are all capable of suffering from. I've mentioned before that years ago I gave a recital completely on automatic pilot with my mind elsewhere. It got a good review too! Quite shameful really. Lack of concentration means that you are not wholly engrossed in the music which is A Bad Thing. But how you can ensure you are wholly engrossed in a piece that may be a good deal less noteworthy than sliced bread I don't really know... One possible aid to concentration is to train yourself to read ahead of what you are playing, but then you should be doing this as a matter of course anyway.

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Thank you all for your replies, the time you've taken, and for sharing your own experiences and learning methods. I feel humbled that others would take so much time and be so generous in responding to what I posted.

 

I've never tried hypnotism, but I did overcame severe nervousness by using progressive muscular relaxation followed (eventually) by imagining myself giving a recital whilst in the resultant altered mental state. I haven't needed to do that for a long time (decades), but perhaps I could try again imagining a very good focus on the task at hand. I'll certainly think about hypnotism, although I would have to overcome a certain skepticism. I'm just about ready to do anything, including sacrificing a virgin chicken or two, to help.

 

I work hard at fingering pieces, the only exception being pieces that I can play at sight with no slips at all. These are typically not the pieces that I struggle to maintain my concentration when playing. Sometimes I suspect that not having worked so hard on them actual aids my concentration when playing them.

 

My fingering is comprehensive, with enough fingering written in to ensure that I can reproduce what I've worked out, even if the piece has been rested for some time. I do avoid writing in fingering that is obvious (for example, that falls in a five-finger position, or is thumb or fifth on a leap) so that I don't have to read more fingering than makes clear what is to happen.

 

I either work backwards through a piece, or select those sections that I believe will be most difficult and work on these sections, one-by-one, first.

 

Earlier in my career, I played along to recordings as a way to help me assimilate an interpretation that I particularly enjoyed. I found that particularly helpful in coming to terms with different genres of organ music. Nowadays, I can reproduce a particular organist's playing styles by listening and remembering how they have performed - not that I find myself wanting to do this very often, as I become older and grumpier (or my ego thinks that the process should be reversed in some cases!)

 

I justify far to much expenditure on recording equipment so that recording and listening is as easy as possible. I will not play music for a recital unless I've listened to myself playing; although it happens less and less, there can be a gap between my mental image of what I'd like to do, that is, what I think I'm doing, and what is actually happening. I find that my concentration is different as soon as I turn recording equipment on, hence this is a good way to avoid major changes when the extra adrenalin kicks in for a recital.

 

Sometimes I think hard slog is counterproductive. Perhaps I'm deluding myself, but sometimes the difficulty in maintaining concentration seems inversely proportional to the time I've spent working on the music! Having said that, I believe that I'm working smarter and harder on learning pieces for my recital repertoire than I ever have before - except for this problem of concentration.

 

Thanks for the pointer about books on mental states - I'll certainly follow that.

 

So, I've written much with more first person singular pronouns than would normally make good reading, hoping that this will not result in the thread losing interest to others. For those suggestions that I've not commented on, please rest assured that I either already have seen the wisdom or will take them on board. I have to balance sharpening the ax with actually swinging it! It's off to practice now.

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Guest Cynic

For me there are only two ways to get an accurate performance - laborious slog or massive amounts of concentration. I am unable to memorise a score - I know what's coming musically, but can (for instance) never remember the precise dots immediately over the page! I regard the 'unable to memorise a score' as a fair price for being a pretty quick sight-reader and generally a fast learner.

 

I certainly endorse comments made regarding fingering. In my youth I reckoned not to need such prompts on the score, but nowadays, if a particular fingering solves a problem I always note it down. Learning anything is a matter of forging links in the brain, and accurate repetition of anything makes it more likely to happen as 'the default' setting. This is why scales (for instance) are sometimes easier to play when executed fast: when you play too fast to think, the muscular memory and the 'default setting' take over. Is it rude to suggest that this could be why one or two celebrated players always seem to rattle at very high speeds through difficult chunks?

 

Regarding nerves in a solo situation:

1. Assuming you have chosen the piece with sufficient care, your piece should fit the instrument at your disposal. If it doesn't, you should have brought/learned another piece. The fact that you know it will sound good is a big help, you should be able to enjoy the piece knowing your audience will - you are then able to concentrate on projecting/enjoying the music and your preparation can be forgotten in the general flow.

2. If you're 'out to impress', and let's be honest, we all like to score a hit occasionally, you stand a much better chance with a piece that's not so well known. Once again, I feel that students should be urged to explore unknown repertoire far more than they seem to do these days. Instead of teachers saying 'that's not worth bothering with' budding organists should be encouraged to develop their own taste and dig for themselves. I have read articles by big names condemning huge chunks of literature, and know of celebrated teachers (e.g. at Oxbridge) who have produced large volumes of students who play the same exact syllabus of works from the same small range of composers.

 

While playing along with a recording clearly has helped some of us, I would be worried that this habit might permanently shape my view of a piece. I have certainly met several players who would not bother to learn something unless they had already heard it. Are they the same with novels? Do they have to see or hear a broadcast adaptation before they sample any author for themselves?

 

Best tip for how to avoid mistakes:

'Make sure your hand is already* over the notes you want to play!' (David Briggs)

 

 

*that might equally be 'all ready'. It sounds simplistic, but philosophically and practically, it works!

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Are they the same with novels? Do they have to see or hear a broadcast adaptation before they sample any author for themselves?

 

Sadly, this is all too often the case these days. "Lord of the Rings" became a best-seller after the first of the film adaptations was released. In contrast, I make a point of reading the book before seeing the film, or in most cases not bothering to see it. This way, my belief that my own imagination is better than any screenwriter's or special effects wizard's is continually reinforced...

 

When I was singing I invariably learned new music by singing along with a recording if one was available and would never have got to grips with the likes of Howells "Take Him Earth for Cherishing" without the Kings College LP. Our shelves still groan with the weight of vinyl.

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Are they the same with novels? Do they have to see or hear a broadcast adaptation before they sample any author for themselves?

 

Sadly, this is all too often the case these days. "Lord of the Rings" became a best-seller after the first of the film adaptations was released. In contrast, I make a point of reading the book before seeing the film, or in most cases not bothering to see it. This way, my belief that my own imagination is better than any screenwriter's or special effects wizard's is continually reinforced...

 

When I was singing I invariably learned new music by singing along with a recording if one was available and would never have got to grips with the likes of Howells "Take Him Earth for Cherishing" without the Kings College LP. Our shelves still groan with the weight of vinyl.

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Lots of very interesting points here, many of which ring bells for me. I have recently read, and been very impressed by, Roger Fisher's Masterclass which I have found most helpful. The Inner Game of Music is also full of good ideas. A lot of the following come from these two books.

 

In no particular order ;

 

1 I find practicing at quarter speed invaluable, likewise, learning the music backwards.

 

2 Hand position is very important. Also, keep your fingers touching the keys as much as possible.

 

3 The older I get, the more fingers I write in, and I stick to them religiously. If a passage is insecure, it normally means that I need to alter my fingering. I explore fingering possibilities at length until I find the one that creates the least tension in the hand. This may often be quite unorthodox, but as Roger says, if it is secure and gives musical results, it is good fingering.

 

4 I am very open to hypnosis. I went through a phase of having bad stage fright which hypnotherapy very largely resolved.

 

5 Know the notes inside out. Roger F recommends picking them out with one finger. This makes a huge difference to really knowing which note comes next, even if, in the heat of the moment, your fingers drift from the practiced fingering. The important thing is that your brain knows the right note, even if your finger loses it for a moment.

 

6 Practicing on a dummy keyboard is very helpful. Look at every note without being distracted by the noise you are making ; is my finger bang in the middle of the key ? Am I approaching that note in the best possible way ?

 

7 Really work out how to use your practice time. I will often spend 90% of my time on 5% of the music. If you get the really difficult stuff sorted, the easy stuff will follow. Don't just keep playing through and hope it will get better.

 

8 I do not want to pour cold water on anything that works for others, but I do have reservations about playing along with someone else's recording. I agree that hearing a line in (musical) context is helpful, but I prefer to do this by harmonic analysis away from the keyboard. Quite often I will label the chords on the score so that my eye has seen, and brain assimilated, the harmony before my fingers get there. I have found that this improves my security, and sense of musical direction, greatly. (The only time I do play along to a recording is if I am learning a big accompaniment which is independent from the voices, like the Durufle Requiem. Then, hearing the organ part in context is invaluable before meeting up with the choir).

 

9 Finally, as I get older, I am also much more relaxed about the odd wrong note. I aim for perfection, but do not beat myself up if I do not achieve it. If I go into a performance with this state of mind, then if I make a slip, I smile and move on (which must be much better for the performance) rather than kicking myself in the head over it, which often leads to increasing tension, and more wrong notes. Vicious circle.

 

10 Practice, practice, practice until you cannot get it wrong. I reckon I am only now really playing pieces properly that I 'learned' as a student, 20 years ago, which often involves re - learning them much more thoroughly in maturity.

 

Thanks to everyone for sharing these tips ; it is so helpful to know how we all cope with these difficulties.

 

M

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I do not want to pour cold water on anything that works for others, but I do have reservations about playing along with someone else's recording. I agree that hearing a line in (musical) context is helpful, but I prefer to do this by harmonic analysis away from the keyboard. Quite often I will label the chords on the score so that my eye has seen, and brain assimilated, the harmony before my fingers get there. I have found that this improves my security, and sense of musical direction, greatly. (The only time I do play along to a recording is if I am learning a big accompaniment which is independent from the voices, like the Durufle Requiem. Then, hearing the organ part in context is invaluable before meeting up with the choir).

 

 

M

 

 

====================================

 

 

It's a simple efficiency thing; like having dual controls when learning to drive.

 

I simply found that when there some awkward moment, it was much better (and far more interesting) to learn that bit in isolation, BUT IN CONTEXT.

 

This is especially true of Trio Sonatas, which can be such a chore to learn.

 

My own trick was to know the LH so well, it was totally committed to memory from a motor repsonse point of view, and I was flabbergasted (what a good word....flabbergasted) to discover, that almost on first trying LH with Pedals and RH, it just fell into place almost perfectly, without further need to split them up. It was an incredibly rapid way to learn, and it really doesn't matter whether you play along to someone else, or just record the outer parts and play them back. The technique works perfectly well either way.

 

MM

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I used to suffer very badly from performance nerves, so much that I would physically shake at the console during the more important performances. I remember accompanying a visiting choir at a cathedral and finding myself physically unable to play the right notes, despite knowing exactly what they were. Then, five years ago, I underwent a year's very intensive and pressured training for my day job. Emerging from this training, I found that my performance nerves had gone. Completely. I found that I was also far more confident in front of a choir, and in public speaking. Although it seems unlikely that many from here will follow the exact road I took, it shows that the key to solving a problem, particularly a psychological block, may lie somewhere else entirely.

 

However, I must confess to a terrible failing. I enjoy playing the organ. I enjoy it so much that, no matter how clearly I understand that the only way to learn a work securely is to break it down and commit it to muscle memory with consistent fingering, I just love sight-reading my way through some exciting piece without the slightest regard for accuracy. Knowing that every repetition of this puts the work further out of reach just makes me feel guilty, put that work away, and pick up another. In the last nine years, since I left school, my sight-reading has improved dramatically, but my secure repertoire has hardly changed. Even when I sit down and spend half an hour promising to work through fingering and actually learning the notes, I can't resist the temptation to take the little bit I've worked on for a 'test drive' before it's ready. Like a mechanic taking a half-repaired car for a spin, this habit undoes all of the hard work and knocks my confidence back, but I can't resist hearing the music. Hopeless.

 

A good friend of mine told me that, as an organ scholar, he used to practice on a ropey old village church organ (undisturbed for hours), so that when he came to play a recital at St. Paul's, the notes just fell into place. Perhaps that is the road to perfection - using a practice organ suitable only for note-bashing, without any temptation!

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Then, five years ago, I underwent a year's very intensive and pressured training for my day job. Emerging from this training, I found that my performance nerves had gone. Completely.

Interesting. So what was it in this training that cured you?

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I used to suffer very badly from performance nerves, so much that I would physically shake at the console during the more important performances. I remember accompanying a visiting choir at a cathedral and finding myself physically unable to play the right notes, despite knowing exactly what they were. Then, five years ago, I underwent a year's very intensive and pressured training for my day job. Emerging from this training, I found that my performance nerves had gone. Completely. I found that I was also far more confident in front of a choir, and in public speaking. Although it seems unlikely that many from here will follow the exact road I took, it shows that the key to solving a problem, particularly a psychological block, may lie somewhere else entirely.

 

However, I must confess to a terrible failing. I enjoy playing the organ. I enjoy it so much that, no matter how clearly I understand that the only way to learn a work securely is to break it down and commit it to muscle memory with consistent fingering, I just love sight-reading my way through some exciting piece without the slightest regard for accuracy. Knowing that every repetition of this puts the work further out of reach just makes me feel guilty, put that work away, and pick up another. In the last nine years, since I left school, my sight-reading has improved dramatically, but my secure repertoire has hardly changed. Even when I sit down and spend half an hour promising to work through fingering and actually learning the notes, I can't resist the temptation to take the little bit I've worked on for a 'test drive' before it's ready. Like a mechanic taking a half-repaired car for a spin, this habit undoes all of the hard work and knocks my confidence back, but I can't resist hearing the music. Hopeless.

 

A good friend of mine told me that, as an organ scholar, he used to practice on a ropey old village church organ (undisturbed for hours), so that when he came to play a recital at St. Paul's, the notes just fell into place. Perhaps that is the road to perfection - using a practice organ suitable only for note-bashing, without any temptation!

 

 

====================

 

 

If it's any consolation, the lutenist/guitarist Julian Bream was exactly the same. He liked to rush through things and ramble, but then get things right later.

 

I'm also the same, and I can completely identify with the problems. I had nerves too at one time, and now I have none at all. I'm as ice cool as Kimi Raikonnen in a Formula One car these days.

 

Your comment "the key to solving a problem, particularly a psychological block, may lie somewhere else entirely" is probably very true and sound psychology.

 

In my case, it was being encouraged by a formidable academic to find the confidence to follow my instincts and ignore everything I had ever been taught. :P (I really ENJOYED doing that....I hated my teachers).

 

Do they do degrees in "Autodidactology?"

 

"You get an ology, and you're a scientist!" to quote that superb BT advertising campaign.

 

B)

 

MM

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As the first member to offer a reply to the original question I have been fascinated by the other answers and the way in which this thread has developed.

 

Whilst I accept that this may work for some people, I can think instantly of many very god reasons not to "play along" with a recording. Interestingly my own current teacher and my own current students agree with me on that one. (To what are you listening - the recording or yourself?)

 

The more recent comments about nerves and confidence particualrly strike a chord (apologies for the pun!) with me as this is something that plagued me for many years and that I have really only overcome fom my mid-50s onwards. Perhaps this is partly due to age, partly (I hope) because very good teachers have improved my technique and musicianship and partly to a change of atitude on my part. The recent comments about confidence could almost have come from any one of a number of Paul McKenna self hypnosis CDs. On these he shares techniques that top athletes use before races to help them do well. A lot of this is basically NLP to which I was introduced some years ago at a ABRSM talk on ear-training. A book about this called "A soprano on her head" by Eloise Ristad was fascinating reading. It seems that a lot of experts, in various disciplines, are all saying exactly the same thing in slightly different ways.

 

Let's go back to something I hinted at before on this topic. From the age of about four or five years I was afflicted by a stammer which varied from being very slight to being terrible. All the usual helpful advice by well meaning people was useless. At age 60 it has virtually completely disappeared. Partly because I said I could read lessons in church without any problem and then proved on a very regular basis that I could, perfectly. Partly through having singing lessons with the marvellous Hilary Llysten Jones (who herself trains regularly with top, up-to-date voice care specialists and speech therapists) and partly through the Paul McKenna self-hypnosis CDs. This is all very relevant to the organ playing question because what I have gained for speaking - as in organ playing - is confidence and a sound technique.

 

One well known former member of this Board is always talking about the importance of being able to play from memory. I can recite vast quantities of English text from memory, without any prompting, but cannot - and never could - play music from memory. I was so glad when such an eminent recitalist as Cynic said he can't either. That made me feel less sorry for myself so, Thanks, Cynic!!!

 

Malcolm Kemp

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Interesting. So what was it in this training that cured you?

I've thought hard about this before. In my case, when I started training, I was nervous and fairly shy. On the course I had to force myself to take charge of situations, make instant decisions, sounding and acting authoritatively in order to pass exams and assessments (and therefore keep my job and career). I fairly quickly found that I was good at it, that I was effective as an authority, and that I enjoyed the buzz that the job provides gave me extraordinary confidence, leading to a virtuous circle. (This is air traffic control, in case you wondered!)

 

Here I stray into areas I know little about... however, I think that it was the combination of the inducement to perform, and the positive feedback from having done so that removed psychological barriers to success, and replaced them with a desire to experience the adrenalin rush associated with performance and (for me) with work. I can sit calmly through a developing aircraft emergency, maintain a clear head, and control the whole situation, therefore Stanford in G holds less terror by comparison B)

 

I could be talking rubbish, and the foregoing might only apply to me, as everyone works differently. However, my wife, who is a singer who also teaches singing, found that her performance nerves reduced steadily as she experienced real success as a teacher. I see a parallel here - removal of 'hang-ups' using positive feedback, and a desire to push yourself forward to gain more positive feedback and approval. This ties in with Malcolm's experience with reading successfully despite his stammer.

 

Entirely differently, having experienced both sides of the coin, I would suggest that easy and regular access to a practice instrument is vital to accurate learning. At school, I could practice for 5 minutes or 5 hours at pretty much any time, so I got a lot of work done. At university, the practice organ was only available after 6pm and needed keys and escorts by security staff to get to it. Result = not much practice done! I would also suggest that a teacher/tutor that one is comfortable with is essential - you shouldn't feel bad for making mistakes or asking potentially silly questions. I was taught by a well-known performer while at university, but I always felt that I should be doing better and proving myself worthy, hence everything I did was geared around trying not to look bad, rather than learning.

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