I think I got my money’s worth during last night’s guitar lesson. At my previous lesson, Charlie Hall (my guitar teacher) had given me a neat little arrangement of Here Comes the Sun (written by George Harrison) to work on. One of the things I like about Charlie is that he keeps me supplied with interesting music to use for learning and practice, and I had no trouble motivating myself to work on that piece for the past two weeks. I got it down, too, more or less–I never play anything without making a mistake or two, and I could certainly stand some improvement, but I could get through most of it and feel like I was making music.
So I showed up to my guitar lesson yesterday evening, and while I was waiting for my turn with Charlie I played through the song a couple of times for warmup. No problems there.
Then it was my turn with Charlie.
Did you ever study for a test in school and feel pretty confident, and then walk into the exam and completely forget everything you’d crammed into your head?
So I sat down with Charlie for my lesson, and he said to me, “Okay, let’s hear it!” I started to play the song, and nothing worked right. Not only could I not get my fingers to go where they were supposed to go, I couldn’t even remember where they were supposed to go.
I was completely inept. It’s like it was the first day with my new fingers.
Charlie probably shoulda whacked me with a ruler or something, but instead he seemed to understand completely. He said to me, “Okay, let’s slow this down and just repeat the first couple of bars until we get comfortable with that.” So that’s what we did, and then I played the thing at the same slower tempo from beginning to end almost mistake-free. Wow.
Note to self: slow down.
We had a few minutes to spare at the end of the lesson, so I pulled out Sunshine On My Shoulders–a well-known piece by John Denver that I’d found on Freehand Music several weeks ago. It’s mostly playable for me, except for one particular section that I thought Charlie could help me with.
Charlie looked at the music, and he picked his way through some of it. Then he furrowed his brow, pulled out his pencil, and said to me, “Nope, I’m just not buyin’ this.” I wasn’t sure what he meant by that until he started marking up the arrangement, muttering things like, “let’s get rid of this pinch here” as he crossed out a note here and a note there. When he was done, the arrangement had been simplified without really diminishing it in any way. It was more playable and still sounded great.
When I had trouble playing certain sections, I blamed it on my own ineptness. I never even considered just changing the arrangement.
Note to self: don’t be a slave to the notes on the page. It doesn’t have to be hard to sound good.
Did I mention that Charlie has arranged pretty-much all the music that he gives me to practice? He’s shown me that good-sounding music doesn’t have to be hard to play.