Written by Laurie Niles
Published: December 29, 2014 at 8:42 PM [UTC]
A few months ago, a parody article hit the Internet rounds: Student Has Amazing Breakthrough by Doing What Teacher Says.
It made me laugh, both from the perspective of a teacher and from the perspective of being a one-time (and ever-more) student. The article describes how the violin student "John Man" has been struggling for years to overcome his limitations as a musician. He kept playing the way he wanted, over and over again, but he never seemed to make any progress.
"Finally, out of sheer desperation, Man started doing what his teacher had been telling him to do in every lesson for the past five years. 'The results have been incredible!'"
But why does this article strike our funny bone? It seems to tap into a fairly universal truth: We like what feels comfortable, and we resist good advice that makes us change our habits.
Today I was encouraging a student to play nearer the frog, more often. She explained to me why she tends not to do so: "My arm just seems to go to this place that's in the middle of the bow."
"That's because that's the comfy part of the bow," I said. "You need to visit the un-comfy part of the bow. If you keep visiting the uncomfy part of the bow, every day always, then it will also become comfy. You have to make the uncomfy place comfy by going there a LOT and getting used to it."
But who really enjoys getting out of his or her comfort zone, acknowledging weakness and putting effort into the things he or she doesn't yet do well? It's likely that the advice your teacher gives you is exactly the advice that is the most difficult to take. It is often prescriptive, or corrective. It doesn't fit into an easy groove.
Incorporating your teacher's advice isn't about just traveling down the familiar path again and again. It's about zeroing in on the most challenging aspects of your technique, making a change, and making it part of you. It's about going widening your comfort zone. It's work! But if you do that work, you may just have an "Amazing Breakthrough"!
But I would say that all the steps are interrelated.
It's akin to saying that in order to give a compelling theater performance, you should mind things like punctuation, words, and capitalization in the script.
And they go on to say that saying this is what they're paid to do?
This person has some more compelling things to say about it, starting at ~1:15: http://www.ted.com/talks/evelyn_glennie_shows_how_to_listen?language=en
I think in that TED talk, she is a musician who is rather beyond needing a teacher; she's someone who can control her technique.
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