Monday, June 13, 2011

practice makes perfect.

this is what USED to happen in my house, back in the days of middle school.

my brother and i would walk home together from school. i'd spend half an hour practicing my horrendous tuba. (i know. don't judge.) then my brother would spend half an hour on the saxophone. after that i'd spend a good ten minutes doing something useless on my trumpet that i tried to pass off as practicing, and around this time my parents would get home. once that happened, my mom would play on the piano and my dad would whistle and sing songs. usually disney because my dad is awesome.

then i'd pretend to have other things to do before swim practice so that i didn't have to practice the piano. or i'd just straight up lie and say that i already did. this worked because my brother and i have been lying for each other since we knew what lying was.

unless you are generally one hundred percent invested and in love with your instrument, you don't want to practice. it's a forced habit. it's dreaded. sure, you want to get better and be some awesome child prodigy at the mandolin, but you just can't bring yourself to practice.

i know EXACTLY what this is like.

i started piano lessons when i was five. that's fifteen years ago. the best and worst part about piano lessons was this: my mother was my teacher.

when i was in grade school my mom gave piano lessons at our house every tuesday evening. for half an hour each, kids i didn't know would come to my house and my mom would give them piano lessons. i vividly remember one boy not wanting to practice so badly that he hid his piano books in our side garden. i found them the next day trying to climb a tree. after the last kid had left and it was eight o'clock, it was time for MY piano lesson. my brother had piano lessons too, but he didn't enjoy it as much as i did, and i honestly don't remember what time his were. but mine were on tuesdays at eight. when my mother stopped giving lessons around fourth grade, they bumped down to seven.

this one kind of looks like the one at my house?
 if you think it's bad when your mother tells you to practice the piano, try having her as your teacher. when she tells you to practice, she knows exactly what you have to practice and exactly what you have to work on. and every single lesson, she'll know what you did and didn't do. every damn time.

i knew i was destined to be in middle school band when i was in third grade. i was going to play two instruments, and that second one was going to be the flute. yessir, the flute. i had visions (i always have visions in these blogs, don't i?) of wearing a little black dress at my first band concert, sitting in the front row, and playing the flute. it was going to be so terrific.

when i got to sixth grade and i picked up a flute, i couldn't make a peep out of it. my dreams were crushed. now i had to go try other instruments. i had an intense yearning to learn the cello or upright bass, but like so many other things in my life, that was ruined by allergies. i was allergic to the bow.

you know in the first harry potter movie when harry chooses the right wand? the world lights up, epic wind blows, and harry is like, OMG THIS IS MY WAND.

that happened to me when i picked up and played trumpet for the first time.

in sixth grade band, they teach you how to read music. i'd been reading music for seven years already. learning the trumpet was the easiest thing in the world, despite having braces. i was one step ahead of every one else because i could read treble clef AND bass clef. and of course, at the same time. oh, i also have perfect pitch. that helped a lot, too.

in sixth grade i played the trumpet, and for one concert, played the tuba. in middle school i walked to school every day, and my gigantic tuba didn't have a case. i was short back then, so i imagine i looked pretty hilarious walking to school carrying a straight up tuba. i remember the crossing guard staring at me. i never liked my crossing guard.

in ninth grade, when i went to high school band, i'd finished piano lessons. those stopped in eighth grade when my mother and i simply got too busy. i still played around so i didn't forget everything i'd learned over the past ten years, but i had no actual instruction. i played the tuba a little bit in band, i plucked around decently on a harp, and mostly stuck to trumpet. i was happy to be second chair; i didn't need the pressure of first chair. and high school music, at least for trumpet, was challenging. this was new for me.

for the musically challenged: this is a marimba.
 by eleventh grade i was so sick of my trumpet i honestly wanted to sell it. i'd given up tuba, and there was still no piano instruction in sight. i'd joined the marching band, but with my intense swimming schedule, i could only be in the pit. this allowed me to pick up marimba. it was just like piano... but with mallets. i absolutely loved it.

my senior year i rented a cello, told my allergies to suck it, and fell in love. i'd always wanted to play the cello, and finally, i was playing one! it turned out that the bow didn't bother my allergies at all, and on bad days, i would sit with my cello, fuming that i hadn't been able to play this for the past seven years like i had my trumpet. by this time i'd given up trumpet officially; i packed it away in its case, stuck it in the back with my brother's saxophone (he'd left for college) and ditched band for orchestra. orchestra was by far the most fun i'd had playing an instrument besides marching band, and i was so in love with my cello (i named it astaire after fred astaire) that i rented it the summer before i left for college even after i wasn't supposed to.

when i live on my own, i WILL have a cello. and a piano. piano is my first love and always will be.

my freshman year of college i had absolutely no music instruction whatsoever. i had no ensemble to be in, no instrument to take with me and store under my roommate's bed. i could audition to have private cello or piano lessons, and i almost did the piano lessons, but once again, being an athlete had made this almost impossible and i didn't own a cello to audition with. the entire time i've been a musician (which is a hell of a long time) i've been an athlete as well. i'm pretty sure i was one of the only people to graduate high school with a athletic letter, an academic letter, AND a music letter. so now i was in college without a cello (trumpet or marimba, for that matter), and the only piano i had access to was the out of tune one in the lobby of my dorm building. i took piano music with me to alma, and i got it out and played, but most of the time i had to contend with people studying.

nobody likes to be studying and have some freshman girl banging on the piano, even if she's decently good.

now i'm home for the summer, and we have our piano next to the stairs. i haven't had my mother give me a piano lessons since i was fifteen, so now i'm giving myself lessons. if my mother had continued to give me lessons i'm sure i could almost be as good as her (she'll never admit she's phenomenal), but now i have to struggle through it myself. i don't want to practice. but i want to get better, so i'm sucking it up and getting it done. every day i sit down and play this terrible mozart song called rondo alla turca (i guarantee you've heard it before) and play it. the parts i don't get right, i do them over and over again. i have been and will continue to keep drilling myself all summer.

practice makes perfect, right?

post script: i'm allowed to rent that cello this summer against school policy because my orchestra director is just. that. cool. and i am so excited i can hardly breathe.

post post script: this is rondo alla turca. if you're interested.

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