Practice makes perfect?

Does practice make perfect or is it nothing but a killjoy?

Practice makes perfect?

When I was five years old, my mother sent me for classical guitar lessons, and I didn’t enjoy them at all. I didn't enjoy the classical music, and I couldn’t really connect with the teacher. Looking back at that experience now, I can remember just feeling plain uncomfortable. I could feel the pressure on me to perform, to do something that didn't feel natural for me but felt forced and cold, like a force was pushing in on me.

What also stands out for me is how I was made to practise for half an hour every day. I would come home from school and was made to practise the guitar. I did this in my bedroom with the door closed, as instructed, and I practised. For half an hour every day I was made to practise the same couple of tunes – interesting, no?

Something I have always remembered from that time, is a particular episode when I was practising and needed to use the bathroom. I paused my practice, went to the bathroom, came back and returned to playing. Finally the clock hit 30 minutes so that was practice done for that day. I went out to the kitchen and Mum asked what I was doing, why I wasn't still practising. I replied that I'd done my 30 minutes, she replied that I had taken time out to use the bathroom and that I should go back and do another five minutes of practice. Even at the age of five I was dumbfounded by this. There was no arguing with my mother on this matter, although many times in my life I did, so I went back and did another five minutes of practice.

When I look back on this now with a deeper understanding of how energy plays out in life, I see how harming this was to myself and others around me. I was being forced into creating sounds and movements which did not feel true for me, contained no joy, but compounded a feeling of being forced into quiet submission.

Eventually, my music teacher suggested to my mother that I should not continue the lessons as I clearly wasn't enjoying them. Boring as I considered him to be at the time, kudos to him for picking up on what was going on and speaking up. I can now recall that he definitely went up in my esteem after that. From recollection, I got quite upset in one of the lessons and the teacher understood what was going on and suggested to my mother that it might be best not to bring me to lessons any more. I can remember she was furious but the guitar lessons did stop. It was a few years later that I picked the guitar up again at school and this time I was learning chords and songs that I knew and enjoyed, so I found it more fun and I had a lighter approach, choosing to practise in my own time when I felt the need.

I think the greatest take away for me from this is that whilst my mother felt that she was doing the best thing for me, the way she did it was the worst thing for me, and this is where Kids with Sticks comes in. I confess that I have no interest at all in picking up sticks and learning to play drums. What I can share however is that I have had the opportunity to witness Daniel perform music on many occasions and more recently watched him perform with three of his students playing some tunes from Kids with Sticks. The kids were having fun, they were enjoying themselves. This to me says everything.

Whilst looking through the book, I noticed how different it was to music books I used when I was learning to play guitar. The emphasis then was as much about learning to read and interpret the music, but it was all very academic. Daniel's approach is much more fun and using colours to help children learn and calling a crotchet Jack, is inspirational to me.

Looking through the book what I notice is the absence of imposition, the sense of lightness and fun. To me this is what music is all about, and perhaps I'll get lucky and Daniel will craft another book that I can use to learn to play the piano, the instrument to which I have always felt drawn.

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  • By Michelle