Practice Makes Perfect

Don’t worry, Diane, I’m working on your song every day as my main priority. Every time I try to record it I screw something up somewhere. I made the left hand part a little too hard and balancing that off the right hand part is way too easy. I’m too close to change anything. Any month now I should make it all the way through without any glaring errors. It is an education watching myself on video.

Everyone should just leave a recorder on for about an hour and then sit there and listen. How did I snap at my wife when she walked in front of the camera while I was recording? How do you talk to one another in general? Reacting and shooting a few words back and forth is not the same thing as not being in the moment and listening. I mean, that wasn’t me — except it was.

It is interesting watching myself make the same mistakes over and over in my playing. Somebody should stop that guy and get him to isolate the little problem areas and work them out no matter how long it takes instead of slipping up in the exact same spots over and over again. Do something different.

Practice does not make perfect. Doing the same wrong thing over and over again makes you reliably mess up. Perfect practice makes perfect. Study what is going wrong, isolate the area and try different things, different approaches. Doing the exact same thing over and over again does not produce a different result although a little random luck seems to reinforce the “try harder” work ethic so that one never finds the “work smarter” strategy. I don’t want to change the notes because there is an internal musical integrity at play.

There is something wrong with “Finding Diane” and I’m not going to fix it. The busy left-hand pattern never changes character, just a steady stream of notes in the body of the song no matter which section is being played, the same pattern. That is just plain poor writing nice as the thing might seem to be. Sitting there and watching and listening I can finally see that. Lazy composition is what it is. Also with that steady quick pace it is a bit hypnotizing to perform as it drones on.

I’ll get it. I wouldn’t mind the time and focus I’m burning on this except that other people are waiting for me to do other things in the mean time. Della is waiting for me to write a song for her to star in. Emiliano is waiting for me to demonstrate how different time signatures sound different. Cathy is waiting for me to draw a diagram of our yard before we can talk to the landscaper (I have it in my head I have to draw it to scale and include pictures). I have unfinished songs just sitting there. I have new music in my head that wants to come out.

Retirement was supposed to give me time to get more done and it just isn’t.

5 thoughts on “Practice Makes Perfect

  1. I set you free as you set me free!!! I loved it when I spent three solid days of every free minute I had, driving off, trying to find some scenic and inspiring place to write and then rewininding and replaying the melody as I jotted down words. Nothing seemed to do it justice. You told me it would come, to just let it flow naturally. Maybe it would be therapy for me. It was.
    You see…By that point in time, I cared about what you thought in that Mr. Opus kind of way. I have been annoyed with you at times for pointing out different flaws because you cared enough to tell me in different works of mine that I pretty much didn’t think anyone would ever see… I wrote as if maybe they would but started out writing just for me… and yet it was very affirming to see you go all the way back to those earlier pieces, I began to look forward to knowing what you thought about each one. Like a teacher/student kind of thing. AND THEN… you made me want to be better… as I began writing the new stuff… it was like I knew you might read it. Ya know? And then when the idea for a song came up it was sooo validating and exciting. I have written songs before and there is nothing more rewarding than hearing words you have written sung and watch the people as they are listening. Recently, I had my DEDICATION song sung at church for a baby dedication. There was not a dry eye in the place. Big Grin… Big compliment!
    Anyway, it will come to you… you are doing the hard part… trying to fit the cadence and the beat where I failed. I caused you to have to do this backwards. Maybe I could try to help? Maybe if you just did one finger playing… That is how I wrote Dedication. My friend Linda, recorded her melody by playing it with one finger and then…. added all the two handed fancy stuff! Just a thought.

    I loved what you said about recording yourself snapping or not talking as lovingly as we imagine ourselves. The other day, I was at a department store and I heard a woman talking to her husband in a very snappy bitchy way and I hated it. I wanted to go up to her and say something like one might if they heard a kid being abused and needed to step in. But her husband wasn’t a kid so I minded my own business. But it resonated. I wondered how I sounded in public talking to my poor husband. I know at times (more than not) I would not want to be recorded! Great reminder! Great post!

    • One of the big problems I am now having and you had before trying to write lyrics is trying to make it too perfect (if I may be so bold as to project that on you). I am very close to getting this right, and once I do it is going to be set aside for a long time. Words and melody should be constructed together. I’m learning a lot more than how to make the tips and edges of my fingers sore. I have edited out mistakes and audibly it is “perfect” but visually there is a slight jerk in the video that you can see. I’m doing an hour session each day where I repeatedly “go for it”, after which I take a break and then sit there and study myself. I am getting over the pressure of being recorded and I am also realizing that what I am feeling inside is not at all showing visually — that is both hard to take and comforting at the same time. I do know that nothing is lost and some is gained by only showing only my hands as seeing the rest of me detracts more than adds. In this aspect I am not a visual performer which is OK because I’m not about that. I want substance, not show.

      I am getting high from doing this. Alcohol and various other substances have nothing on this “runner’s high” where every bit of me is firing on all cylinders. It is a feeling of total involvement and completeness that nothing else matches. This heavenly glow does not show at all visually and not really much audibly either and that fact is very important. I can convey a mood better manipulating sounds with a computer than I can by performing.

      I will get this, and sooner rather than later. The funny thing is that I will be disappointed when it is finished. This sudden hole that will then appear in my life will spur me on to the next thing, to refill that gap, that high, that sense of complete fulfillment that can only be gotten from striving. It isn’t pretty or ugly to look at, but the doing and getting there is everything. The victory is an extra big high but it is all too fleeting. The chase and foreplay can be a prolonged and exciting thing, the orgasm and afterglow is so brief and inconsequential in comparison even though more intense. Completion and victory is nothing in comparison to the grand adventure of getting there. Goal oriented people don’t seem to get that.

      I used to have a t-shirt with the picture of a runner on it and the caption read, “There is no finish line.” I think that sums it up best.

  2. Just thought you’d get a kick out of seeing my friend Linda…years before I knew her singing with Ricky Nelson… if you google the name Linda Bennett (now Hurst) you can find some fun stuff… like Cry Me A River and she did one they called The Worst Christmas Songs ever… Anyway, I met her years later at church and we penned quite a few Christian songs after she became a believer and kind of took me under her wing when I was going through some pretty rough times in my first marriage…. Anyway thought you’d get a kick out of it.. She now is in her 70s and teaches voice and piano in Southern CA.

    By the way I meant you are my Mr. Holland…not Opus… smile…

    • She’s quite good. I would have her phrase some things differently for better effect but that is somewhat a matter of taste and style. She is very much in the style of the times here. Her presence and confidence are stunning, and her voice and musicality are quite good. Those must have been exciting times.

      Playing Mr. Holland, I would not criticize someone who could not do better. In that sense I would not bother looking at something that was not already good. That movie was a bit unrealistic but the message about finding your bliss by accident and then owning it once you find it is quite profound.

      I have “fired” a number of students because it became obvious that everything in their lives was genuinely more interesting to them than learning music. In that sense your “position” is secure. What is interesting is that I cannot see certain errors in my own writing that is perfectly obvious to others. That is where it seems to take a village, helping each other along the way as none of us are perfect and we could all use help to be better.

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