Facing Challenges in Your Music? Don’t Watch the Olympics!

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olympic gold medalAre you facing musical challenges? Maybe you can’t get your fingers to behave properly, or your sightreading is too slow. Maybe you can’t even get motivated to practice because you aren’t sure you will ever improve. If this sounds familiar, then maybe you shouldn’t be watching the Olympics.

Let me explain. We see the Olympians perform amazing feats with precision and style. We hear the commentators tell us of the physical and personal difficulties the athletes have overcome. The athletes reveal their brutal practice schedules and the enormous pressure of representing their countries at the games.

Makes your own problems seem insignificant, doesn’t it?

But that perspective isn’t helpful. The truth is, your problems are not insignificant to you. In fact, those problems are standing between you and your musical goals. And even if your musical goal is to play that one short piece well in your own living room, that’s an important goal. No commentators, no podiums. Just that wonderful feeling that you are creating music the way you want.

So let’s correct your perspective. You can take off the Olympic-colored glasses and take a more realistic and positive view of your situation. Here’s how:

1. Your challenges are worth addressing. The nation’s honor may not be at stake when you play First Arabesque, but it’s important to you. And that is enough reason to try to remove the stumbling blocks between you and your musical goal.

2. Your problems can be fixed, alleviated, improved. In all my years of teaching, I have never come across a problem that cannot be eased to some extent. You may never have lightning fingers, but you can speed up your technique. You may never play that piece at “concert tempo,” but you can play it at a tempo that is satisfying.

3. Your challenges are almost certainly not due to a lack of effort on your part. There is no implied criticism in having a difficulty. You probably need some more focused practice strategies to help you work smarter not harder.

4. Seek an outside opinion. You may be only seeing the symptom and not the problem. I find that most often musical challenges are foundational, not situational. A good teacher or coach will help you spot any fundamental weakness that may be the root of your difficulty.

5. Use your resources. The musical community is large, diverse and eager to help its own. Even if the best teacher in your area plays an instrument different from yours, their musical expertise may show you the path you need to follow. And the internet brings a wealth of instruction and advice right into your practice room.

So get ready to action, and start with this question: What exactly are your challenges?

Let the Harp Mastery community help. Tell us about your musical challenges in the comments below, or if you prefer, you can send me a private email [email protected] and see how we can help.

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