Daniel Boone on Getting Lost and Managing Confusion
Tuesday Quotes are short explorations of music, life, and the daily endeavor of practicing classical guitar. Find more here. Enjoy!
“I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks.”
Some pieces of music take a while to “sink in.” This is especially true with complex and cutting-edge music.
Opening the sheet music, the basics are all there – the notes, the rhythm, perhaps some words of instruction from the composer.
But getting past the notes and creating something that makes sense? This can take longer.
The same is true with a new skill. For example, say we wish to change some element of our right-hand technique.
Unless we are following a trusted guide step by step, we may find ourselves in blind alleys and dead ends. When this happens, we backtrack and try another direction.
It can take time for the mental pictures to become clear. And until they do, we’re likely to feel confusion and doubt. This is completely normal.
Beyond normal, this can actually be desirable. Within the confusion lies possibility. We have the opportunity to learn something new. We can create new networks in our brains and come to revelations we may not otherwise have.
However, as soon as we enter an area of confusion, we tend to want out. We crave the comfort of the known. While the possibilities are endless, we writhe in anticipation of an end.
We may be tempted to grasp onto the first reasonable answer or solution. We may be eager to stop the exploration.
Example: if we don’t understand a section of music, we may listen to someone else play it, then copy what we suppose they are doing.
Instead of grasping in the dark and fumbling for our own light switch, we instead opt for imitation. This rarely turns out well, for numerous reasons.
First, unless we are intimately familiar with the thought processes, priorities, and considerations of the person we seek to copy, we’ll fall short.
Next, we still don’t understand the music. So regardless of what we do, it will contain a base of confusion. This will be evident in the music, and the listener may have trouble entering the musical experience.
Also, we shortchange ourselves the lesson of figuring it out. Confusion, experimentation, and hypothesizing are valuable parts of the learning process. We need these to stretch our capabilities. Solving musical problems is an art, and we must practice it.
Part of guitar practice is to practice practicing. We accumulate formulas and methods, and we practice using them.
For example, the 7-Step Process, musical voices, clapping and counting rhythms, and the list goes on.
Then, when we find something unclear, we choose a few of these tools and put them to work.
By cycling through various practice methods, we come to know the music in new ways. This leads to new ideas and new possible solutions.
When we tackle difficult or complex music, we sign on to expand ourselves. In service to this, we can remain intentional. We can accept that we may feel lost for a while. And we can work towards illumination with integrity and foresight.
Being in the foggy land of confusion may still be uncomfortable. But knowing the purpose and payoffs we can show up with high spirits and a playful attitude.
Hi, I’m Allen Mathews.
I started as a folk guitarist, then fell in love with classical guitar in my 20’s. Despite a lot of practice and schooling, I still couldn’t get my music to flow well. I struggled with excess tension. My music sounded forced. And my hands and body were often sore. I got frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward. Then, over the next decade, I studied with two other stellar teachers – one focused on the technical movements, and one on the musical (he was a concert pianist). In time, I came to discover a new set of formulas and movements. These brought new life and vitality to my practice. Now I help guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifully.
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Allen I have looked for the right online teacher for classical guitar for 8 months. Spent some money in the process. Never got anywhere. Then I found your site. Excellent! I now believe I will reach my goals in playing some beautiful music in the future.
As I said before, I think your site is outstanding. I have spent my life teaching adults difficult stuff that they really wanted to learn but didn't have the time to learn at the speed we teach university students. Thus I understand only too well how many hundreds of hours you must have spent perfecting your lessons to make my learning as quick and easy as possible.
~ Mike Barron
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