It’s been bothering me for a good while now- the hypocrisy of telling my son to practise his piano and clarinet every day when my own viola lies neglected below the stairs. ‘My practising days are done’ I tell myself as I stress the importance of starting with scales to him. I hated having to set up everything and tackle new music that was close to impossible to master. The exams were torturous. No matter what anybody says, you never get over the nerves, regardless of how many you’ve done before. Now, with my son, I’m revisiting those hideous feelings.
This week I looked at my viola and took it out. The experience was hugely frustrating and embarrassing. That’s it, I told myself, I’m never going to play this wretched thing again.
Two days later I watched myself taking it out and this time all I did was a two octave scale of C. I played that about ten times and put my viola away. Satisfied because I realised that I could start again, that I was winning, that determination pays off.
Tomorrow I’ll do it again, and the next day and the next. Maybe I’ll let my children see I’m doing what I’m forever asking them to do. Maybe by Easter I’ll play something new.
It’s not just with music that I’m learning this. Since October I’ve been doing Pilates – one class a week but also myself for twenty minutes every other night. It was only when I took a break for a week over Christmas and then came back to it that I realised how much stronger the exercises had made me and how weak I was when I let it go. One position comically named Superman is the best measure of progress I have. Before Christmas I could only balance for the count of five. This week I’m holding myself up for forty.
The banality of repetitive practice is deceptively unrewarding, but think of the goal, whether it’s the rich tones of Bach echoing through the house, a beautifully kept garden, a child who sees the point of scales or the body of superman, you choose.