I’m going to tell you a couple of stories.
I was trucking along life’s highway recently and came to a sign across the road that said: “Restricted access, conditions apply!”… or words to that effect.
“Bother,” I said… or words to that effect.
I glared back at the portable traffic light stuck on red, as they sometimes are. Then I noticed a side road without a stop sign that I reckoned would get me past the road obstacle. It was worth a try.
Using common sense (which comes in handy for times like this), I went slowly and carefully down that road. It wasn’t quite as smooth as the route I was used to, but actually it turned out to be a bit shorter and the views were great.
To my surprise, I noticed in my rear vision mirror that some of the other cars were following me. They obviously got tired of waiting for the officials to come back from their extended break to fix the stop lights. It was great to know there were some folks on the new route with me in case I got stuck. In no time we were all back on the main road again.
That was an allegorical story. Now for an actual one:
Back when we lived in Indonesia, we used to do a 2-day drive with our pre-schoolers (10 hours a day) as part of the journey to get to the village area where we worked.
I’ll never forget the time we got to the end of the first day’s drive to find a landslide completely blocking the road. We had to make the difficult decision to either return home the next day and come another route involving air travel and long bus journeys, or wait overnight with the possibility that the road might be cleared. We chose the latter after much deliberation, and later the next day we struggled our way through the partially cleared landslide and were back on the road again. Phew!
Life seems full of roadblocks at the moment. Sometimes it is best to hang in there, knowing that patience and persistence will win through. Other roadblocks may be opportunities to find alternative routes to get back on track.
Roadblocks happen in music learning too. Here are some parallels you may see in your child’s learning at times with a little help from the imagery of roadblocks on how to get through.
Go slowly through them
Most roadblocks are not difficult to manage if we just go through slowly when we get the green light. Break down the difficult parts of your music into a bar’s worth or part of a bar. Do it using separate hands. Keep the speed the same for both hands and go slowly with accurate counting. Once you have each hand sorted, then play the section hands together.
Roadblocks are not the whole journey
Sometimes you can see that the difficult parts of your music are just a small portion and the rest of the piece is fine. Don’t give up on a nice piece just because a small part of the piece needs a bit of work.
Figure a way through or around
There are different ways you can tackle tricky parts of your music. If you really don’t know what to do, just note that tough bit and have your teacher help you with it in the lesson and work on what you can do. It might be that the fingering needs to change, transitions between beats are uneven, or that you are simply leaving out a sharp or flat that was in the key signature.
Maybe the route is too difficult
Sometimes we tackle pieces that are simply too difficult for the level we are at. It might be that you need to park this piece until you are able to cope with the difficulty level.
I remember when we had lots of roadblocks after the Christchurch earthquakes of 2010-11. All through the city there were orange cones redirecting traffic when the roads were blocked off due to damage. It is okay to detour and do something different when life is crowding in and it is hard to find time to practice. You could work on learning chord patterns, creating a piece of music, listen to some music in your practice time or find a song you would like to learn that isn’t in the book you are working through. At this time of the year some of my pupils like to learn some Christmas songs.
Improving the road
We know that the roadblocks are improving the road for the future. Regrouping can be a really positive time in your learning. Sometimes I find out more about the sort of music my students are going to enjoy when I do it. An honest look at the possibilities is going to help you ‘improve the road’, to discover new ways to make music and get your joy back in the journey.
And that’s the whole point, isn’t it?