Thoughts

This Magic Moment

There’s something transcendent about reaching the goal on the other side of obsessive practice.  I was playing my fiddle on Monday; the tune I was working on was “Shove the Pig’s Foot a Little Closer to the Fire.”  I’ve struggled with it off & on for a few months.  Mainly, because I’m still figuring out how to play quickly & not sound slurry or rushed.

Also, with a jig or a reel, the structure of a tune is consistent with a few variations.  For instance, at the beginning of “Pig’s Foot,” the first phrases dips into the lower notes on the G string.  But when it repeats, you stay in the mid-range & change some of the rhythm.  My fingers were tripping over themselves, trying the original fingering before catching up to my brain: “Oh right, this part is different.”

Finally, I checked out YouTube & listened to someone else play it to drill it into my brain.  Then, I started breaking down each section.  I played the whole thing through as slowly as possible.  Next, I found the faulty sections & played them repeatedly.  I hate doing that.  It’s irritating to hear the same thing over & over again, especially when you know how it is supposed to sound.  The errors set off a timed chorus in my head that usually says something like, “Lord, you still can’t do this?”

When that kicked in, I started picturing Vincent Cassel in Black Swan screaming “Attack it!  Attack it!”  My arms ached, but I played it until I was tired.

Suddenly, there it was: the song in its correct entirety.  I pulled my senses back from recognizing it & played it again, still correct.  I was worried that if I let myself recognize it while playing, I would screw it up, like thinking about your breathing while you’re swimming.  Pay too much attention & you’ll throw off your rhythm.  At the end of the second correct play-through, I stopped feeling pretty damn proud of myself.

To the aspiring musicians I’ve known & dated, I still don’t excuse the pretentious things you said about your songs or your musicianship.  But, I finally get what could have moved you to say them.

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