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.