Messing Up or Growing Up

November 25, 2023

May 24, 2022

Still making the same mistakes and experiencing the same weak spots in your music-making that you thought you were finally getting nailed?!

I had to check on Google to find that “Spiral Learning” is of course, already A Thing, so although I most definitely didn’t just invent a term, I have first-hand experienced it:

Spiral Learning is when the Student (me) learns by periodically revisiting material and exercises. However, it often feels like you are just re-encountering the same musical pit-falls, like rushing the beat or playing certain pitches out of tune.

The truth of it is much more likely to be like that image of a spiral, it is NOT a circle; each time we revolve around to encounter the same challenge, we are in fact closer to getting it right and are closer to genuine assimilation with our musical goal.

With something as subjective as musical improvisation, one of our less skilful areas maybe related to self-acceptance and mental flow. What we play to others might sound just fine, but oh, how we agonise about ourselves!

I regularly record myself practising, it can be a tough lesson, a few days ago I filmed myself doing the same thing, you can see/hear it here.

I was going for something melodic but knew that this Latin -Jazz piece needed a “muscular” approach, and that brief got in the way of the  state of mental flow I was attempting to reach; it was interesting to watch this afterwards and see myself fall victim to my own mental knots!

I’d like to point out the difference between effort and struggle here. When we get into a feeling of disquiet and stress, it’s an invaluable skill to learn to drop that “struggle” energy and re-enter the joyful music-making mindset that you love. The very “effort”  of turning away
from your self-judgement can be the very thing that makes all that procrastination worse! So we have to be wise in our understanding of the word effort, it should not feel at all like struggle. We could encourage ourselves to think of effort as energy and focus born of a true love of musical expression.
Know that you are on a spiral and not a circle! Know also that like so many worthwhile pursuits, it is not short-term entertainment but personal growth built over a life-time.