Fence Sitting

A phrase I occasionally use when teaching is-

“Sitting on a fence watching your fingers play”

Fence Sitting-
Yesterday I was visited by a young person looking for a new guitar, for ease of writing let’s call her Jenny.

During the time Jenny spent trialling several guitars I noticed that at certain points during a piece of music I could hear a tut or a groan being spoken accompanied by a grimace of disappointment.

Fence Image

I think many of us recognise this in our own playing.

I asked Jenny if she could describe what she was thinking whilst she was playing the guitar to which she replied, she was thinking about the notes and where to play them.

Jenny is of school age and is therefore in learning mode and experiences interaction with teachers and other students on a daily basis.

I asked her to imagine how she would feel if she was having to perform in front of her class at school with her teacher standing in front, arms folded with a “go on show me what you can do” look on his face.

Jenny said she would feel very nervous and tense and that this would affect her performance.

Once again I think we can all understand this feeling.

Attempting to try and ease Jenny’s tension whilst playing and to help bring out a more relaxed performance, I asked her to sing the music whilst playing rather than to sit and stare at her fingers challenging them to get it right. This she managed to do and we both notice a small relaxation of tension and greater level of musical expression in her playing.

It will take time for Jenny to understand and appreciate but hopefully with time her musical performance will benefit from what is, a different approach to her guitar playing.

Jenny being young, has age and time on her side, she is young enough to accept without question new ideas and being in the major learning period of her life can readily adapt to new techniques.

For those more senior in life the thought of a new approach to something we have spent many years perfecting can be daunting, also the approach to learning is slightly different.

Learning for a young person there is little to compare and so as long as the information is put across in the right way it can be just a case of accepting and practicing.

Past Future & Present Fence

With an older person and yes that does mean you, past life experience can get in the way of learning new ideas, we can tend to Past Presentspend too much time questioning and not enough time trialling. When we do trial new ideas we find it difficult to overwrite, let go, of techniques that have enabled us to reach our current level of ability.

We have to re-evaluate our current knowledge base and trust to new ideas re-learning that which we thought we could do.

In other words we have to over write current understanding with new.

During this process past experience, which is very strong and opinionated, rears up encouraging self doubt. “If the information I learnt the first time is incorrect what’s to say this new information is correct.”

I have just spent 5 years playing this way and now you want me to change?

The answer to the question is YES!

If new information is given to you in such a way that you understand and appreciate its benefit then yes you must whole heartedly accept and make the change. A half hearted “OK I will give it a try” will only result in failure.

Jenny, after playing one of the new guitars, was asked to give an opinion of the sound and playability of the instrument to which she replied “It’s OK”

I replied “a £1500 guitar that has taken two months to prepare which has lovingly been built by a person who enjoys his work and then shipped several thousand miles from a foreign country for you to trial deserves more than, It’s OK.”

Jenny smiled sheepishly, thought for a little while and then gave me a very honest and informative explanation of her feelings for the guitar and yes she did have clear, personal feelings, Jenny just needed to be aware of them.

With a better understanding of what was expected, Jenny was able to talk about her experience with every guitar she played, having an idea to focus Jenny was able to enjoy the process and selecting a guitar became a relaxing and fun experience.

With any learning experience if we accept and trust the information being given to us and commit ourselves to let go of the past and push forward with the new, learning will be more exciting and rewarding. I cannot say that accepting the new will be easy nor will understanding allow you to perform new ideas instantly, no there is a long road of re-learning and repetition to travel down.

I can say that if you release the past and introduce yourself to the new, every day will be fresh and exciting.