Patience is a virtue.
Today, however, it seems we are loosing the ability to be patient.
Most of our actions can be made in a click and everything we need is ready for us to take, so we want everything at once and we’re used to get it.
There are less and less things you can’t expect to get immediately, but music is still one of them.
Every time we start learning an instrument we start a new challenge. Music has its language and we need to change our mental schemes to understand it, so the oldest we are the hardest it becomes.
As you certainly know, the first days we experience a lot of frustration because we are not able to make the instrument sound good and our body doesn’t respond the way we want.
Trying to skip these passages is only a waste of time. The key to this process is interiorising concepts, and this takes time, that is something closely related to patience: the first thing we have to know when approaching a new instrument is that it will demand a certain portion of our time and only through perseverance we’ll get what we want, wether we’re a neofite or a veteran musician.
Having patience means, among other things, being capable of managing the anxiety that comes from time passing by, and dealing with this unavoidable frustration that may appear when things seem to be stuck or slowing down.
For example when you’re practicing, no matter if you’re playing an exercise or a song, you’re supposed to do it well. The right notes, the right tempo, the right groove. It means you have to spend on it all the time it requires, and I know it can sound trivial, but it’s not: I’ve had students who quit music because they wanted to play some advanced bass lines since the first weeks, and instead of focusing and get them in a reasonable time they didn’t get them at all!
Juggling with the trio patience-time-frustration may seem quite unnerving, and it is in many cases; but there are some good practices that can help coping with discouragement.
Try, for example, to establish a practice routine; make an effort to play for some time every day, according to your life schedule, and stick to what you have planned, rather than relying on occasional long hour practice sessions (we spoke about how to set a good practice routine here).
If the line you want to learn is hard or too fast, you may need to slow it down and start from a more comfortable speed, then increase it as it becomes easier to you.
Constance and perseverance are two sides of patience every musician needs to reach achievements. The constance to study day by day when you can’t see any change, the perseverance to believe in your work when no one else does.
You’re not supposed to just wait for things to happen, but also choose the right moment to make them happen, and this can really make the difference when we decide to be musicians in life.
During all this time our patience helps us to not give up, it gives us the strength to change our direction if we realise it’s wrong and accept things as they are, in most cases different than how we imagined them.
Because truth is musicians spend more time in waiting for things than doing them. But waiting doesn’t mean doing nothing.
Waiting for our body to get used to the instrument, to be good enough, to have enough experience, to get better gear and better shows, all of these are part of the process, and loving the process is the key, isn’t it?
Be patient, and enjoy your path. Results will come!
(This article was written in collaboration with Melissa Milani, who as a piper has a lot of experience with patience!)