Wednesday 15 May 2019

Bad Habits

'Don't look at your hands!' That was my son, Michael, watching me practicing the piano.  It was partly tongue in cheek (and partly just cheek) but also a quotation from his fearsome former piano teacher.

And also very good advice. For he noticed that I had got into a bad habit, and was giving me some timely feedback. The reasons for not looking at one's hands when playing the piano are many, and known to me.  But - as with so many bad habits - there is a short term benefit to doing so: it is easier.

So I have been working on playing the pieces I am currently working on with my eyes firmly fixed on the sheet music, which has been both difficult and beneficial.

Interestingly, it also makes more sense of one of the Oscar Peterson exercises I am working on: the fingering seemed mad to me: it involved moving one's hands dramatically between each bar. There was an easier way to finger that exercise.  But doing it as written, without watching is actually a very useful skill development exercise.

The resonance of that is enormous, it seems to me. So often we adopt maladaptive strategies that have a short term benefit but a long term cost. And very quickly these can become habits,  and then (being habitual) feel the 'right' thing to do. This applies to the way we manage our time (working through lunch breaks to get more done etc), our energy (using caffeine to keep going; skipping our exercise because we are too busy), and even our posture (sitting slouched because it is more comfortable).

And part of the delight of being a father of grown-up children, is having them calling me to order, challenging me to live up to the expectations I have of them, and doing so with great perception and wit!

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