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Something Magical

Published July 12, 2013 by Jess Arwen

Anyone who plays an instrument understands the common difficulty in keeping up with practice. There are tips and tricks all over the internet, but sometimes they just don’t seem to help, especially if you’re no longer feeling your practice.

This is my story.

I began playing piano a little over two years ago, and man did those eighty-eight beautifully arrayed keys thrill me to my core! Nothing came close in the amount of joy playing piano brought me. It gave me a purpose, so I easily practiced at least five hours a day and was accepted into the Department of Music where I would attend school the following semester, all with just a year of experience!

My pride, as the saying goes, was my downfall.

“Forget those five hours a day” something in me sneered, “You are simply great, a prodigy perhaps. You don’t need practice.” Unfortunately, I did.

Granted, my first year of undergraduate study left me flustered as I got myself involved with so many different clubs and organizations, but I made no effort to simply walk to the practice rooms. I skated by on sight-reading, and by the end of the year, my piano teacher sat me down not to scold me, but to discuss how I handled the year.

Why did I even want to be a Music Performance Major? I get so stage-fright that I’ve never performed a piece without missing at least three notes as far as accuracy goes. I can’t express well in performance setting, because the audience is the only thing on my mind, and I can’t wait for the end, so I can hide away. Not even the trick of visualizing the song to distract from all else helps.

But something else did.

My boyfriend (the first one I ever had and vowed not to have – more on him later) agreed to ask me daily if I’ve practiced. I physically cannot lie to him, so it’s gotten me to practice. Even though it sometimes feels like a chore, it helps me be more confident, and if I hadn’t been practicing, I wouldn’t have discovered something magical.

A few nights ago, I tried the visualizing a scene trick again, this time with a memory in the stead of an imagining. The song is Debussy’s “La Fille aux Cheveaux de Lin”. I always imagined it as a girl spinning in a gold field feeling bliss, perhaps for the first time. I tried it in practice, and as usual I forgot what I was doing and got lost, even though I know the song by heart.

Determination found me that night, so I gave a strong memory a shot. Embarrassing as it is, I recalled my first kiss with my first boyfriend, as that may be the first time I felt bliss. Sadly, the same result occurred.

Then a fluorescent light-bulb came on above my head in the form of my desk lamp and an idea.

What if I only focused on the feeling and kept the rest of the image to the song? It was worth a shot.

Music, itself, transformed before my heart as my fingers magically gave life to this feeling within me. Aldous Huxley once wrote, “After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing inexpressible is music.” It came to mind that feelings are very difficult to put into words, as they are not creatures of the mind, but of the heart and cannot be described by the language of the head. Perhaps Music is the language of the heart. It is a romantic idea.

In any case, I became so enthralled that nothing could distract me, and I do believe audiences will be a tad bit easier to face once the next semester starts up. I did some experimenting with other pieces and feelings, and nothing has been more amazing. For once, I found something magical.