Friday, March 6, 2009

Picky, picky, picky

Every time I have started playing any new kind of instrument, I seem to go through the same evolution. During my first learning stages, every detail concerning the 'trappings' of playing had to be just a certain way if I was to play...

I recall feeling I had to have exactly a certain height of foot rest in order to play the mandolin... Any tiny variation in height was disastrous! Exactly a certain hardness of pick. With the banjo, I had to have perfect finger picks precisely molded to my fingertips in hot water, or else carefully applied fake fingernails filed just a certain way.
In my early dulcimer days, again I had to have exactly a certain type pick, a certain kind of strap, my music stand set at a particular angle, only certain strings, the right kind of chair...or else I just couldn't play well at all!

With all these instruments, after I had been playing any of them for a couple of years or more, these excessive details simply began to not matter to me so much. I became less obsessed with detail and more adaptable. I made do, and tried to not pander to my obsessive compulsions. I like to think that my fussiness was getting on my own nerves. Laziness played its part as well- I might be sitting at my desk in my office at home and suddenly want to check on a note in some tune, so I'd grab my dulcimer from the wall here and pick out the tune without bothering to go get a pick or a noter and even without bothering to get out of my office chair with its aggressively anti-musician arms. {{{shudder}}}

In my previous post about noters, I told the story of losing my 'special' green noter and how I enlisted the help of others to desperately search for it in the grass for what seemed an eternity. (note to self: Don't use your green noter when playing outdoors in the grass)
It's a good example of how something as simple as a little stick can take on way too much importance if you let it.

Having become aware of this tendency in myself to obsess about the superficial trappings associated with playing an instrument, I now make a game of it. When I suspect that I am becoming too dependent upon some accessory or brand of something, I now purposely remove it or use something else for a while.

I have come to see this restrictively dependent behavior as a barrier between myself and my music. All it does is create a slew of imaginary reasons why I might think I don't sound good or play well. I am not a professional musician, nor is it my goal to become one. So in the end, it's not how well I play or how 'good' I sound that is most important to me- rather it's the joy and pleasure that playing music brings to me and to others who might enjoy playing with me or listening. The one most important truth I have come to feel about music is that joy overrules perfection.

And speaking of being picky...I want to discuss picks in my next post!

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