The Parable of the Light Bulb

This is a story I tell my students the first time they are truly stymied in learning a new piece. I hope it will encourage you, too!

As an undergraduate, I was working on one of Bach's six devilish trio sonatas for organ. I played hands apart; I played feet alone. I played right hand and feet; then left hand and feet. Then hands together. But when I put hands and feet together, I had a terrible mess. I tried playing slowly. I counted out loud. I used the metronome. I used rhythms faithfully for weeks. No matter what I did, I couldn't get that darned sonata together with all three voices! I was very frustrated.

Since I truly did not know what else to do, I decided that I'd soldier on with rhythms and playing various combinations of hands and feet together/alone and every once in a while I'd try to play the three voices together.

One day I sat down at the console and opened the book. And I played the piece. I hadn't done anything differently. It's just that one day I could do it. It was as though a light bulb had gone on.

I learned that day that eventually the light bulb will go on. It will happen for you, too. I can't tell you when, but I *can* tell you that it will happen. Just keep plugging away using the techniques your teacher recommends, and one day you'll get it. I promise!

copyright 1996, Martha Beth Lewis, Ph.D.
Contact me for reprint permission.

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