Pretend you can’t play it

How does that work?

And how did I even think of it as a solution to a problem? It’s not what I would usually suggest.

Let me explain…

I was teaching a young lad the other night. He was trying to play ‘Summer Fair’, his ABRSM piano prep test pieceĀ  with zero success. Everything would go wrong halfway through the first line. Every time.

‘I’ve practised this loads,’ he wailed, close to tears of frustration. ‘I can do this at home.’

(If I could have a penny for every time I have heard that, and even said it in my own lessons, I would be Very Rich)

‘Tell you what. I know you CAN play it, and you know you can play it, but let’s pretend you can’t play it. Only pretend, not for real.’

He was very doubtful.

‘So if you can’t play it (and we are only pretending, yeah?) then if you make mistakes then that’s fine because that’s what happens if you can’t play your piece yet?’

I counted him in, and pointed the way through the score with my pencil, and he played it perfectly. Barely a hesitation, and no rhythmical or note errors. Somehow, removing the pressure, and maybe the personal responsibility for ‘getting it right’, made it possible for him to get through it all.

Weird. I don’t know why I thought of that as a solution, but it worked.

We went through a few tricky patches together, and then he gave it another go, still pretending that he couldn’t play it yet, but with less support from me.

By the end of the lesson, he had proved to his satisfaction (and mine) that he COULD play it, all by himself.



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