Lesson Tip

Murphy HenryHere's something that came up at a lesson yesterday that I thought I'd share. One of my beginning fiddle students, who is taking up fiddle for the first time at age 71, bless her heart, was having a not-too-good lesson. Her playing was not as smooth as she wanted it to be and her bow was skittering around. Somehow, as she was talking, she mentioned that she'd been raking leaves all day. Well! There was the answer! I told her, "Suzi, you cannot do something strenuous like raking leaves---especially all day long---and then expect to come to a fiddle lesson and play well. Your fine motor skills have been shot! Your muscles are tired, your brain is tired. It's just too much!"

I learned this the hard way, thirty years ago in Florida. Sometimes before a gig, I would work in the yard for several hours. Mowing the grass, using the clippers to trim the edges, maybe even doing some weeding. (I was young, I had lots of energy! I think this was also BK---before kids!) When I got on stage that night, I found out my hands felt like LEAD. My fingers wouldn't move like I wanted them to. They felt clumsy and huge. I think I even remember them trembling after one particularly long afternoon with the clippers! I finally figured out: no yard work before a gig! (I later extended that to housework, too! No vacuuming!)

I know it's not always possible to avoid doing heavy work before a lesson (or even your own practice session). But, if you have a choice, put off the strenuous activities till later! Or as one of my banjo students said (when I told him this story), "I just think I'll take a nap before my lesson!" That's not exactly what I had in mind, Bob! Always a smart alec.....

One thought on “Lesson Tip

  1. jesanddeb

    Hey Murphy … You know, that’s very true. I do carpenter work. My hands simply do not work till later in the evening. Before playing I wash my hands and massage them with a little lotion. Then I relax a bit. But you are very, very right. Physical and mental fatigue can really mess up your practice. Great post!!! —- Jesse

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