I’ve been teaching a long time now, and I like to think that over time I’ve developed a certain amount of patience that I perhaps did not have in my younger years. If people don’t practice, I can live with that. We all lead busy lives. As I tell the students, “We’ll practice in the lesson. I just want you to keep playing.” If people need to cancel lessons or switch them around, I can deal with that. In the old days, you booked your slot and if you didn’t show, tough stuff. (Cleaned that up for the blog!)
But there is one thing that still irks me: Someone is learning a tune. They don’t quite have it. They are playing it for me. They mess up. They play that part again, they mess up again. They try again. They still mess up. So far I’m TOTALLY OKAY with all of this. I know they are learning and that messing up is part of the process. Then they say the dreaded words: “Let me try it faster. I can play it better if I do it faster.” ARRRGGGHHH!! No, you can’t! It does not sound better faster! It sounds worse. It's just that the mistakes you were making go by faster, so you can pretend you didn’t hear them. Nothing is gained. Much is lost.
Usually nowadays, I let the student try the song faster. Then when it falls apart, I suggest that now we slow it down and try again. Some get the message, some don’t. Sometimes it’s like that movie Groundhog Day. We just keep doing the same thing over and over. They come in playing fast, I try to slow them down.
I have a new student whose attitude I just adore. (He doesn’t know I’m blogging about him either....) He’s only on his third song (Cumberland Gap) and this is what I love: when he makes a mistake he stops and plays the song more slowly! I didn’t tell him to do this, he just automatically does it. His playing sounds excellent! Clean, clear, crisp, in good time. All these things you gain when you play it slow, and learn it right.
I’m not saying that you should never try to play fast. Of course you should. That’s part of the fun. And sometimes playing fast can help you get a sense of the song and how all the licks fit together. But you should never think that playing it fast is going to fix your mistakes. It will not. It only allows you to slop over them.
So, my advice is, if you’re having trouble with part of a song slow it down, slow it down, slow it down. In the long run, you will learn the song faster, and eventually be able to play it faster. Slow leads to fast, but fast leads to sloppy playing and bad timing.
Now, I’m gonna go get my breakfast.....