I want to talk about something that comes up a lot when talking to my pupils about how they feel they are doing with their playing and development. Quite often, people will respond with a relatively negative view of their own progress and may feel that they are struggling in their lessons. My general response to this is something along the lines of,
‘You are supposed to struggle in lessons’.
Now, this may be something I have to be more aware of with my teaching and maybe ease up on. But the way I see things is that it is my job to continually move the goal posts and keep my pupils challenged. I prefer not to take peoples money and simply show them something that I believe they can learn on their own with relative ease. Now for some people, that is what they are looking for, and that is fine. That is something that is usually established early on in our relationship but as a general rule, unless I am otherwise aware of this, I will continually try to push my pupils lesson after lesson, as I believe this is the best way to develop their skill and understanding. However, communication is key so if you take lessons with me and you feel like easing off for a while may be of benefit to you, then you can always say so.
I would like to think that I am good at what I do but I am always open to your help to make me better!
The other issue that can lead to people feeling a little negative about their development is the tendency to overlook the progress they have made. In all honesty, this is something that I definitely suffer from myself and I have to constantly remind myself of this and take steps to remedy it.
The problem is that we only look forward. We only pay attention to the things that we are currently striving (and often struggling) to achieve. On one hand, this is good, it keeps us from resting on our laurels and keeps us moving forward and developing as musicians. On the other hand, the constant struggle can leave us feeling somewhat deflated and demotivated.
So keep track of, and acknowledge the progress you have made.
I have found that the most effective way for me to do this is to film or record myself playing on a regular basis and keep those recordings in a file, making sure to date the recordings and possibly make notes on what I’m trying to do if applicable. It can take a while to get used to watching or hearing yourself play, and it may make you cringe a little sometimes, but I guarantee you it gets a lot easier, and I believe it to be one of the best ways to remind yourself just how far you’ve come when you watch or listen back to them.
There are more ways to track your progress obviously, but the key thing here is that you take the time to acknowledge it. Hopefully, doing this will save you from negative thoughts and help you to stay motivated moving forward!