What Do You Think Will Happen?

I ask this question in my studio more than one might expect.  Most frequently, it’s because a student is nervous about trying something new - a skill they haven’t tried before or a brand new song or etude, etc.  Less often, it’s because a student is nervous about performing, whether for a playing test at school or for a studio recital.  The question is a response to apprehension, sometimes even resistance.  The student flat out doesn’t want to try something because they’re worried that it won’t go well.  

To which I ask, “What do you think will happen?”

The answer is almost always, “I don’t know.”  Sometimes, we imagine up crazy scenarios, my favorite of which came from a sixth-grade boy who started by shattering the window and letting a bird inside and ended by burning the entire building down!  We had a good laugh over the ridiculousness of it, but seriously, what do you think will happen?  If you play a wrong note, do you really think your teacher is going to kick you out of the studio?  If you squeak or end up with a ghost note, do you really think the ceiling is going to cave in on you?  Of course not!  New skills and techniques often don’t go perfectly on the first try - you have to work at them.  Some snags are to be expected.  After all, how many times did you fall as a baby before you got walking right… and then how many times did you fall while you were perfecting it?  Yet there you go, off to your next lesson!

So instead of focusing on the worry that it might not go well, ask yourself what this new skill could do for your playing.  It could help you play more accurately, with better fluidity, with more control, with greater expression, the list goes on.  And if it’s a new song that you haven’t played before, maybe you will surprise yourself with how well you read it the first time, and maybe you’ll have to go home and practice, which you’re going to do anyway.  Not a big deal.  I understand that you want to play well for your teacher and for yourself, but remember that playing an instrument well is a long process with lots of steps.  Some of these steps may feel as if they are hindering your progress, but they’re actually shaping you into a stronger musician.  It’s ok to experiment to find something that helps you improve.  But you won’t know unless you try…

...and then what do you think will happen?