This is a follow-up from my previous post about getting good. One of the things that can be really frustrating when learning to play an instrument is the feeling that you will never be as good as the people whose playing you admire. You hear yourself and you know that it doesn’t sound that good. When your teacher plays a tune and then you play it, it’s hard to not notice how much better your teacher sounds. You go to a jam and someone plays a seemingly effortless solo, while you struggle to follow the chords. It’s okay. You might not need to be that good (just yet).
When I was a beginning fiddle student, if you had asked me how good I needed to be, I would have probably said that I just want to be able to play a tune and sound decent. That’s it. I wasn’t trying to be a master fiddler. I didn’t need a huge repertoire of tunes. And I didn’t need to be in a band. I wanted to sit on my back porch and play my fiddle.
I did that by sticking with easy songs. I wasn’t in a hurry to learn complicated tunes or play very fast. I just wanted to enjoy my playing. I had a beginning guitar player accompany me. We played tunes almost every day and it was so fun! You don’t have to be an advanced player to have a musical life.
It wasn’t until I started meeting fiddlers who had been playing just a little longer than I had, who played just a little better than I did, that I started to push myself more. I couldn’t aspire to play like my teachers; that was too far out of reach. But these intermediate players showed me what was possible. I put a little more effort into learning tunes and got motivated to improve. That was a time of huge progress for me.
I think it helps to break down your goals into smaller, more achievable goals. If you’re struggling, give yourself one task to work on: playing a tune by memory, playing at a slow, steady tempo without stopping, playing with a guitarist, or starting a tune with potatoes. Enjoy your successes and celebrate how far you’ve come. As your playing improves, keep changing your goals.
I am still regularly blown away by my teachers and more advanced students. There is still a part of me that thinks I will never be that good. But I see progress in the videos on this site. I never had the goal of playing in a band or writing songs. Now I do both. And you know, those old Fiddle 1 tunes are still some of my favorites.
So, how good do you have to be?