One of the reasons I decided to organize the Lower Valley Beginner Irish Session was that I felt like I had reached a plateau in my playing. I had been playing mostly by myself, and occasionally at regular sessions in the area, but neither was giving me quite what I was looking for–playing alone gets old, and trying to keep up at a fast-paced session can be discouraging, even if the folks are as nice as can be (which at my regular they are!)
My, my. It IS lonely and kinda windy and cold up on this here plateau. Time to build a fire…
So the slow session is great because on the one hand the Irish music is a social thing, meant for dancing, or playing with other people. Plus we help each other learn to listen and play with other people. It’s what it’s all about, really.
But if your playing isn’t improving and you’re really stuck in a rut, you need a coach. Someone who understands how you should sound. Someone who isn’t afraid to tell you like it is. Someone who will bring your weaknesses to your attention, so that you KNOW what they are, because if you DON’T know what you’re doing wrong, you can’t work on it, right?
This article on The Bulletproof Musician is basically all about that. I highly recommend reading it and browsing the other articles on the site. The article explains how this process of mastery can be broken down into four stages of awareness:
- Unconscious Incompetance
- Concious Incompetance
- Concious Competance
- Unconscious Competance
It’s a progression, really, from flailing about in the dark, wondering why you aren’t getting any better, to mastery of your chosen skill. The plateau exists at the “unconscious incompetance” stage. To break through to the next stage, you need someone to point the way. It isn’t always easy to take criticism, whether it’s constructive or not, but in order to progress we have to have our eyes wide open.
Just make sure your coach isn’t Bradley Buzzcut from Beavis and Butthead.