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Don’t try to impress me – Part I
Music is impressive enough … if you let it be.
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Don’t try to impress me – Part I

User image Don’t try to impress me – Part I
Posted by Dylan Christopher, 1 year ago
Tags: performance, understanding, guide

Don’t try to impress me – Part I

One of the most difficult hurdles for learning musicians to overcome is the inferiority complexes that can develop when a person is in the initial stages of learning a skill.  Many novice musicians will play everything at break-neck speed, or, pick up pieces that are far out of their reach with respect to technical ability; all with the hope of ‘impressing’ people.

A stock phrase that I say to my students, repeatedly, is: “Don’t try to impress me, the music is impressive enough on its own right and merit.”  At first, they scoff; “Yeah! … right, that’s easy for you to say!”  However, over time, they begin to realise that the tremendous effort it takes to perform even the simplest of pieces is worthy of recognition. Furthermore, if performed correctly, these ‘simple’ pieces can create music that is suitably impressive to any audience willing to listen; so why actively try to be impressive?  To quote the great Russian composer, Sergei Prokofiev:

There are still so many beautiful things to be said in C major.

The subtext here, C major is the ‘simplest’ of key-signatures, yet its use in music can create beauty impressive enough for any listener.

We must not forget that the impressiveness of something is subjective and based entirely from the perspective of the person experiencing the admiration as an emotion.  If a student arrives at a lesson with the hopes of impressing me, they have immediately doomed themselves to failure.  Harsh words, but nonetheless based on logical truth.  This is not because my standards are exceptionally high, but simply because my perspective is fundamentally different from that of my student’s.

Hypothetically, if a student is asked to carry out a task, but, the student completes a number of unrelated tasks, neglecting to carry out the task set, in the hopes of impressing their teacher, despite any successes, ultimately the student has failed the exercise.  Worst still, if this is the first encounter, how should the student know what tasks needed to be completed, if none were yet set; that is a guessing game, or gamble, which everyone knows the saying, “the house always wins”, or more accurately “you will always loose”.

This creates problems, preconceptions and not to mention an unreasonable amount of pressure for students in regular tuition; this pressure, also exasperated during tuition on a first encounter.  The most apparent problem is a shift in focus for the student.  Fundamentally, the performance of an individual trying to ‘impress’ will be of a substantially lower quality, if only for the fact that this person is set on being impressive, rather than making music.

Continue to Part II


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Dylan completed his music training with honours at Colchester Institute, where he studied piano with Australian pianist Lesley Young, and composition with British composer Dr Mark Bellis. While studying, in 2009, Dylan won Colchester Institute’s Canon Jack Award for Solo Piano adjudicated by Andrew Ball.  A composer, promoter, and advocate of contemporary classical music, Dylan joined the membership of Colchester New Music in 2014.


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