How To Learn And Master Flamenco
I would like to talk about an aspect of learning that is easily overlooked in today’s fast paced world: Patience and methodology.
In a world of instant everything, mobile texting, email, drive-through, microwaveable mash potatoes, etc, our expectation of the world around and what we believe it should provide us with is ever more immediate. If our computer stalls for 5 extra seconds we start to get annoyed and antsy.
If we carry these emotional attitudes into our learning process we are doomed to suffer frustration and our minds will stall more than 5 seconds, we can enter a cycle of endless impatience and dissatisfaction with our selves and our process.
How can we avoid that and how does this apply to learning flamenco?
First of all, to assume that because things change so quickly around us and therefore we should be able to do the same is counter productive and will set you up for failure in your own mind.
Every one has a different capacity of absorbing information, both mentally and physically. Skills that are worthwhile and complex simply take time and we should feel gratitude that we have the opportunity to be exposed to it and are able learn it.
Learning is one thing and absorbing and assimilating a new skill until you feel you own it, is another. That is where patience comes in. Just because we know how some thing should go doesn’t mean we are totally capable of doing it – yet. This is the crucial period where it’s make or break. Here are some strategies that are useful:
Honesty: Be honest with your self and your true ability and your current level. That doesn’t mean to be self deprecating nor unrealistic about your actual level.
Time: Realize that the body (your fingers in our case) take time to program information into our nervous system and cells. Our bodies are filled with so much intelligence but it needs time to be absorbed.
For a skill such as scales (picado) arpeggio, resgueado etc, to be ingrained into our second nature habit we must first embrace whole heartedly the journey of what that process may demand from us. It is during this trial period that we forge our character ( musical and otherwise) and start to build our mental muscles. If we can’t find a way to fall in love with the process then patience will be hard to achieve.
Strategies: Create a strategy of building on small successes. Whenever we sit down to practice and decide to work on either a skill such as scales, tremolo or a hard passage, we tend to want to solve the whole problem after one practice session. We want 100% improvement. How unrealistic. If it happens, then great, I’m not saying it can’t but don’t expect it.
But if we go for a 5% improvement at the end of the practice session and actually feel good about achieving it, we are creating little cycles of success, which in turn build our confidence and faith in our selves.
We many times feel more heroic when we fail at some thing difficult rather than succeed at some thing easy. But that is just our unrealistic ego wanting to get the better of us. It’s good to be ambitious, it’s better to be smart and strategic about how to go about it.
Imagine day after day a 5% improvement, now that sounds hopeful.
Simplify: If we spend too much time playing things too high above our level we will get impatient and frustrated. We must first accept our level and be happy about the place that we’re at this moment. If we turn our focus on mastering things that are at our level and or little bits of passages at a time, we will be able to absorb things faster and more effectively.
Mastery: Don’t just practice pieces or skills, practice Mastery, by taking a certain period in your life to just doing very easy things or in a very slow and easy way. We some times think that if some thing feels too easy then it has little value, so we attempt to play faster than we can without control or pieces that are too hard right now. Mastery can only come with the feeling of ease and relaxation. There can be no struggle in Mastery. By playing easy things really well for a while we are practicing the Feeling of Mastery not just the piece it’s self.
Finally, think of music as a journey of your own bliss. Don’t think of it as some thing to achieve. There is nothing to achieve only a process to enjoy. If you get too goal oriented you’re missing the point. Discipline must come from the love you have for the instrument and the music.
Today there are more people on the planet than ever, and yes, that includes musicians. Now, in the past, access to knowledge and information was hard to come by, but today you find anything on any subject on YouTube and Google and almost any one can have that access.
That means that at some point the big ‘achievement’ isn’t just in knowing how to do some thing ( you and ten thousand other guitarists…) but rather how are you going to enjoy this new knowledge and how are you going to use it in your ongoing creative process and make it your own.